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Series: Beginnings
Author: Steven Earnshaw

Terms used to describe artistic practices have different meanings from their common usage, but 'realism' as an aesthetic idea cannot be too far removed from the way we would talk about something 'real'. This book explores the artistry and aesthetics of realist literature, along with the assumptions of realist literature. It examines the different ways in which theorists, critics and philosophers conceptualise 'realism'. The book argues that a 'realist' sensibility is the ground on which other modes of literature often exist. It considers verisimilitude that is associated with the complexity of realism, describing the use of realism in two ways: capital 'R' and small 'r'. A set of realist novels is used to explore preliminary definition of realism. The STOP and THINK section lists some points to consider when thinking about realist works. The book looks at the characteristics of the Realist novel. It deals with the objections raised in discussions of Realism, from the Realist period and twentieth- and twenty-first century criticisms. The book provides information on the novel genre, language that characterises Realism, and selection of novel material. It looks at crucial elements such as stage design, and a technical feature often overlooked, the aside, something which seems non-realistic, and which might offer another view on Realism. The book talks about some writers who straddled both periods from the 1880s and 1890s onwards, until the 1920s/1930s, gradually moved away from Realism to modernism. Literary realism, and Aristotle's and Plato's works in relation to realism are also discussed.

Author: Steven Earnshaw

Drinking to excess has been a striking problem for industrial and post-industrial societies – who is responsible when a ‘free’ individual opts for a slow suicide? The causes of such drinking have often been blamed on heredity, moral weakness, ‘disease’ (addiction), hedonism, and Romantic illusion. Yet there is another reason which may be more fundamental and which has been overlooked or dismissed, and it is that the drinker may act with sincere philosophical intent. The Existential Drinker looks at the convergence of a new kind of excessive, habitual drinking, beginning in the nineteenth century, and a new way of thinking about the self which in the twentieth century comes to be labelled ‘Existential’. A substantial introduction covers questions of self, will, consciousness, authenticity, and ethics in relation to drinking, while introducing aspects of Existential thought pertinent to the discussion. The Existential-drinker canon is anchored in Jack London’s ‘alcoholic memoir’ John Barleycorn (1913), where London claims he can get at the truth of existence only through the insights afforded by excessive and repeated alcohol use. The book then covers drinker-texts such as Jean Rhys’s interwar novels, Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend and John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas, along with less well-known works such as Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, Venedikt Yerofeev’s Moscow–Petushki, and A. L. Kennedy’s Paradise. The book will appeal to anybody with an interest in drinking and literature, as well as those with more specialised concerns in drinking studies, Existentialism, twentieth-century literature, and medical humanities.

Steven Earnshaw

This chapter discusses some features that the nineteenth-century Realist novel exhibits and which underpin the Realist aesthetic. The first, and one of the most important aspects, is plausibility. The chapter looks at plot, a particularly tricky issue in discussion of Realism as well as causality, time, and endings of Charles Dickens's Dombey and Son as an example of plausibility. Other characteristics of the Realist novel discussed are narrative point of view, sympathy, empathy, subject matter, and proportion underpinning realist writing. STOP and THINK sections in the chapter help readers to think about the representation of the Realist novel and the validity of some of assertions related to Realism.

in Beginning realism
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Steven Earnshaw

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.

in Beginning realism
Steven Earnshaw

The Realist novel presents stories, characters and settings that are similar to those commonly found in the contemporary everyday world. This chapter looks at the characteristics of the Realist novel and suggests reasons why Realism dominates art in the nineteenth-century by considering two principles. There were numerous claims in the nineteenth century that the aim of art should be to represent the world faithfully, and this can be taken as the first principle of Realism: the faithful copy. The second principle is that it should deal with the contemporary 'here and now'. The chapter provides information on the factors contributing to the emphasis on contemporary reality, namely the consequences of industrialization, humanism, the growing authority of science, and the development of the social sciences. A STOP and THINK section in the chapter helps readers to compare their thoughts with the possible responses provided to questions on realism.

in Beginning realism
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Steven Earnshaw

This chapter looks at crucial elements in realist drama, stage design, and a technical feature often overlooked, the aside, something which seems non-realistic, and which might offer another view on Realism. Realism makes inroads into the melodrama of the day that dominated the theatre, and literary history has little regard for the period between 'Sheridan and Shaw', that is, a period from the end of the 1770s to the beginning of the 1890s. The chapter provides a number of plays from this period their due, in their relation to Realism, showing that they are not without their own merits, and once again to throw into relief the Realist novel. It discusses the role of the protagonist and the question of 'agency' in the relationship between Realism and the idea of drama in the nineteenth century. A STOP and THINK section helps readers to ponder whether drama is inherently unsuited to Realism.

in Beginning realism
Steven Earnshaw

Towards the latter half of the nineteenth century a new aesthetic, predominantly European in its earlier incarnations, reacts against Realism and produces what is collectively termed 'modernism'. Towards the end of the 1950s and beginning of the 1960s a new aesthetic came to dominate, called 'postmodernism'. If modernism and Realism had some common points of contact, the relationship between Realism and postmodernism is completely antithetical and antagonistic. Much of what has been said about postmodern writing applies to magical realism. This chapter provides a detailed account of Postmodernism and magical realism by considering two exemplary texts, namely Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale and Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. It looks at Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End, which describes the minutiae of everyday life in the office of an advertising agency, with the unusual device of using the first-person plural for its narrative perspective.

in Beginning realism
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Steven Earnshaw

As a way of thinking about the complexity of realism, this chapter considers verisimilitude that is associated with it. There is no one element that defines literary realism; it is a mixture of philosophical tendencies, aesthetic aims and literary techniques. The chapter suggests the main characteristics of each in relation to Realism. The lack of significant theoretical work on realism in England is put down to a couple of reasons, which the chapter deals with briefly. The chapter also suggests a number of reasons for studying literary realism. To make things manageable at the start, as well as helping to boost clarity, a 'mini-canon' of Realist novels is used to explore preliminary definition of Realism. STOP and THINK sections in the chapter lists some points to consider when thinking about realist works, particularly novels.

in Beginning realism
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Steven Earnshaw
in Beginning realism
Steven Earnshaw

This chapter deals with a number of the objections raised in discussions of Realism, from the Realist period and twentieth- and twenty-first century criticisms. It provides information on the novel genre, language that characterises Realism, and selection of novel material. It is poetry that often lays claim to 'the spiritual' and the symbolic mode of representation, as opposed to the visible commonplaces of the Realist novel. However, it does lead us into a related issue concerned with the Realist novel: 'the bigger picture'. The discussion of mimesis leads on to consideration of a related term that is conflated with Realism: 'realistic'. The problem with use of individuals, type and stereotype within realism are covered. The chapter considers the figure of 'the fallen woman' as she appears in Realist novels to illustrate the objection. STOP and THINK sections list questions to help readers understand the nineteenth-century Realist aesthetic and Realist works.

in Beginning realism