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classical realism


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


A term used mainly by M arxist and poststructuralist critics to denote the various generic conventions that (supposedly) characterized fictional writing during the period of high bourgeois aesthetic and sociopolitical H egemony . For some Marxists – L ukacs among them – such works still possessed a critical-emancipatory potential, a capacity to encompass (to “concretely portray”) whole worlds of diverse historical and social experience, and thus to reveal the deep-laid conflicts of residual, dominant, and emergent ideologies. For others (for example, M achery and E agleton ) realism often functions as a mode of false consciousness, a smoothing-over of precisely those conflicts – those stress points in its own ideological project – which can emerge only through a reading in the “symptomatic” mode. This antagonism between rival schools of Marxist thought with regard to the nature, status, and value of nineteenth-century realism is reproduced in their respective (sharply polarized) attitudes toward literary M odernism and its programmatic break with realist modes of writing. Thus, where Lukäcs sees modernism as a symptom of late bourgeois cultural decline, Eagleton and Macherey take a modernizing lesson from Brecht in the various techniques of critical reworking ( Umfunktionierung ) which can draw out the ideological subtexts – the latent contradictions of meaning and structure ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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