Originally published in 1983, The Sentiment of Reality covers the rise and decline of the realist novel from the mid-eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.
The book takes the form of an extended essay on two closely related themes in the history of the novel: first, the impact and aftermath of the eighteenth-century cult of sentiment and, secondly, the supplanting of illusionism by an aesthetic of mimesis. This forms the basis of an exploration of the emotional impact that fiction has on the reader. Using this analysis, the book defends the realist tradition against common contemporary criticism.
The Sentiment of Reality combines a close reading of key moments in European fiction with a wide-ranging speculative treatment of historical and formal questions.
Table of Contents
1 Introduction Part One Richardson and Sterne: ‘Sentiment as Principle’ and ‘Sentiment as Feeling’ 2 Richardson: Sentiment as Principle 3 Sterne: Sentiment as Feeling Part Two Diderot and Goethe: Quizzical Approaches to Realism 4 Diderot: Fact and Value or ‘Paradox in the Fiction’ 5 Goethe’s Werther: Identification and Judgement Part Three Tolstoy and Dickens: Moral Realism and the Language of Feeling 6 Tolstoy: Truth of Feeling and the ‘Sentiment of Reality’ 7 Dickens: The Fiction of Popular Sentiment Part Four Flaubert, Joyce and Nabokov: The Rejection of Sentiment and the Feeling of Truth 8 Modernist Parody and the Irony of Irony 9 Conclusion
Michael Bell Department of English, University of Warwick, UK