Intentions and Content

'So I am content to tell my simple story, without trying to make things seem better than they were; dreading nothing, indeed, but falsity'

Eliot, George. 'On Realism'. Documents of Modern Literary Realism, edited by George J. Becker, Princeton University Press, 1963, pp. 112-116.
This site is dedicated to the genre of literary realism. Its purpose is to provide a comprehensive on-line guide to identifying literary realism and appreciating the problems and potential that define it.

The focus of this website is modern literary realism, i.e. representations of reality in literature from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present day, in prose form and as a genre. I shall not be including drama. However, the principles, conventions and questions I shall be addressing are, in part, applicable to dramatic and cinematic representations of reality, and realism in literature in general.

Principal Intentions

I would like to make two points right away :

It is my intention to illustrate this variety and clear out some of the misconceptions surrounding the genre, whilst providing a set of critical tools that may facilitate further studies and appreciation.

About the Website

structure and navigation
This website is designed as an inter-active experience, allowing for both a critical, historical and theoretical approach. If you are looking for something specific, you may proceed straight to what interests you the most by means of the table of contents or the Site Index. In addition, I have implemented extensive inter-linking. Most pages begin with a summary of their content to facilitate browsing and search.

The page, Difficulties of a Definition, is an overview of the difficulties involved in the definition, identification and appreciation of literary realism and functions as a central "link hub", connecting all the aspects of literary realism treated on the site.

The section, Terminology and Aesthetics, is largely theoretical and addresses the semantic, critical and philosophical issues involved in a definition, the implications of the word realism, the mechanics of verisimilitude, and the relationship between fiction and reality. Roman Jakobson's and Wolfgang Iser's theories on realism and reader response are used to elaborate.

In a History of Literary Realism, I place the genre in a cultural and historical context and provide an overview of the principal developments within the genre, with focus on the evolution of conventions and the attitudes to truth, humanity and reality and their representation. Significant points are elaborated on using literary examples. The following authors are referred to or treated in this section : Stendhal, George Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway.

In the section, What is Literary Realism?, I attempt to approximate a definition and describe the principal conventions, traits and characteristics, and conceptual attitudes of literary realism.

Critical Approaches is an overview of some of the critical avenues available to a study of literary realism, and suggests how they can facilitate an appreciation. The avenues include formalism, reader-response theory, aesthetics, Marxist theory, and post-structural and postmodern criticism. In relation to the last two, contemporary anti-realism is also addressed.

In the section, Practical Appreciation, I treat Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated, using the tools provided on this site.

Finally, I have compiled a list of Resources and a selection of Study Proposals which can be used as a basis for further studies.

technical details
This website is designed to meet the requirements of common browsers and can be viewed from a screen resolution of 1024 by 768 and above, but is optimised for a screen resolution of 1280 by 1024 and above. If you prefer a smaller or larger text, simply select an alternate text size in your browser's view menu, or use your browser's zoom option.

All content is Copyright © 2011, 2015, 2018, 2019 Kirstin Sørensen, except when stated otherwise.

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2011 : Site Launched.
2015 : Minor corrections in coding. Typos. Minor rephrasing.
2018 : Updated code. Minor rephrasing and editing. Resource list reviewed. Terminology and Aesthetics extended and re-structured.
2019 : More code updates. Minor rephrasing and editing. Citations updated to latest MLA standards.

About the Author

My name is Kirstin Sørensen. I have an MA from Aarhus University and this website constituted one of my exams. My field is English. My preferred areas of study are aesthetics, genre theory, fantastic and gothic literature, and postmodernism.

Please also visit the rest of VarlaWeb.

contact info
If you have any comments, suggestions or criticism, you can contact me via Facebook, LinkedIn, this or leave a message in the Guest-book. Your feedback is valuable.

Table of Contents


Difficulties of a Definition

Terminology and Aesthetics
- What is in a Word?
- the Real and the Realistic
- Reality and Fiction

a History of Literary Realism
- Introduction
- Early Literary Realism
- Late Literary Realism

What is Literary Realism?
- Approximating a Definition
- Attitudes
- Conventions

Critical Approaches
- Introduction
- Formalism
- Reader Response Theory
- Aesthetics
- Marxist Criticism
- Post-Structural Criticism
- Postmodern Criticism
- Postmodern Anti-Realism

Practical Appreciation
- Madame Bovary
- Everything is Illuminated

Study Proposals




Site Index