Writing Realism: Representations in French Fiction
by Professor Armine Kotin Mortimer
For centuries, and not just in the period we refer to as realism , writers of novels and short stories have consciously exploited our ability to believe in what is manifestly fiction. In this study, Armine Kotin Mortimer contends that we can best understand the illusion of reality by examining works where acts of writing play an integral part within the story. Characters who are writing letters in Les Liaisons Dangereuses , for instance, or writing a book manuscript in Sollers's Femmes are writing realism . Such depicted acts of writing and storytelling inform readers about the author's own writing of realism. This is a provocative study of how readers can believe in the realism, if not the reality, of what they read, often despite overwhelming evidence of unreality. This persistence of the mimetic illusion is, Mortimer says, the magic of realism. Mortimer analyzes striking examples from the 16th through to the 20th centuries, examining works by Balzac, Diderot, Laclos, and Marguerite de Navarre and by contemporary writers Serge Doubrovsky and Philippe Sollers. Each of these texts allows Mortimer to explore how the mimetic illusion operates on readers, both in French literature and in narrative as a genre.