Like the elephant encountered by the six blind Indians, Realism basks in a multiplicity of meanings. As a term it can be flexible or sharp-edged, depending on whether the scholar’s roving hands have chanced upon the tail, the trunk or the tusks. The dozen or so writers whose work provides the focus of this short selective survey exemplify nineteenth-century Realism in the sharp, deterministic meaning of the term; and it is in this fairly assertive sense that ‘Realism’ is understood in the following outline. Whatever their viewpoint, these particular writers saw Man as the product of heredity and environment, even if they differed in the degee to which they followed the logic of this concept.
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