Realism, narrative visuality and the hieroglyphic world of Newland Archer

Title: Realism, narrative visuality and the hieroglyphic world of Newland Archer
Source document: Brno studies in English. 2008, vol. 34, iss. 1, pp. [125]-137
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In this paper I claim that despite Americanist realism's assumption of a disembodied narrative omniscience inseparable from an allegiance to national unity and homogeneity one attests within mainstream realism the emergence of new kinds of visual relations that disrupt an omniscient, detached and disinterested gaze. Through an analysis of the structural devices and iconography of Wharton's canonical realist text, The Age of Innocence, it will be shown that realism's literary production, in contradiction to its own hegemonic intent, often breaks up the "illusion of self-mirroring" revealing that behind the transcendent Cartesian observer lie embodied forms of subjectivization which, in turn, register the author's anticipation of the new social and gender relations but also her uneasiness and growing anxiety over the formation of a new national American identity.
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