Romance and Realism ACL 2007 Semester 1 2010 Lecture 1 Ian Syson.

of 25 /25
Romance and Realism ACL 2007 Semester 1 2010 Lecture 1 Ian Syson

Embed Size (px)

Transcript of Romance and Realism ACL 2007 Semester 1 2010 Lecture 1 Ian Syson.

  • Romance and RealismACL 2007Semester 1 2010Lecture 1Ian Syson

  • Lecture OutlineUnit overviewThe literary construction of narrativesRomance conventionsRealist conventionsThe romance/realism debates

  • 1. unit overviewThe unit asks you to read a number of prose fiction texts (primarily novels) from nineteenth-century English novels and stories, within the frame of reference of two highly debated literary conventions: romance and realism.The lectures, tutorials and assignments will not only discuss some aspects of the texts themselves, but also engage with some of the debates about the terms and their uses.There is an expectation that you will read all of the fiction texts; at least the required critical readings; and attend tutorials and lectures.The three assignments are designed with that expectation in mind.As this is a literary studies unit, some basic terms and concepts about narrative will be taken for granted. Many glossaries are available on the internet. Heres one:

  • 2. The literary construction of narratives

    In order to understand some of the ways in which romance and realism conventions operate in prose fiction, it is useful to review the idea of the constructedness of literary narratives.Literary narratives are artful in the sense that they are shaped and read according to expected patterns of story telling and description.The traditional and most common narrative structure is linear, following a historical progression to a resolution or climax. The characters, events, and setting contribute to a consistent fictional world.This structure differs from the experience of ordinary life in which, while we progress through time, the progression is not neat and patterned, organised towards one goal or resolution (unless we count death). The people we meet, the events we witness or take part in, the places we visit or inhabit are not necessarily consistent or significant.

  • A crucial difference between a fictional narrative and real life experience is that fiction has a narrator.While all the above points might seem self-evident, they underlie the debates about realism and romance in fiction which are, in essence, about the relationship of reality to art.Importantly, those debates are not only about literary taste and style but also about values.These debates are current and active.

  • A very recent interview with the highly popular author, Alexander McCall Smith engages with these debates:The notion that everything should reflect the harsh face of our times is to me rather a nave one. I think its assuming there is only one vision and only one philosophical position to take Writing is a moral act Those who portray an aggressive, vulgar, debased attitude towards life are conniving in that life.

  • Some of the building blocks of fictionIn constructing a prose fiction which conforms to McCall Smiths ideas or directly contradicts them, an author (whether consciously or not) makes choices about:what to includewhat to omitwhat to emphasisewhat to leave implicitwhat metaphors and images to use

  • Narrative choices These choices are in part controlled by the genre of the workThey are directly relevant to issues of how far a fiction is read as romance or realism, or as a complex combination of both.The narrative voice that tells the story also plays a part in the reader effects.The overall narrator is often supplemented or even contradicted by particular characters perspectives through focalisation or direct narration.

  • Reader EffectsReader effects are the ways in which texts position readers to a certain way of reading.The idea of reader effects is strongly related to Wolfgang Isers concept of the interactive part played by the reader in constructing the meaning of a text.Iser argues that the role of the novel reader is to respond to the four central aspects of NarratorCharactersPlotImplied reader

  • Example of different narrative perspectivesGreat Expectations in its first two pages offers the reader at least four differing reading perspectives There is that of the adult narrator sufficiently distanced from the immediacy of narrative events A second viewpoint is the character perspective of the child, Pip There is the third perspective of the convict Finally we glimpse a fourth viewpoint , that of text or plot conveyed pre-eminently by language associations (it) encompasses a larger perspective than any of the previous ones.Pam Morris pp.122-123

  • SummaryIn the following weeks we will be using some of these analytical tools just outlinedTo explore the ways in which some novels and short stories are constructed in terms of romance and realism.To discuss how useful those terms are in classifying the structures and perspectives, and philosophies of the novels and short stories.To examine some of the debates around the use of those terms.

  • Contrasting Romance and RealismAs we have briefly seen, arguments about romance and realism often centre on ideas about what is the truth and the relationship of the fictional world to the real world.Words which will recur throughout the semester in this discussion are:Reflection, mirroringMimesisRe-presentationTrue to life; truth-telling

  • 3. ROMANCE: the historyIn its classical form, romance as a genre has an older history than the genre that has come to be called realism.The literary genre of romance in its earliest forms drew on myths and fantasy to tell exciting stories about heroic quests.It was largely poetic in form and idealistic: it celebrated exceptional qualities.It characteristically centred on a heroic, chivalric knight pursuing an ideal (for example, the quest for the Holy Grail).The hero sometimes (but not always) was also in pursuit of the heroine. Their love was idealistic, usually unconsummated within the narrative, and often hindered or forbidden.Importantly, in the high-poetic tradition of romance the characters were aristocratic and set apart from the everyday. the plot involved heroic and exceptional activity by the hero who was the hero precisely because he was exceptionalThe setting tended to be in an undefined exotic past or other country, a feudal society, and could include mythical beasts, such as dragons.

