Theories of Literary Realism (SUNY Series, Margins of Literature)

Realism has not only shaped important schools and periods in literary history, but has also been a fundamental constant of all literature, its first theoretical formulation being the principle of mimesis in Aristotle's Poetics. Realism can be considered by extension one of the main aspects of literary theory, the aims of which must be to define its concepts clearly and to neutralize the imprecision, polysemy, and ambiguity that often characterized the application of realism. This book explores the possibilities and limits of a concept of realism that seeks a point of equilibrium between the principle of the autonomy of the literary work vis-a-vis reality and the complex relations that the work clearly establishes with this reality. It acknowledges that it is a personal response to the poststructuralist crisis in literary theory. By concentrating on the study of the literary work of art as a verbal construction, the great Continental and Anglo-American tradition of formalism and New Criticism has ended up neglecting the second, mimetic aspect of the literary problematic, thus dissociating literature from life.