Realism and Literature - Victoria University, Australia
D N A M E E S I R TH L A U G T E N A
R I AS R . T 1 TE RI L U C LI . WO S E 2RR D Y A S S E
REALISM What is realism? What do we mean when we say that something is realistic? Can anyone think of examples of realist texts?
Undoubtedly the most popular form of story telling today, realist fiction has evolved alongside the rise of the novel. Realist fiction became the dominant literary form in Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century (Walder, 1996, p.4). Realism flourished during the Enlightenment; the period of time in which scientific rationality became the dominant way in which humans made sense of the world around them.
REALISM AND THE REAL Realism (the term which describes the literary genre), is not interchangeable with words such as: fact, realistic, truth, actual, but it is often conflated with these terms. Part of this is because of the time in which it became popular, and part of it is due to the belief that realist fiction, unlike poetry and drama, is most concerned with accurately describing the world in which we live in.
REALISM AND THE REAL As Morris writes undeniably, realism as a literary form has been associated with an insistence that art cannot turn away from the more sordid and harsh aspects of human experience (2003, p.3). But, as Morris warns us: There is one distinction between realist writing and actual everyday reality beyond the text that must be quite categorically insisted upon: realist novels never give us life or a slice of life, nor do they reflect reality . . . realism is a representational form and a representation can never be identical with that which it
represents. ([emphasis in original] 2003, p.4) REALISM AS GENRE Realist fiction is governed by a set of conventions, among them plot, character, chronological ordering and resolution. These literary conventions have very little to do with real life although importantly they create the impression of a mimetic art (an art that purports to hold the mirror up to life). As Morris puts it Writing has to select and order, something has to come first, and that selection and ordering will always, in some way, entail the values and perspective of the describer (2003, p.4).
So, although some novels are about realistic situations, they are not structured like real life. They are structured in accordance to our ideas about literary realism and our expectations of the genre WHY EXAMINE REALISM Walder writes that Approaching literature through study of its genres has been fundamental to literary criticism in the European languages since Aristotle's Poetics in the fourth century BC (1997, p.3)
Why do you think it is important to study genre? Arent all texts read the same way? WHY EXAMINE REALISM Other kinds of literary genres: the romance
Crime fiction Historical fiction Horror All have certain conventions and expectations, and each example will provide a variation and a conformity to those expectations.
WHY EXAMINE REALISM Realism is no different to any other kind of genre fiction except that part of its convention is that it at least appears to conform to what we term real life Therefore, part of the reason for examining the genre of realism is to identity those conventions: the linear narrative, the focus of a key protagonist, the movement toward resolution/conclusion etc. If we are able to see them as a style which sets up certain expectations about both life and text, we are in a better position to critique them, and to understand the points of views and ideologies which inform them.
WHAT IS AN ESSAY? To try out ideas, essayer To bring together a) your particular responses to a piece of literature, b) engage directly with the topic, which, on some level, will be asking you to develop those particular perceptions into a broader discussion about a group of texts, or a particular question, and c) to learn from and to integrate what others have said about this text and/or topic (depending on what kind of essay) WHAT IS AN ESSAY? An essay is also a mode of COMMUNICATION, and
ultimately, a contribution to debate and knowledge Therefore, it needs to be a) well organised conceptually b) clearly address its topic/question and not wander off into other areas c) be fluent and grammatically correct d) include a bibliography e) BE READER FRIENDLY PLANNING THE ESSAY All this requires ESSAY PLANNING You cant just launch into an essay without careful work: Engaging with the primary text
Making sure you understand what is being asked of you Writing a one page plan to be your guide as you write PLANNING THE ESSAY Make sure youre well aquainted with the required texts (both primary and secondary. Give yourself plenty of time! Essays involve an evolution of critical and creative thinking, and cant be crammed with any great success. See the reading / thinking / writing / re-writing as part of a process and a craft in itself.
PLANNING THE ESSAY Engage closely with the topic. What exactly is it asking? How will you address it in relation to your chosen poems? Devise an essay plan (one page, dot points) in response to the above (i.e. the topic, close reading of poems, secondary reading). An essay needs to have: ALL ESSAYS NEED An Introduction: which gives an overview of your response to the topic (also called the argument, the thesis) in relation to the poems;
A series of key points: which explicate that argument, and which usually correspond to the sequence of paragraphs; A Conclusion: which pulls together the threads of your discussion and directly mirrors the intro. No new material should be put into a conclusion. A Bibliography BIBLIOGRAPHY/REFERENCES
A Bibliography always needs a separate page at the end of your essay. For Essay 1, you only need a Primary Sources section of a Bibliography: where did the poems come from (eg Leonard). Essay 2 will need both Primary and Secondary Sources in your Bibliography. Name of author, title of book in italics. Place of publication: Publishing house, date of publication. Birch, Tony. Blood, St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2011 WRITING THE ESSAY Write a first draft. Allow this to sit for a day or two, then return and edit.
Read, revise, and always check back to the key criteria of topic and poems. Is it relevant to the topic? Have your shown how you derived your ideas from the poems? Have you used secondary sources to support your argument (not to make the argument for you)? (This is relevant for essay 2 only). Do final draft. Read aloud (to someone else, if you can find a sympathetic audience!) QUOTING Titles of poems, chapters and articles are in single quote marks, The Waste Land, Titles of books are in italics: The Summer Without Men.
Any quotations from either a primary or a secondary source within your essay, need to be in single quote marks, A policewoman came into the room carrying a tray of food, (Blood, p.) If you decide to leave anything out of a quote, indicate this with ellipses USING SECONDARY SOURCES Read secondary material carefully, taking notes and keeping publication information. Keep a bibliography file as youre researching. Be sure you dont get swamped by others ideas; make sure that the argument you develop in your essay is your own voice that has evolved from
your reading of the primary texts, your use of critics ideas and your engagement with the topic. REFERENCING When you do quote secondary sources, be sure you indicate exactly what comes from the critic, preferably by quoting something specific from them. Dont just put a reference at the end of a para; you must be explicit. Choose a referencing style for referring to secondary sources and bibliography. Harvard style (in-text): http://www.adelaide.edu.au/writingcentre/referencin g_guides/harvardStyleGuide.pdf
REFERENCING However, as long as you are internally consistent, you are free to use a different style (e.g. footnotes instead of in-text): http://www.lc.unsw.edu.au/onlib/refbib. html VU referencing page: http://www.vu.edu.au/library/referencin g-copyright/referencing-guides GENERAL TIPS Reference all secondary material
Check for grammatical structure and the clarity of written expression. Essays should be 1.5-2 spaced, on one side of page only; page numbers marked; adequate margins left for comments. Consider the professional presentation of your essay GENERAL TIPS PLANNING and doing at least one DRAFT are both fantastic investments of your time
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