“It has been a theory of mine ever since I began to write, which was eight years ago, when I was sixteen, that the most artistic and the most enduring literature was that which reflected life accurately.” So remarked the young Stephen Crane (1871-1900)—author of Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) and The Red Badge of Courage (1895)—to the editor of Demorest’s Family Magazine in the spring of 1896. To regard the faith implied in his observation is to measure how far writers have since departed from the representational function of art, from the view of art as a reflection of reality. As the novelist Ronald Sukenick recently put it, for the contemporary writer “reality doesn’t exist, time doesn’t exist, personality doesn’t exist. God was the omniscient author, but he died; now no one knows the plot.” He and many other postmodern writers would have us believe that...

 
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