Theories of Literary Realism

By Dario Villanueva
Translated by Mihai I. Spariosu & Santiago B. Castanon

Subjects: Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series, The Margins of Literature
Paperback : 9780791433287, 190 pages, April 1997
Hardcover : 9780791433270, 190 pages, April 1997

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Table of contents


1. Genetic Realism

2. Formal Realism and Beyond

3. Phenomenology and Pragmatics of Realism

4. Intentional Realism

5. The Realist Reading

Bibliographical References

Index of Names

A comprehensive reexamination of the question of realism in literature, reviewing major critical approaches in Spanish, French, German, and Anglo-American literary tradition, and offering original reader-response-based theory and readings.


Realism has not only shaped important schools and periods in literary history, but has also been a fundamental constant of all literature, its first theoretical formulation being the principle of mimesis in Aristotle's Poetics. Realism can be considered by extension one of the main aspects of literary theory, the aims of which must be to define its concepts clearly and to neutralize the imprecision, polysemy, and ambiguity that often characterized the application of realism.

This book explores the possibilities and limits of a concept of realism that seeks a point of equilibrium between the principle of the autonomy of the literary work vis-a`-vis reality and the complex relations that the work clearly establishes with this reality. It acknowledges that it is a personal response to the poststructuralist crisis in literary theory. By concentrating on the study of the literary work of art as a verbal construction, the great Continental and Anglo-American tradition of formalism and New Criticism has ended up neglecting the second, mimetic aspect of the literary problematic, thus dissociating literature from life.

Darío Villanueva is Professor of Theory of Literature at Santiago de Compostela University, Spain. He is the author of Estructura y tiempo reducido en la novela; El comentario de textos narrativos: la novela; and El polen de ideas. Teoría, Crítica, Historia y Literatura comparada.