Manual The Realist Novel (Approaching Literature)

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  1. The Realist Novel: 1st Edition (Paperback) - Routledge
  2. ISBN 13: 9780415135726
  3. Diversity among the Realists
  4. The Realist Novel

Spectrum Libraries Concordia Advanced Search. Guidelines FAQ Statistics. Abstract In this thesis I examine the workings of magic realism in the novels of three Indian novelists writing in English: R. All items in Spectrum are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved. The use of items is governed by Spectrum's terms of access. Download Statistics. Downloads per month over past year. Research related to the current document at the CORE website.

The emphasis upon uniformity, keeping to the rules of this genre and not straying into another, is itself typical of the detective novel, as I have already suggested. This is really the key to the whole question of defining the genre of a literary work. It could be argued that we know what detective novels do, even if we have never read one, because they draw upon assumptions and expectations we have built up over a long time, going back to when we first learned to read, indeed learned our language.

It is not by coming across all the possible uses of the language that we become fluent speakers of it, but by incorporating nobody is quite sure how its rules, as a result of experiencing a certain, limited amount of it. Just as being a fluent speaker of English does not mean being fluent in all the geographically and historically different varieties of English that exist, so being an experienced reader does not mean knowing all the different varieties of reading that exist. What we do, when encountering a new or unfamiliar variety of language use, is try to relate it to what we already know.

The excitement and interest that they generate is the result of a complex mixture of recognition and novelty. As individuals we are all different, but as readers and as writers we have a 9 lot in common. We are conditioned to read in certain ways, which can be identified and studied— even changed.

This has taken me into discussing larger issues. One of the difficulties in using the idea of genre is that specific and general uses are sometimes muddled: the detective novel is a genre, but so is the novel itself. There are also the genres of the past, such as tragedy and epic, which can add to the confusion if we are not careful.

Then there is the fact that some genres are not confined to literary production. Detective fiction is one example of this, but there are many others, such as science fiction or the western, which may be found in film and television. Genre categories are often rather loosely defined, and they tend to overlap.

It is worth trying to establish some basic genre categories to work with and I suggest the following classification, which proceeds roughly historically. These are not hard-and-fast, scientific definitions, with objective validity. They are literary categories that change according to use and context over time. This is especially clear from the way traditional genre categories continue to be used: terms such as comedy or tragedy are often used in the third as well as the first category.

Perhaps the most familiar and reliable usage is the second category, to divide up fiction, poetry and drama, which is how the term is most commonly used nowadays for the study of literature. The aim here is to consider the novel, which, as its name suggests, was thought of from the start as something new, and having to do with news.

This was in the eighteenth century, when poetry and drama were already ancient, and the novel was thought of as having more concern with everyday life than other, earlier genres. Yet most of us rely upon at least a basic idea of what we expect to find when we pick up a novel to read. What is a novel?

If we collect these elements together, we can formulate at least one broad definition of the novel: A fictitious prose narrative of considerable length, in which characters and actions representative of real life are portrayed in a plot of more or less complexity. This is a definition offered by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. It would probably cover most of the examples that immediately come to mind, but as soon as you pursue it, you find that as well as offering answers it raises questions.

Let us consider the key terms of the definition. Novels are fictions, or may be called fictitious, because they depict imaginary characters and actions. Some novels, therefore, seem to be more or less fictitious than others. We will be coming back to this issue, which is fascinating, large and complex. Many nineteenth-century novels fostered the illusion and encouraged readers to forget they were reading an invented story by depicting characters learning that they had been led astray by reading fiction.

Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. What such examples demonstrate, among other things, is the enormous flexibility of the prose medium, and the sense in which novelists are experimenters, seeking new ways of exploring, coming to terms with, even changing, human realities. Narrative Narration is the process of telling, and it helps to distinguish novels from plays, or drama, in which the action is directly presented rather than related. Perhaps the point to remember is that even when novels appear to be dramatic or visual or in other ways non-narrative, they are nevertheless always being told.

