The european realist tradition


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This paper explores the development of the realist tradition from its origins in the nineteenth-century through its appropriation by Lukács, to the ideas of the ‘classical’ realist film theorists. It will be argued that this realist tradition is best understood as a form of reflexive practice which arose to resist an aestheticization of art and an intensifying specialization of the aesthetic sphere within capitalist modernity. It will also be argued that this tradition was based in an intuitionist model of knowledge, and was characterized by a rejection of the provenance of rule-governed systems and the a priori formulaic. The paper relates the ideas of Grierson, Kracauer and Bazin to a paradigm of ‘intuitionist cinematic realism, and then relates this realist tradition to the broader spectrum of contemporary film theory, and, in particular, to a ‘pragmatist’ school which emerged during the 1990s. It will be argued that the realist tradition is superior to this school, because of its fruitful synthesis of idealist aesthetics, phenomenology and Marxism, and ability to engage with abstract theoretical models. This argument is developed by applying Kracaurian and Bazinian ideas to an analysis of Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’ Arc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-188
Number of pages14
JournalStudies in European Cinema
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts

User-Defined Keywords

  • Cinematic realism Bazin Grierson Kracauer Lukács


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