  • Romance and TruthIn this early form of romance the narrative truth was associated with the philosophy or moral virtues demonstrated by the hero and his actions.Characterisation and setting were valued for their demonstration of these virtues and values.While the hero was exceptional in terms of his bravery, purity, generosity etc. these were not individual characteristics in a modern sense: there was no sense of individual psychology or motivation.

  • Romance and The EnlightenmentBy the 18th century (just before Jane Austen was writing), romance had lost much of its associations with high art and truth.The Enlightenment period valued verifiable truth: truth that could be tested.The masculine associations of traditional romance with brave and idealistic action heroes were largely forgotten.Romance began to refer to fantasy and romantic love: to the not real.Romance began to be associated with excessive values for feelings (sentiment) over reason.As the binary of feelings vs. rationality developed, so did the gendered binary of feelings/feminine and reason/masculine.By the 19th century one female author who wanted to assert her own intelligence felt the need to distance herself from silly novels by lady novelists: and just to make the distinction clear, she took a male pseudonym, George Eliot.

  • So when is a novel romance rather than realism?The novel started to develop as a dominant literary form in the late 18th century.Early novels were formally constructed on earlier literary models such as the romance and the comedy.Both romances and comedies share a formulaic plot that proceeds through a series of hurdles to a satisfactory conclusion.Among reader expectations are:All central sympathetic characters will surviveGood will be rewarded and evil punishedLovers will overcome obstacles and be unitedThe social order of the setting will remain intact

  • CharacterisationEarly forms of literature tended to use moral characterisation: a character might represent greed; lechery; poverty; or : pride and prejudice.Such characters will only enact events or be described in terms that repeat this moral trait. Many novels similarly use stock types (stereotypes) rather than rounded characterisation with individual psychologiesIn romance fiction some stock characters are: the main lovers (hero and heroine); the obstructive parent(s) or other relations; the rejected suitor(s); minor lovers (friends; sisters/brothers etc. of the main pair); the confidante.While these characters may have some individuality, their main if not only function is to advance or complicate the romance plot.

  • Romance and conservatismThe origins of modern romance novels in the earlier forms of romance and comedy and their reliance on formulae and structures from those earlier forms has led to an association of them with conservativism and the preservation of existing order and values.Rather than celebrating, as Romantic poetry did, the adventures of imaginative creative genius, the plot of the romance novel, as feminist critics have observed, tends to return the lovers from passion and exploration to settled domesticity:They married. The End.

  • 4. RealismRealism has, as Pam Morris and many others explain, not one but many different definitions.Art has always had some concern with ideas of truth and reality:Truth about human behaviourTruth about the way the world is or seemsTruth about what really happened

    However, different cultures and societies have very different judgments about how to tell the truth in art.And, about what particular areas of the truth are important.

  • Mirrors and ReflectionsOne of the most common metaphors used to describe realism is that it holds a mirror up to natureStendhal, one of the first modern realist novelists, famously described the novel as a mirror travelling along a highway. Stendhal actively rejected high romanticism and the heroic and sought to describe the historical events of his own society as a series of particular interactions between individuals and events.

  • Historical Particularity of RealismThe characterisation and settings of nineteenth-century realism are firmly anchored in the particular historical events and society of the time. In contrast, traditional romance fiction occupies a more mythic and ahistorical space, often lacking precise details of setting.

  • Mimesis and RepresentationThe earliest art forms indicate a desire to produce something that corresponds to the pre-existing world.Mimesis shares a common origin with the word mimic. This invokes the notion of copying. However, the notion of constructedness outlined before presents a problem.How can a literary text copy the world?Representation begins to suggest the artfulness involved in any such attempt: re-presenting.Throughout the semester we will be examining some of the ways that writing offers re-presentation but cannot be a reproduction of the material world.

  • 19th century realismBy the 19th century photography was developing at the same time as an increasing emphasis on the search for the truth about the world through scientific verifiable enquiry.The enquiry extended to the social world and a documentation of its class structures and sub-cultures.The realist novel also developed and flourished during this period.Part of the definition of realism became its attention to revealing the non-romantic aspects of life in an urban industrialised society.

  • The Politics of RealismBecause of its rejection of the ideal, and its emphasis on historical particulars, Realism became associated with a political truth-telling: a capacity to show aspects of society and its organisation that those in power would prefer remain invisible and unexamined.Realism, therefore is often claimed as the genre of choice for artists who see arts function as political: improving the world.Critics of Realism contest the possibility of any art form telling the whole truth and point to the constructedness of art and the limits of the artist as offering a particular rather than universal perspective.

  • 5. Romance vs realism?By the 19th century, then, a binary division of opposites started to be established and identified with opposing values which had some gendered characteristics.However, as we shall see through the course of this semester, the structures, conventions and concerns of many of the fictions of the period do not fit neatly into this either romance or realism divide.

    Pam Morriss Realism (2003) is a key reference for this unit generally, and a class handout from it is available as Week 1 required critical reading.From interview with Stephanie Bunbury, Gentlemans relish in Good Weekend, The Age, July 30, 2005. pp.18-25

    McCall Smith is the author of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series and numerous other fiction.