Encyclopedia of Literary Modernism

By Paul Poplawski | Go to book overview
Save to active project



Realism has been an issue in philosophy and in aesthetic representation since Aristotle, but, in discussions of modernism, it is usually used to denote a style of fiction which came to prominence in the eighteenth century and shared much in common with historical, journalistic, or biographical writing. Classic realism, which flowered in the nineteenth century, has been delineated by Roland Barthes, Colin MacCabe, and Catherine Belsey. It is a term used to describe the work of such writers as Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot: novels with reliable narrators who deal with contemporary social and political problems. The principal features of realism (opposed to the earlier Romance) are: narrative authority and reliability, a contemporary setting, recognizable characters, representative locations, ordinary speech, linear plots, and extensive use of free indirect discourse. Modernism challenged many of these conventions, particularly in terms of narrative technique, character portrayal, self-referentiality, and linearity. However, realism appealed as a term for many writers we would now consider modernist: for example, both Henry James’s “psychological realism” and Dostoyevsky’s “Higher Realism” were attempts to go beyond realism but to retain its belief in the faithful representation of life.

Peter Childs

Selected Bibliography

Belsey, Catherine. Critical Practice, London: Methuen, 1980.

Rhys, Jean (Ellen Gwendolen Rees Williams) (1890–1979)

Novelist and short-story writer, born at Roseau on the Caribbean island of Dominica, the daughter of a Welsh father and a Creole mother.

Rhys’s father was a Welsh-speaking doctor originally from Caernarfonshire in North-West Wales, while the maternal Lockhart family had Scottish ancestry but had been plantation owners on Dominica for several generations. Rhys experienced a lonely childhood, feeling estranged from her strict mother, and was early aware of the racial and cultural tensions of the island of her birth. As a writer, Rhys was to excel in the depiction of her heroines’ alienation and estrangement; it is perhaps not unreasonable to suggest that such feelings were intimately known to the author from an early age. Growing up on an island whose population was predominantly black and poor, Rhys felt acutely her own unwanted position as a member of a privi-


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Encyclopedia of Literary Modernism


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 516

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?