By Guy Amirthanayagam
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I am only trying to bring out this admonitory proposition: the study ofliterature as social document can lead to an over-emphasis upon motives that are merely local in some given 32 Literary and Cultural Roles historical period; whereas a literary work's appeal does not depend upon motivational ingredients that appear and disappear with the duration of that particular period. For instance, a work may possess, among other things, the appeal of unity, or internal consistency may be more exacting than in others; its formal appeal is not local in the sense that some particular doctrine or assumption might appeal in an era marked by the hegemony of such a doctrine or assumption, itselfhaving in effect the appeal local to some 'timely topic' at a time when it was timely.
As for the title of this paper, I am using the term 'Realism' in a ·quite loose sense, referring simply to the literary work considered as itself a context. My use of the term 'Reality' would, on the other hand, correspond to the 'context of situation' out of which that purely literary context comes to be. In my sense of the term 'Realism' (as distinguished from its application to a particular literary school, be it Flaubert's kind of realism or the kind that some authoritative office-holders would demand of 'socialist realism'), even an out-and-out fantasy could be examined for its traces of realism, insofar as its context bears upon 'Reality' (its corresponding 'context of situation') in some way.
For instance, suppose I happened to have my camera trained in exactly the position to record a murder that suddenly took place exactly there. Ifl showed it to you, you would be witnessing a literal record of the occasion. On the other hand, if I did not have such a record, but a realistic picturising of that event were called for in a fiction, to the best of my ability I would try to simulate the conditions in so lifelike a way that there would be no notable difference between the documentary record and the artificially lifelike re-enactment.
Asian and Western Writers in Dialogue: New Cultural Identities by Guy Amirthanayagam