Author

Moe Thet War

Date of Award

2015

First Advisor

Bernard Rodgers

Second Advisor

James Hutchinson

Third Advisor

Joan DelPlato

Abstract

This thesis examines Balzac’s Père Goriot, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, and demonstrates how and why these novels became four of the most essential texts of literary realism, which was the major literary trend that emerged in the nineteenth century, replacing the romantic sensibility that had been influential in the preceding decades. The distinction between the realists’ and the romantics’ works is explored via three specific aspects of these novels: the replacing of the romantic hero with the realist protagonist; the role of setting in realism, and especially the emphasis on the city as a determining factor in people’s lives; and the more realistic presentation of romance and marriage. In addition, the question of “romantic realism” is addressed to examine if and how some of these novels, despite being realist works, still contain traces of the romantic. The discussion is initially framed by an examination of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther as an example of a “pure” romantic novel. By contrasting the realist novels to Werther, a number of recurring social and political themes and literary attitudes emerge that give insight into how these novelists successfully turned reality into fiction.

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