Title of Abstract

"Realism Is Nonsense": An Experimental Writer's Guide to Fiction

Submitting Student(s)

Shyanne Hamrick

Session Title

Literature in Society

Faculty Sponsor (for work done with a non-Winthrop mentor)

Dustin M. Hoffman, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

English

Abstract

Following the realist movement of the nineteenth century, fiction writers and literary critics have often evaluated a story's artistic worth according to the canonical parameters of realism. Such a criterion asserts that literary fiction aspires to imitate absolute reality for the suspension of a reader’s disbelief. Experimental authors such as George Saunders, Gabriel García Márquez, and Kelly Link, however, successfully defy conventional realism and embrace absurdity in their fiction. In this thesis, I will assess the role of realism in fiction by examining contemporary defenses of fictional realism and analyzing excerpts of experimental short stories. The metacritical purpose of this analysis is thus threefold: first, to qualify definitions of fictional realism; second, to augment Saunders’s theory that “realism is nonsense”; and third, to argue that even realistic fiction entails an element of artificiality and cannot unequivocally encompass the human condition. While fiction writers must suspend readers’ disbelief via a recourse to verisimilitude, a mimetic reconstruction of our world is not essential in crafting meaningful narratives pertinent to the human experience.

Start Date

15-4-2022 12:00 PM

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Apr 15th, 12:00 PM

"Realism Is Nonsense": An Experimental Writer's Guide to Fiction

Following the realist movement of the nineteenth century, fiction writers and literary critics have often evaluated a story's artistic worth according to the canonical parameters of realism. Such a criterion asserts that literary fiction aspires to imitate absolute reality for the suspension of a reader’s disbelief. Experimental authors such as George Saunders, Gabriel García Márquez, and Kelly Link, however, successfully defy conventional realism and embrace absurdity in their fiction. In this thesis, I will assess the role of realism in fiction by examining contemporary defenses of fictional realism and analyzing excerpts of experimental short stories. The metacritical purpose of this analysis is thus threefold: first, to qualify definitions of fictional realism; second, to augment Saunders’s theory that “realism is nonsense”; and third, to argue that even realistic fiction entails an element of artificiality and cannot unequivocally encompass the human condition. While fiction writers must suspend readers’ disbelief via a recourse to verisimilitude, a mimetic reconstruction of our world is not essential in crafting meaningful narratives pertinent to the human experience.