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Realism • Literary Terms and Critical Theories • Eckleburg
Realism is, in the broadest literary sense, fidelity to actuality in its representation; a term loosely synonymous with verisimilitude; and in this sense it has been a significant element in almost every school ow writing. To give it more precise definition, however, one may limit it to the movement in the nineteenth century that was centered in the novel and dominant in France, England and America from roughly mid entry to the closing decade, when it was replaced by naturalism. In this sense realism defines a literary method and a particular range of subject matter. Along one axis realism opposes idealism; along another it opposes nominalism. Confusingly, the latter kind of realism, asserting that only ideas are 'real,' seems idealistic; whereas nominalism, asserting that ideas are only names, would seem to be what most people probably mean by "realistic." (A Handbook to Literature)