On Realism in Art  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In On Realism in Art (1921) Roman Jakobson argues that literature does not exist as a separate entity. He and many other semioticians prefer the view that all texts, whether spoken or written, are the same, except that some authors encode their texts with distinctive literary qualities that distinguish them from other forms of discourse. Nevertheless, there is a clear trend to address literary narrative forms as separable from other forms. This is first seen in Russian Formalism through Victor Shklovsky's analysis of the relationship between composition and style, and in the work of Vladimir Propp, who analysed the plots used in traditional folk-tales and identified 31 distinct functional components. This trend (or these trends) continued in the work of the Prague School and of French scholars such as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roland Barthes. It leads to a structural analysis of narrative and an increasingly influential body of modern work that raises important epistemological questions:

  • What is text?
  • What is its role in the contextual culture?
  • How is it manifested as art, cinema, theatre, or literature?
  • Why is narrative divided into different genres, such as poetry, short stories, and novels?
  • Why are narratives put into literature?




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