Steven Earnshaw
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The language of Realism
in Beginning realism
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This chapter looks at the different ways in which language is conceptualised in relation to the discussion of realism. It begins with some mid-nineteenth century non-fiction prose as examples of metonymy at work in realism. The chapter then provides some considerable space to Roland Barthes's 'The Reality Effect' because it will allow us to bring together the work on language. It examines more critically some of the assumptions about realism by looking more widely at the issue of detail. The use of prose in a linguistic style that is consistently rational, measured, metonymic and discursive would seem to bear out all complaints against the dullness of realism. The chapter presents a case study on Mrs Oliphant's Hester to explore the matter since the medium of language is portrayed as inadequate in its ability to represent the world and in its ability to enable us to comprehend the world.

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