The realist novel, which was establishing itself at roughly the san time as Hegel was wrestling with modernity, has a similar bifurcation in its heart. In Scott's works, as I've argued at length elsewhere, the individual is seen, so to speak, from the skin out, not from the skin in: the focus rests almost entirely on the social and historical aspects of human life with the inner life being relegated to the realm of the ineffable. In the realist novels that succeed Scott, the inner life gains a voice. This creates opportunities and enrichments, but also problems. The attacks on realism we have canvassed were indeed prepared for and to some extent anticipated by a dominant tradition of twentieth-century novel criticism that preceded them. That criticism responded to the realist novel by concentrating largely on its discovery of the inner life. This emphasis led either to the misrepresentation or to the devaluation of what I take to be the central claim of nineteenth-century realism, the claim to place us in history would argue, however, that the realist novel always retains the potentiality for registering the interpersonal realm. This potentiality is present above all in the ways realist novels employ their narrators to engage readers in different modes of imaginative dialogue. The increasing prominence of the inner life in realist novels tends to lead toward the "philosophy of the subject," for it can install a lone observer at the cent of things. Yet the reading situation these novels create leads, or can be made to lead, in other directions as well.

To determine exactly how it is that realist novels have actually been read would require a study quite different from this one —and from the critiques I have discussed in this chapter. I believe that realist novels ask to be read in quite complex and interactive ways —an obvious enough assertion, were not so often negated in theory and practice, They require us neither to participate in the passive acceptance of a "naturalized" reality, nor to engage in an endless process of self-reflexive unmasking, My critique of the critiques of realism suggests that we need to respond to the realist problematic as a whole, and not simply to one of its poles. It also suggests that political judgments will always be part of a reading of the claims of realism: for that very reason, we should make them as overt as an. One way of doing this is to attempt to engage realist novels in argue concerning the issues that most concern us. I believe that realist novels ask to be read in such ways. To wish to engage in such reading, ever, we will need to believe that the realist project is neither impossible in conception nor impossibly flawed in execution. The purpose of chapter and the two that follow it is to define e the realist project and to suggest that its claims might possibly be made good. [Chapter 1:"Realism and Its Problems," pp.36-37; added by PVA]

Related Materials


Shaw, Harry E. Narrating Reality: Austen, Scott, and Eliot. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1999. Pp. xiv + 280, including four-page index. ISBN 0-8014-1592-6.

Last modified 18 October 2004