There is always a narrator, a narrative voice or source, even where there is what seems to be plain description, argument or statement. How could a dramatic or film equivalent be presented? It would be impossible to have exactly the same effect. It is the multiplicity of voices that lends the novel its potential range and openness to competing or alternative interpretations. One critic whose name is inseparable from this view of the novel is Mikhail Bakhtin — Bakhtin stressed the uniqueness of the novel as a genre in 12 terms of its openness, and especially the way in which its incorporation of other voices, texts and styles has allowed it to reflect different understandings of the world through time.

Almost anything seems possible, and some novels have been immense. Clarissa, for instance, which appeared in eight volumes, was one of the earliest on a very large scale, running to more than a million words. It is not just a question of length, however. It is also a question of how much space seems necessary for the fulfilment of our expectations: a novel should engage us for long enough for us to feel it has dealt with its subject in some depth and complexity. This is not very precise, which is why there are borderline cases of narrative fictions which it is difficult to classify as either short stories or novels.

Such terms are never finally fixed in meaning.

The Realist Novel: 1st Edition (Paperback) - Routledge

They depend upon the changing perceptions of their subject within particular cultural practices. Characters Characterization is perhaps the most memorable and important aspect of novels. The importance of character to novelists may be gauged by the fact that all of these names happen also to be the titles of the novels in which they appear.

As the author of Mrs.

ISBN 13: 9780415135726

You say it means this, and I that. Otherwise, they would not be novelists; but poets, historians, or pamphleteers. Discussion I think this touches on the paradox that, although we have to believe in the existence of characters while we read, it is a mistake to assume that they do, or have, or even could have existed. Many novelists have angrily repudiated the suggestion that their characters are directly based on real people; equally many, often the same writers, have admitted that they derived their characters from contact with individuals they have met or known.

This helps to remind us that novelists may use character to do more than represent human personality or psychology: it may be used to represent larger attitudes or beliefs, even to be symbolic. On the other hand, and no less important, characters can act as narrators or facilitators of the action.

They may function to some degree in all of these ways, hence their importance to the genre. Character is not, therefore, a stable universal, but a form of representation that novelists have to use. For these reasons character is difficult to talk about technically or critically. Of course, action implies an agent, and without action there would be no story, or narrative. Actions can be as much internal to a consciousness as external to it.

Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. Another way of thinking about action or actions is as the events that, in the narrative, constitute the basic movement through time. An event is simply a change from one state of affairs to another; a succession of events we might call a story. Consumers of detective stories and other popular sub-genres that rely on this aspect of the novel may not feel quite so ready to disparage it.

Moreover, it is arguable that Forster is in any case drawing a model of narration which, in the form he expresses it, rarely exists at all. It is hard to think of a story that is nothing more than a succession of events arranged in time; there is almost always some connecting element beyond that, some element of causality, and where there is not we supply it.

However, there is nothing to stop us reading into the first sentence the plot implied in the second. Representative of real life As readers, we expect novels to provide us with a special kind of access to real life. Read the extract from chapter I of the book below and think about how this is done.

So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them for their days were long before the days of photographs , my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. To five little 15 stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine—who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle—I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trouserpockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain… edn, p.

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This is the common and required experience of novel readers: that we should come to believe in the characters and their story, even while knowing on some level that it is imaginary. It is also what makes us want to read on. There is a lot more to be said about this opening. For the moment I would simply like to point out that the setting of Great Expectations was familiar to Dickens from his childhood, and it was his custom to show friends round the Kent churchyard on which the scene is based, but they would see thirteen little gravestones lying there!

See Figure 2. He had reduced the number to five for the novel, on the grounds that nobody would believe it if he gave the true number. According to his Poetics, it was the different manner of imitation or representation that distinguished different kinds of work. We can say that it is the particular way in which a novel operates that leads to it being commonly identified as realistic—although, yes, fictitious.

