A study of the novel’s most important mode. We will read the novelists who defined realism for three national traditions: Balzac, for the French; Eliot, for the British; Howells, for the US. Alongside these novels, we will read an array of theoretical works on realism, which will consider the techniques and subject matter of realism; the epistemology of realism; the politics of realism; and the relation between realism and the literary marketplace. Finally, we will turn to the earliest theorizing of realism, the works of the so-called naturalists (Zola, Gissing, Dreiser), who subjected the ideology of their realist predecessors to critique.
Over the course of the semester, students will be learning the genre of the conference talk. After preparing twenty-minute talks, they will present these talks at a mini-conference on realism, complete with a call for papers, a selection committee, and respondents.
Novels to include Balzac's Pere Goriot, Eliot's Middlemarch, Howells's Hazard of New Fortunes, Zola's Germinal, Gissing's New Grub Street, and Dreiser's Sister Carrie.