The Sorrows of Realism: Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
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This is said so often and with so little doubt that it is surprising to see how strongly the same case could be made against postmodernism. As the next chapter will argue, American women write predominantly in the realist mode whereas postmodernist fiction is primarily the creation of white heterosexual males. The notion that radical technique makes for radical politics seems a classic false analogy and receives little support from the expressed political views of actual postmodernist novelists. Moreover, the supposed chorus of marginal voices is rather less apparent in postmodernist fiction than in theories about it. Indeed, Roger Sales finds postmodernist American fiction characterized by the imperial voice of the dominant, even domineering, novelist: 'it is possessive of its imagination and experience and casual in its presumption that its readers go right along with the show. The single imagination is unredeemably single and isolated, but it is also everything.,2
It would be ludicrous to reverse the poles of the poststructuralist argument and proclaim realism as an inherently revolutionary form. No revolution will take place under realist any more than postmodernist auspices yet neither is there the supposed unquestioning acceptance of things as they are. In fact, the white males who write realist fiction express a pervasive discontent. Though supposedly they occupy the centre, these novelists clearly Jeel displaced and marginal, even rather forlorn. Moreover, American realist novels whether by men or women tend to be structured around contradictions that are never quite resolved, perhaps because they reflect the contradictions of the social structure. Finally, it is arguable that these novels persuade their readers not to confirm the status quo but to question why its most consistent product seems to be unhappiness. One of the most plaintive of these writers is John Cheever and he illustrates the need to rethink the papal bull poststructuralist criticism issued against realist fiction.