Plot A plot is a series of connected events. The word seems to imply something made, or put together deliberately.

Diversity among the Realists

As the dictionary definition of the novel says, plots can be more or less complex. Various distinctions have been proposed between action, story and plot. Photo: David Sheppard. Russian Formalism flourished between and drew a distinction between fabula story , defined as the skeletal incidents in the novel in their chronological order, and sjuzhet plot , defined as the narrative presentation of these events in the novel, in whatever order. We should think of action, story and plot as a continuum, without trying to draw too hard and fast a line between the most minimal happening in a narrative and the most complex or involved structuring of 17 it.

Perhaps we should keep the useful distinction made by Forster between the story, as a kind of summary in chronological form of what happens in a novel, and the plot, as the actual succession of events, however they are organized. Where the more recent theorists have made great advances has been in developing terms and concepts for analysing with great subtlety the ways in which ordering can be managed, especially how and why the plotting or structuring of a novel deviates from the merely temporal succession of its constituent events.

I have been listing the different elements in our definition of the novel in this way for convenience, as a kind of scaffolding, to enable us to discuss the novel by highlighting some of its most obvious and familiar features. I do not want to suggest that these are the only categories that may be useful. These categories are best developed later, once we have a clear idea of at least those more general aspects of the novel form that have begun to achieve some fixity of reference. Division and classification is always to some extent an artificial exercise, and Henry James was neither the first nor the last to attack talk of these things as if they had a kind of internecine distinctness, instead of melting into each other at every breath, and being intimately associated parts of one general effort of expression… What is character but the determination of incident?

What is incident but the illustration of character? A tiny handful of critics, such as David Masson, author of the first book on the novel in English British Novelists and their Styles, , also tried to define its leading characteristics. Like contemporary novelists, critics and theorists, what the early novelists said should always be thought of as subject to the changing situation in which they were living.


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Studying the Novel, , p. Although we do deal with particular novels in 18 this book, it is vital first to consider some of the general problems of reading, studying and assessing novels. Questions of approach and analysis, and of which concepts are most fruitful in the literary criticism that studying novels involves, will be raised throughout the book.

This means you can find lines of enquiry that should serve you well when reading the novels we have chosen to discuss in more detail. It also gives the whole discussion some structure and continuity, ensuring that you do not treat any text in isolation. The aim of the more general discussion chapters is to reinforce this emphasis and provide points for pausing to develop further our thinking about the nature and effect of the genre approach in relation to our chosen novels. The rise of the realist novel As we have just seen, the standard current definition of a novel centrally includes the idea of representing the real world.

There is nothing new about this. Novels seem to address themselves more closely to real life than poetry or drama. There seem to me to be at least three reasons for this. Most of the fiction we read and indeed, watch, in the form of television drama is realist in orientation. However, realism is so complex a word that if we do not use it carefully we can find its meanings and applications very confusing.

One way of starting to consider its uses is to look at the origins and development of the novel genre. What we are not doing is using the word in its common, everyday sense to refer to facing the facts usually gloomy of a situation, as we do, for example, when we say of someone that he or she has a realistic approach to life. Although the novelist may also be realistic in this later sense, the novel is first of all a verbal text and, as such, it is an imitation or mimesis of reality.

Further, unlike a film, say, it cannot imitate reality directly. It uses words to give the illusion of reality. Where did this way of writing come from? What might such a history look like? Kettle — 86 was a product of the English School at Cambridge, at the time strongly antihistorical, but his politics ensured a broader, European approach to literary production. Kettle followed this view in his book on the English novelists, suggesting that the achievements of Austen, Dickens and James were made possible by the prior emergence of the novel as a distinctive, popular literary form, in association with major changes in western European society.

What does Kettle consider to be the most important question to ask about the development of the novel genre and how does he answer this question? How important a distinction does he make between realism and romance? He is using the word modern in the sense of post-medieval. Discussion For Kettle, the key question is: why did the novel arise at all? His answer is that it was the literary form that corresponded most closely to the needs and experiences of the rising commercial class in England. There is, he argues, a profound and complex connection between the dominant literary genre of any period and the changing shape and needs of the society of the time.

