Masters Theses

Date of Award

5-2022

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

English

Major Professor

Lisi Schoenbach

Committee Members

Lisi Schoenbach, Ben Lee, Allen Dunn

Abstract

This thesis attempts to posit a dynamic theory of literary realism that accounts not only for the commonly understood “historical” realisms of the 18th and 19th centuries, but for the more fluid realisms that arise in the modern and postmodern eras. Realisms of this sort are still understood to be expressions of particular, sociohistorical eras, but these expressions must be understood to be subject to material change in society. This paper breaks, then, with traditional Marxist conceptions of realism as the direct response to enlightenment thought and early capitalism, and instead argues for traceable eruptions of realism throughout the history of the novel, including in contemporary literature. As a case study, this thesis will examine two major novels of John Williams—Butcher’s Crossing and Stoner—in an attempt to clarify what a contemporary theory of realism might look like once it is divorced from its Georgian and Victorian origins.

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