Satire in an Age of Realism

Overview

As nineteenth-century realism became more and more intrepid in its pursuit of describing and depicting everyday life, it blurred irrevocably into the caustic and severe mode of literature better named satire. Realism's task of portraying the human became indistinguishable from satire's directive to castigate the human. Introducing an entirely new way of thinking about realism and the Victorian novel, Aaron Matz refers to the fusion of realism and satire as 'satirical realism': it is a mode in which our shared ...

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Overview

As nineteenth-century realism became more and more intrepid in its pursuit of describing and depicting everyday life, it blurred irrevocably into the caustic and severe mode of literature better named satire. Realism's task of portraying the human became indistinguishable from satire's directive to castigate the human. Introducing an entirely new way of thinking about realism and the Victorian novel, Aaron Matz refers to the fusion of realism and satire as 'satirical realism': it is a mode in which our shared folly and error are so entrenched in everyday life, and so unchanging, that they need no embellishment when rendered in fiction. Focusing on the novels of Eliot, Hardy, Gissing, and Conrad, and the theater of Ibsen, Matz argues that it was the transformation of Victorian realism into satire that granted it immense moral authority, but that led ultimately to its demise.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...One of the most thought-provoking books on the novel I have read in years... Satire in an Age of Realism challenges us in the way that major contributions to the field should: it takes risks, runs into difficulties, excites and chagrins us, and in the end convinces us that, much as we may disagree with the author, we are undoubtedly in the presence of an important new voice in our (forever fashion-prone) conversations about the novel."
-Novel: A Forum on Fiction

"...masterfully written...should be required reading for anyone working not only on the Fin de Siècle but also on nineteenth-century literature and the novel more generally... a tour de force."
-Victorian Studies

"In brief, Matz's readings of individual authors offer both pleasures and insights, and his overall arguments do not fail to engage (and sometimes provoke) the reader. Though he limits his argument to British fiction, his range of literary reference—especially to French literature— is relatively broad, and his book makes a substantive contribution to the study of satire, a much neglected form. Finally, this book showcases a formidable critical talent at work, and we will look forward to seeing more of it in years to come."
-NBOL 19

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Aaron Matz is Assistant Professor of English at Scripps College, California.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Acknowledgments

1 Augustan satire and Victorian realism 1

2 Terminal satire and Jude the Obscure 37

3 George Gissing's ambivalent realism 70

4 The English critics and the Norwegian satirist 105

5 Truth and caricature in The Secret Agent 142

Epilogue 173

Notes 178

Bibliography 205

Index 215

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