It can be argued that novels like Pride and Prejudice and Great Expectations, for all their apparent realism, bring about for the reader an immersion in their fictional worlds as escapist in their way as the idealized worlds of medieval romances with their knights-errant and their damsels in distress. By drawing us so effectively into a world we can think of as like our own, a world that seems ultimately safe and comfortable, the realist novel leaves us where we are—or so the argument might run.

She wrote about what she understood and no artist can do more. While adopting a less thoroughly sociological viewpoint, he provided a much more detailed and persuasive account than Kettle of the different factors that accompanied, if they did not actually help to determine, the timing and nature of the emergent genre: the rise of literacy and the printing press; the development of a market economy; urbanization; and so forth. What other factor s that were dependent upon broad social changes does Watt suggest are important in thinking about the emergence of the novel form in the early eighteenth century?

How does this lead him to define realism in the novel? Discussion Probably the most crucial development as Watt sees it was the effect of an increasingly individualistic, secular outlook among the dominant groups in society. This outlook was evident in contemporary philosophical discourse, which stressed the importance of the unique, individual experience as the source of truth and identity.

It was this new spirit that led to a growing concern with the inner self in its relation to its environment. This should not be taken to mean that a novel may not explore religious themes or motives. What it does mean is that we are unlikely to find supernatural explanations for what happens within story or character, even where something outlandish or fantastic is occurring—as in the Gothic novel or one of its descendants, such as detective or science fiction.

At the same time, the impact of Puritanism upon the English novel can hardly be underestimated, involving as it does a conception of life as a continuous moral and social struggle. To sum up, we can say that, from its earliest days, the novel has been typically concerned with depicting the development of individual life within a specific setting, a concern that is thought to have arisen in association with the rise of a certain kind of society in England.

Whose history? It is important to note that many writers and critics would prefer not to think about the novel in terms of its history—or, indeed, of any history. That is to be our vision of them— an imperfect vision, but it is suited to our powers, it will preserve us from a serious danger, the danger of pseudo-scholarship. He was not prepared to theorize about the novel himself, beyond saying that certain ideas tend to recur in the minds of those writing novels, whatever their period: ideas about story, plot, people, and so on. She continued: If the English critic were less domestic, less assiduous to protect the rights of what it pleases him to call life, the novelist might be bolder too.

He might cut adrift from the eternal tea-table and the plausible and preposterous formulas which are supposed to represent the whole of our human adventure. But then the story might wobble; the plot might crumble; ruin might seize upon the characters. The novel in short might become a work of art. Such are the dreams that Mr Forster leads us to cherish. For his is a book to encourage dreaming. None more suggestive has been written about the poor lady whom, with perhaps mistaken chivalry, we still persist in calling the art of fiction.

It also suggests another perspective upon the formation of genre, which to her is nothing like as straightforward as Forster would like it to be. Woolf is not against rule-making as such; what she is against is the inadequacy of the rules so far created, by English men. This echoes the attempts of earlier women writers to claim some status for what they perceived as a maligned form of writing.

From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. John Milton, Alexander Pope and Matthew Prior were among the most well-known major writers of the preceding century or so, and were all male poets. The Spectator was an immensely popular early-eighteenth-century periodical conducted as a gentlemanly, club-like endeavour by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, who were also the main contributors.

By contrast, Cecilia and Camilla were novels by Fanny Burney, and Belinda was a novel by Maria Edgeworth, evidently much closer in period and interest to Austen. Not only were they by women, they were all about women in contemporary English society. Since the s, and, in particular, since the publication of Sandra M.

