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Approaches to Realism

Proceeding from the observation that mimesis, or the representation of reality, is one of the oldest issues in the history of literature, this course aims to introduce you to central arguments that have evolved around realism, broadly conceived. What is meant by realism? How does realism relate to the real? Is realism a style, a literary period, a political attitude, or a rhetorical trick? These and related questions, including also postmodern perspectives, will be addressed in the course. The readings are divided between literary texts and critical commentary that ranges from Plato and Aristotle to contemporary theory; each seminar will be structured around an authoritative intervention (or set of interventions) in the debates on realism. As the course progresses, you will be encouraged to formulate independent positions in relation to these debates. Ultimately, the intention is to enable a textured and historically grounded appreciation of realism as an open question rather than a closed book.

  • Course structure

    Course description:  Approaches to Realism, HT22 (pdf) (144 Kb)

    Course description and literature list for autumn term 2023 to follow.

    Teaching format

    The teaching comprises seminars. Active participation is expected from students in all teaching formats in order to pass the examination. Students will often work with different tasks and assignments during the seminars in preparation for the examination. Apart from scheduled teaching, time will be spent reading course literature and completing mandatory assignments.


    Two written essays.


    Giles Whiteley

  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Course reports

  • Contact

    Teacher: Giles Whiteley

    Student Affairs Office