Original Research

Contingency and construction: from mimesis to postmodernism

P. V. Zima
Literator | Vol 18, No 2 | a544 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v18i2.544 | © 1997 P. V. Zima | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 April 1997 | Published: 30 April 1997

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P. V. Zima, Institute of General & Comparative Literature, University of Klagenfurt, Austria

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Abstract

In this article the transition from literary realism (Balzac, George Eliot, Verga) is described as a shift from mimesis to constructivism. It is indicated how the realist confidence in the ability of the writer to represent reality as such yields to a modernist skepticism which recognises the contingent character of all fictional constructs. In spite of this discovery, modernists such as Kafka, Proust and Sartre still believe in a meaningful search for reality, authenticity and truth. This belief seems to disappear in the works of postmodernist authors such as Robbe-Grillet, Eco or Fowles who tend to dissociate fiction from any kind of meaningful search, transforming it into a game: a gadget for the reader. The author, who adopts the perspective of Critical Theory, argues towards the end of the article that the latter is modernist insofar as it refuses to follow the postmodernists in their playful abandoning of key realist and modernist concepts such as truth, authenticity and critique.

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