Much more attention has been paid to the role of woman writers and readers, as well as to the often unconscious assumptions of critics and scholars usually men about the genre they construct as they construct its history. One reason for these assumptions may be that, to begin with, most of the early novelists and their commentators were men, although soon before the end of the eighteenth century women formed a large if not dominant section of the reading public. Consideration focused on the class backgrounds of these writers, and the nature of their specific contributions to the growing genre of realist fiction.

Defoe and Richardson came from the new and rising merchant classes of the City of London, whereas Fielding and Sterne were identified with the more traditional, gentlemanly classes of the countryside. Sterne was a rural clergyman, although Fielding, the son of a general, was a lawyer and playwright in London before becoming a novelist. In Clarissa these are mainly from the heroine, who is tormented by her family, then by her lover, is raped, and eventually dies.

Both Fielding and Sterne, by the way, counter simplistic assumptions about the middle-class background of the early novelists. What is often forgotten is the fact that probably her most important antecedent was Burney, whose Cecilia provided the title of Pride and Prejudice and whose work undoubtedly acted as a direct influence. What is also often forgotten is the fact that not only were women the major consumers of fiction during the nineteenth century, they were the major producers too.

One of the greatest novelists of the time, Mary Ann Evans, better known to posterity by her male pseudonym George Eliot, herself noted this fact, addressing the question of how it had come about. Her viewpoint was most succinctly expressed in an article about the art of fiction, written just at the time she began her first story. A cluster of great names, both living and dead, rush to our memories in evidence that women can produce novels not only fine, but among the very finest;—novels, too, that have a precious speciality, lying quite apart from masculine aptitudes and experience.

No educational restrictions can shut women out from the materials of fiction, and there is no species of art which is so free from rigid requirements… But it is precisely this absence of rigid requirements which constitutes the fatal seduction of novel-writing to incompetent women. Can you see what her argument is, and how it relates to the idea of the novel as a genre?

This, according to her, is remarkably free and open—a freedom that too easily leads to disaster as well as success. The mirror is doubtless defective; the outlines will sometimes be disturbed, the reflection faint or confused; but I feel as much bound to tell you as precisely as I can what that reflection is, as if I were in the witness-box, narrating my experience on oath. However firm her allegiance to realism, the novelist imposes her own vision on what she sees. This is partly because this personal vision is inseparable from her artistic awareness, and partly because without it her work would lack shape or point.

The artist, in short, always offers a version of experience. In these moments they are defended, defined or redefined. If we look at the history or formation of the novel, we find it is in effect made up of a collection of such moments involving the writers themselves trying to establish what it was they were doing, by establishing how it differed from what others were doing, including those who had influenced them.

Unlike the Romantic poets, realist novelists did not on the whole use treatises or manifestos as a way of explaining or justifying their methods or subject. James was perhaps the main exception among novelists writing in English in the nineteenth century. Insofar as any more systematic theory of the novel can be identified elsewhere, this was primarily to be found in France.

His view was that realism meant writing fiction based on observation of the world of ordinary men and women in society, using the simplest language to reach the widest audience.

The history of the novel has until recently been envisaged primarily in terms of the development of realism. Like any history, this has involved selection and interpretation. By drawing on Kettle and Watt, we have in effect been following one line of thought, albeit the dominant one, from the various surviving accounts and documents. Considering realism as central in the development of the novel is justified by the evidence of contemporary writers, critics and readers. However, as our concept of the history of the novel is changing with the inclusion of women novelists, it is also changing as we become more open to elements that are commonly excluded from realist fiction.

It may be that, under the impact of theorists such as Bakhtin, we have become more aware that the boundaries between genres are fluid and shifting. If many novelists have contrasted their work with romance, this may suggest not so much how different but how closely allied are the realist and romance strains of the genre. However, if the closest narrative form with which the early novelists wished to associate themselves was history, the closest narrative form from which they tried to dissociate themselves was romance.

This book involved an extended discussion of story-telling from the Greek epic poet Homer in about the eighth century BC onwards, cast in the form of a dialogue between three characters, the chief of whom, Euphrasia, speaks for the author. Can you tell which literary form Reeve prefers? It was first used to distinguish these works from Romance, though they have lately been confounded together and frequently mistaken for each other.

