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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Literary realism traditionally seems painterly to the degree that it features museums, galleries, and specific works or to the degree that its descriptive qualities parallel the interest of nineteenth-century artists in observed subjects. This chapter, however, connects realist literature and painting less through decorative or observational features than through certain practices of sociocultural critique. The first section, “Visuality,” focuses on a series of shared formal strategies used by writers and painters to depict unconventional women in conventional society, to orient the eye to sociological critique, and to challenge post–Civil War tendencies to sentimentalize unity and harmony. The second section, “Temporality,” focuses on different relations to time in the two mediums: painters tended to minimize narrative sequence even as writers depended on it. Close readings of Henry James’s “A Landscape-Painter” and Edith Wharton’s “The Portrait,” however, reveal that the “instantaneity” of contemporary painting served writers as a point of reference for critically interrogating the sociocultural orientation of realism itself.

Keywords: realism, painting, visuality, time, temporality, narrative, instantaneity, critique

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