Representing Realists in Victorian Literature and Criticism by Daniel Brown

By Daniel Brown

This booklet is ready the old second whilst writers and critics first used the time period “realism” to explain illustration in literature and portray. whereas scholarship on realism has a tendency to continue from an assumption that the time period has a original that means and background, this publication unearths that mid-nineteenth-century critics and writers first used the time period reluctantly, with a lot confusion over what it may really suggest. It didn't gather the prepared which means we now take without any consideration until eventually the tip of the 19th century. actually, its first definitions got here basically in terms of instance and analogy, via descriptions of present practitioners, or via fictionalized representations of artists. by way of investigating unique debates over the time period “realism,” this publication exhibits how writers at the same time engaged with broader issues in regards to the altering meanings of what was once actual and who had the authority to choose this. 

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2 PRE-RAPHAELITISM AS REALISM 43 Nor was Pater alone in this reassessment: a work by the now-obscure critic, Esther Wood, called Dante Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite Movement (1894), used terms very similar to Pater’s to connect the ‘new ideal’ of Pre-Raphaelitism with a medieval practice that she believed was reinvented for the nineteenth century as realism. The sister and helper of a prominent historian, Mary Anne Everett Green, very little biographical information exists about Wood herself.

LATE-NINETEENTH-CENTURY CRITICISM OF THE PRE-RAPHAELITES By the end of the century Walter Pater would use Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s body of work to argue that he was revolutionary in shaping an artistic practice that depicted the otherworldly and intangible specifically by way of the material and commonplace. According to Pater’s Appreciations, With an Essay on Style (1889), Rossetti utilized an ‘almost grotesque materialising of abstractions’ (qtd in McGann, 2008, p. 233), likened to a state of ‘feverishness of soul’ or an ‘insanity of realism’ (qtd in McGann, 2008, p.

243). Like Ruskin, Pater suggests here the possibility of a realist poetry, a ‘new ideal’ that was also a return to a practice that existed prior to the ossification of artistic expression ushered in by academicians. Furthermore, Pater sees this ‘new ideal’ beginning with the Pre-Raphaelites, the same group that critics credited with instigating the trend towards a realist practice that was ‘less easily defined than apprehended’ in the 1850s. 2 PRE-RAPHAELITISM AS REALISM 43 Nor was Pater alone in this reassessment: a work by the now-obscure critic, Esther Wood, called Dante Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite Movement (1894), used terms very similar to Pater’s to connect the ‘new ideal’ of Pre-Raphaelitism with a medieval practice that she believed was reinvented for the nineteenth century as realism.

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