Bibliography and Links

'fiction is a means of telling us something about reality'

Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading : A Theory of Aesthetic Response. The John Hopkins University Press, 1978, p. 53.
Top Four Recommended Critical Works

The following books are exceptionally good and provide a meaningful insight into literary realism.

  • Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis. Translated by Willard R. Trask, Princeton University Press, 1953.
Examines the evolution of the representation of reality from Homer and the Bible to modernism. Exceptionally well-written and translated. I recommend chapters 1, 13, 14, 18, 19 and 20 in particular.

  • Becker, George J., editor. Documents of Modern Literary Realism. Princeton University Press, 1963.
An anthology of literary and critical texts related to literary realism, as excerpts or in full, from the early nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century. The focus is on naturalism, but far from exclusively. Each text is presented with a very useful introduction. Do not skip the preface by the editor.

  • Morris, Pam. Realism. Routledge, 2003.
A comprehensive work on literary realism with many fine examples and excellent references for further studies. Introduces all the significant critics and critical theories.

  • Williams, Raymond. The Long Revolution. Penguin, 1980, pp. 300-316.
A work on the cultural development of man, language and ideas. A single chapter is devoted to realism which presents an enticing view on literary realism and its potential in our contemporary age.


  • Adorno, Theodor W. and Max Horkheimer. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Stanford University Press, 2002.
  • Barthes, Roland. 'The Reality Effect'. French Literary Theory Today: A Reader, edited by Tzvetan Todorov, translated by R. Carter, Cambridge University Press, 1982, pp. 11-17.
  • Baudrillard, Jean. Impossible Exchange. Translated by Chris Turner, Verso, 2001.
  • Baudrillard, Jean. Selected Writings. Edited by Mark Power, Polity Press, 1988.
  • Baudrillard, Jean. Symbolic Exchange and Death. Translated by Iain Hamilton Grant, Sage Publications, 1993.
  • Iser, Wolfgang. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. The John Hopkins University Press, 1978.
  • Jakobson, Roman. 'On Realism in Art'. Readings in Russian Poetics: Formalist and Structuralist Views, edited by Ladislav Matejka and Krystyna Pomorska, The MIT Press, 1971, pp. 38-46.
  • Lukács, Georg. Studies in European Realism. Translated by Edith Bone, The Merlin Press, 1972.
  • Taylor, Ronald, editor. Aesthetics and Politics. Verso, 1980.
  • Wilde, Oscar. 'The Critic as Artist'. Collected Works of Oscar Wilde, Wordsworth Editions, 1997, pp. 963-1016.
  • Wilde, Oscar. 'The Decay of Lying'. Collected Works of Oscar Wilde, Wordsworth Editions, 1997, pp. 919-943.
  • Woolf, Virginia. 'The Art of Fiction'. Collected Essays, vol. 2, Hogarth Press, 1966, pp. 51-55.
  • Woolf, Virginia. 'Modern Fiction'. Collected Essays, vol. 2, Hogarth Press, 1966, pp. 103-110.
  • Woolf, Virginia. 'Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown'. Collected Essays, vol. 1, Hogarth Press, 1966, pp. 319-337.
General Criticism

  • Childs, Peter. Modernism. Routledge, 2008.
  • Docherty, Thomas, editor. Postmodernism : A Reader. Pearson Education, 1993.
  • Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory : An Introduction. Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1996.
Letters, Biographies and Criticism of Specific Works and Authors

  • Hemingway, Ernest. Selected Letters 1917-1961. Edited by Carlos Baker, Granada, 1981.
  • Swann, Brian. 'Middlemarch : Realism and Symbolic Form'. ELH, vol. 39, no. 2, 1972, pp. 279-308.
  • Wall, Geoffrey. Flaubert : A Life. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.
  • Woolf, Virginia. 'An Essay in Criticism'. Collected Essays, vol. 2, Hogarth Press, 1966, pp. 252-258.
Resources on the Web

  • A Case of Identity : Ernest Hemingway is a profile of Hemingway and his writing on the Nobel Prize official website.
  • Victorian Web hosts a wide variety of articles related to the Victorian Period, including early literary realists.
  • Emory University hosts a site devoted to post-colonial studies, which includes a brief, but helpful description of Magical Realism, as well as profiles of prominent authors who practice it.
  • hosts an Interview with Jonathan Safran Foer.
  • The Literature Network hosts etexts by several realist authors, including Émile Zola, George Eliot and Guy de Maupassant.
Literary Authors

The following authors have written works which may be construed as literary realism. This is but a selection of the potential names. Order is chronological.

  • Defoe, Daniel
  • Stendhal
  • Balzac, Honoré de
  • Gaskell, Elizabeth
  • Flaubert, Gustave
  • Eliot, George
  • Zola, Émile
  • Maupassant, Guy de
  • Howells, William Dean
  • London, Jack
  • James, Henry
  • Woolf, Virginia
  • Joyce, James
  • Hemingway, Ernest
  • Vonnegut Jr., Kurt
  • Foer, Jonathan Safran
  • Tartt, Donna
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




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