Keeping It Real: Art & the Representation of Reality

Why bother depicting daily life in art, literature, film, or television? At first glance, nothing could be more boring: ordinary reality surrounds us, so why make it an object of art? Yet for the last several centuries, everyone from the Grand Masters of high art to radically colloquial poets, reality TV producers, and Instagram aficionados have attempted to capture what it feels like to inhabit reality in the modern age. In this class, we will ask questions like: is it possible to document reality, and where does reality meet perception? What counts as ordinary? And what forms of experience are deemed "authentically" real? We will analyze both classical literary realism and a wide variety of subsequent movements--Naturalism, Modernism, magical realism, "hysterical realism," and peripheral realisms--that inherited, rejected, or adapted its assumptions and conventions. We will read two long novels alongside many works of short fiction, poetry, and criticism. In addition, we will explore the surprising tenacity of the realist mode in more recent popular genres like cinematic neorealism, documentaries, sitcoms, reality television, and contemporary visual culture and social media.

Sister Courses: HONR218A, HONR218B, HONR218C, HONR218D, HONR218E, HONR218G, HONR218I, HONR218J, HONR218K, HONR218L, HONR218M, HONR218N, HONR218O, HONR218P, HONR218R, HONR218T, HONR218V, HONR218W, HONR218X, HONR218Y, HONR218Z

Past Semesters

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