What is the story of realism

Realism (1848–1890)

Realism is an epoch of German literature between 1848 and 1890. It tries to observe and depict reality as objectively as possible.

The era of realism

The Literary era of realism is used in German literature between 1848 and 1890 settled. The term realism goes back to the Latin word "res" for thing, thing, reality. The art of this epoch deals with reality and tries to find it as objective as possible map. The writers deliberately do not want to gloss over or idealize anything, as was customary in earlier epochs, for example in the transfiguring Romanticism. In the texts of realism is supposed to The focus is on the typical, the essential stand. In doing so, value is placed on an impeccable, clear and simple language placed.

Important authors and works of realism

Historical backgrounds of realism

National and liberal demands from the bourgeoisie, mass poverty in the cities and in the countryside had led to the March Revolution. In the second half of the 19th century, everyday life in Europe continued to change drastically. The played industrialization an important role. With advances in science and technology, many simple jobs that were previously done by humans have been taken over by machines. The unemployed rural populations poured into the citiesbut where there is not enough work either. There was massive social tension between the social classes, especially between wealthy citizens and poor workers. Through new scientific knowledge, the Christian worldview and thus also traditional values ​​challenged.

Features of literary texts of realism

The literary epoch of realism deliberately does not deal with the political and social backgrounds, but rather focuses on individual people in manageable social contexts. Often the main characters are merchants, artisans or farmers, and the action is preferably set in small villages or towns. The effects of social conditions on the life of the individual are presented without comment. It is up to the reader to draw conclusions about the general situation on a case-by-case basis.

When, for example, Theodor Fontane talks about the tragic effects of an arranged marriage on a young woman in his novel Effi Briest, he is only indirectly criticizing the social customs of the time.

Since realism strives for a close connection between art and everyday life, the most important question by which literary texts of this era must be measured is: Could history have happened that way in reality?

Epic texts of realism, but sometimes also ballads or dramas, are often characterized by a framework story. In this a narrator is introduced, who then tells the actual story as objectively as possible. This is to emphasize the realism of the text.

Compared to French or Russian realism, there is a predominant effort in German literature not only to reflect reality, but to shape it artistically, which basically contradicted the stated intentions of realism. That is why, especially in Germany, one speaks of poetic realism.

Examples of the poetic design of realistic texts are descriptions of landscapes, objects or weather conditions that indicate the inner workings of a character. In addition, there are often echoes of humor and irony that create a distance to the descriptions of harsh reality. These and similar devices are no longer used in the subsequent literary epoch, the much more radical naturalism.

Novels, short stories and stories in realism

Epic texts are the most important literary genre in realism. Countless novels and short stories from this period are still known today.

The main genres into which the novels of this era can be divided are:

  • Development novels (e.g. »Debit and Credit« by Gustav Freytag)
  • Society novels (e.g. "Effi Briest" by Theodor Fontane)
  • Historical novels (e.g. "Before the Storm" by Theodor Fontane)

A group of its own is the travel literature, in which places and events are described as objectively as possible. Here, too, Theodor Fontane is one of the best-known representatives with his "Walks through the Mark Brandenburg".

Realism produced some novelists who are known to this day. Among them are Gottfried Keller (“Clothes make the man”), Theodor Storm (“Der Schimmelreiter”, “Hans and Heinz Kirch”) and many others.

Poetry in realism

In the art epochs before Realism, especially in Romanticism and Biedermeier, the language of poetry had moved further and further away from everyday language. The poets try to counteract this tendency in realism. The poems are no longer overloaded with metaphors, use one plain language and strive for one accurate yet artistic representation. However, the poets do not attempt to portray reality realistically in the poem, but want to a poetic world as a mirror of reality create.

Typical of the poetry of realism are the so-called Thing poems, in which an object is described in detail and everything that is unimportant and irrelevant is omitted. Such poems can be found in the work of Rilke and Mörike, among others. "The Roman Fountain" by C. F. Meyer is considered a classic thing poem.

Ballads are also one of the most popular forms of poetry in realism. Similar to the novels of this era, a single hero is usually the focus. A well-known example is Fontane's ballad "John Maynard".

The drama in realism

Dramas play a much smaller role in realism than epic texts and poems. Only a few dramatists are today considered to be representatives of this era. Hebbel and Grillparzer belong to them. However, even these focus less on the individual than on the relationship of individual people to society, which actually does not correspond to the rules of realism. Nevertheless, for example, the play "Agnes Bernauer" by Hebbel, which is still frequently performed today, is regarded as a realistic drama.

Page published on 02/19/2015. Last updated on November 24th, 2020.