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Introduction: Realism in Retrospect

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[...] yet still amidst the flux and postmodern fragmentation, the novel (a presumptively realist genre no matter how fantastic its form) continues to play a vital role in instituting and in restlessly reaffirming what Benedict Anderson terms the "imagined community" of nationality.1 In the introduction to Cultural Institutions of the Novel, Deidre Lynch and William B. Warner draw on Anderson's narrative-oriented concept of nationality to demonstrate how much is at stake in the imaginative field of the novel and, in turn, in the cultural field that its alluring, allusive "touch of the real"2 can engender: [N]ovels exploit the claim to offer a detailed and inclusive representation of everyday life. [...] despite the status of novels as a mass-reproduced commodities unmoored from any authentic or indelible source (including, as Michel Foucault points out, that of the author),3 this genre retains an uncanny ability to mystify its own origins, especially when pseudo-expertise about spatial or temporal settings morphs into the seemingly otherworldly novelty of proxy tourism for the students encouraged to read them-a pedagogy driven in part by voyeurism.\n In the essay that concludes the volume, The Aesthetics of Post-Realism and the Obscenification of Everyday Life, Madelena Gonzalez offers a somewhat different account of the realist impetus of the contemporary novel, if only because Gonzalez examines a very distinct cluster of world novels than does Scanlon.

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