Literary realism is the trend, beginning with mid nineteenth-century French literature and extending to late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century authors, toward depictions of contemporary life and society as it was, or is. In the spirit of general "realism," realist authors opted for depictions of everyday and banal activities and experiences, instead of a romanticized or similarly stylized presentation.
George Eliot's novel Middlemarch stands as a great milestone in the realist tradition. It is a primary example of nineteenth-century realism's role in the naturalization of the burgeoning capitalist marketplace.
William Dean Howells was the first American author to bring a realist aesthetic to the literature of the United States. His stories of 1850s Boston upper-crust life are highly regarded among scholars of American fiction. His most popular novel, The Rise of Silas Lapham, depicts a man who, ironically, falls from materialistic fortune by his own mistakes. Stephen Crane has also been recognized as illustrating important aspects of realism to American fiction in the stories Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and The Open Boat.
Honoré de Balzac is often credited with pioneering a systematic realism in French literature, through the inclusion of specific detail and recurring characters. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Gustave Flaubert, and Ivan Turgenev are regarded by many critics as representing the zenith of the realist style with their unadorned prose and attention to the details of everyday life. In German literature, 19th-century realism developed under the name of "Poetic Realism" or "Bourgeois Realism," and major figures include Theodor Fontane, Gustav Freytag, Gottfried Keller, Wilhelm Raabe, Adalbert Stifter, and Theodor Storm. Later "realist" writers included Benito Pérez Galdós, Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, José Maria de Eça de Queiroz, Machado de Assis, Bolesław Prus and, in a sense, Émile Zola, whose naturalism is often regarded as an offshoot of realism.
- American realism
- Chanson réaliste (realist song), a style of music which was directly influenced by realist literary movement in France
- History of modern literature
- Naturalism (literature)
- Realism, Writing, Disfiguration: On Thomas Eakins and Stephen Crane. M Fried. 1987. The University of Chicago Press.
- Crane's Experiment in Misery. Sommers, Aaron
- Rogers, Samuel (1953). Balzac & The Novel. New York: Octagon Books. LCCN 75-76005.
- Stowe, William W (983). Balzac, James, and the Realistic Novel. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-06567-5.
- C. P. Snow (1968). The Realists: Portraits of Eight Novelists. Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-24438-9.
- Becker, Sabine (2003). Bürgerlicher Realismus; Literatur und Kultur im bürgerlichen Zeitalter 1848-1900 (in German). Tübingen: Francke.; McInnes, Edward and Plumpe, Gerhard, ed. (1996). Bürgerlicher Realismus und Gründerzeit 1848-1890 (in German). Munich: Carl Hanser.
- Baron, Christine and Manfred Engel, ed. (2010). Realism/Anti-Realism in 20th-Century Literature. NL: Rodopi. ISBN 978-90-420-3115-9.
- Realism in American literature at the Literary Movements site
- "Victorian Realism – how real?" on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time featuring Philip Davis, A.N. Wilson and Dinah Birch