The Romance is an heroic fable, which treats of fabulous persons and things. The Romance in lofty and elevated language, describes what never happened nor is likely to happen. Quoted in Allott, Novelists on the Novel, , p. Reeve appears to favour the former, especially in what she says about how its characters affect us. The impression this exchange gives is of a quite stable distinction between two ways of creating fiction. This flourished in England between the s and the s. What was the Gothic novel?

The term refers to the Gothic or medieval architecture of the gloomy castles much favoured by writers from Horace Walpole onwards. The Gothic sub-genre developed within decades of the rise of the realist novel, almost as if it were an attempt to challenge the establishment of the genre. Its proliferation in the closing years of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth acts as a kind of counterforce to the image we have established of the steady development of realist fiction. Although the specific sub-genre faltered, there remained a continuing strain of Gothic or romance traceable throughout the period that follows.

It is, as it always has been, engaged in recreating itself out of various different elements, not necessarily in any simple linear fashion. This is not to suggest that, especially in the nineteenth century, it was not inclined towards realism; rather, it is to suggest that that is far from the last word about it. It is with these thoughts in mind that we have chosen to focus on the particular selection of novel texts you will find discussed in the chapters that follow.

I have referred to all of them already, in one way or another. Of course, we should not read a novel trying to fit it into some already preconceived notion of what it is or should be. This would take the point out of the creative richness it offers. At the same time, in coming to a deeper understanding and evaluation of what a novel offers, we do in practice constantly refer back to our experience and knowledge of real life. This, I hope, now includes a more conscious awareness of the issues involved in talking about and studying novels. Further reading Booth, W. Conrad, J. Davis, L.

Day, G. Frye, N. Gilbert, S. Hunter, J. Bone, Merlin Press. Rimmon-Kennan, S. Robert, M. Rodway, A. Bradbury and D. Showalter, E. This balance of continuity of identity with change is essential for the moral component of character that seems central to many realist novels. If characters were not aware of their past behaviour and feelings as part of their continuing identities, then moral development would be impossible for them and moral judgement of them, the allotment of blame and praise, would be inappropriate. It is the representation of character change as a process of interaction between a person and his or her social world that typifies realist fiction.

In romance and fairytale, change is usually represented as a magical and instantaneous transformation: the beggarmaid into princess, the frog into prince. Another characteristic of the realist novel is its special use of the potential of prose. We often think of novels as reflecting life, but clearly words are not like mirrors. For Bakhtin it makes no sense to consider meaning in terms of definitions in a dictionary.

Words are always in some sense answering other words.

The Realist Novel

He sees language at any moment of history as a dialogue of voices: those of different classes, genders, professions, age-groups, and even of past epochs. Each voice speaks of its own way of seeing the world; each speaks from its own value system. The novel, Bakhtin claims, developed as a way of artistically orchestrating these voices. The 34 form of the novel is inherently dialogic, in that any novel is an active participant in the voices of its time.

It is this dialogic quality of the novel, which produces the capacity to challenge the dominant voice or voices at any particular moment, that Bakhtin associates with the genre. The discussion of the text falls into three main sections. The first section focuses upon the artistic organization of the novel, looking closely at the first chapter, then at the first few chapters and then at the structure of the novel as a whole.

This leads, in the final section, back to the question of realism: how fully does Austen work within realist conventions? However, this effect of naturalness is achieved by means of superb artistic organization, which exploits to the full the potential of novelistic prose and form. The opening voice is that of the narrator. We shortly discover that the narrator is omniscient—able to see into the thoughts of all the characters.

Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Overview This book guides the student through the fundamentals of this enduring literary form. Product Details Table of Contents. The genre approach - Dennis Walder; 2. Reading Frankenstein - Richard Allen; 4. Reading Great Expectations - Dennis Walder; 6. Can realist novels survive?

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