The idea of poetry
in Beginning realism
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Many critics and theorists regard discussion of literary realism as one related solely to the novel genre. However, Realism was such a dominant force in the nineteenth century that poetry and drama were obliged to respond to it. It is 'the idea of poetry' that is under siege. This chapter discusses the idea of poetry conceived in different ways. It provides examples from the mini-canon of novels to show how the Realist novel is in thrall to the idea of poetry, while at the same time by its very form continues to operate against the idea of it. A STOP and THINK section helps readers explore the possibility of realism in poetry. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh represents the pressure in the nineteenth century for art to be 'realist', responding to concerns such as those articulated by Arthur Hugh Clough.

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