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Károly Tóth: Defetishizing Reality: Lukácsian Aesthetics and the Chances of Realist Literature

16 November 2020. 14:00 - 16:00

In the 20th century the novel became strongly polarized between the so-called “realist” and “modernist” traditions. Later the theoretical and political tendencies dominating the second half of the century hierarchized those traditions and claiming the inferiority of the realist novel to modernist prose became a commonplace. Simplifying this to an extreme, nowadays it seems axiomatic to say that works of authors like Joyce, Kafka, and Proust are beyond the aesthetic possibilities of those written by Aragon, Gorky, and T. Mann. My presentation aims to criticize this premise by mobilizing two Lukácsian concepts: his often misunderstood notion of literary realism and the “defetishizing mission,” which characterizes it. My overall goal is to contribute to the rehabilitation of a certain terminology and an approach in Aesthetics, which is not simply less “philological” than what we got used to, but might also lead to a more nuanced understanding of literature as a social product.

Károly Tóth (1994) is a doctoral student of Aesthetics at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. He earned his master’s degree at the Central European University in 2020. He focuses on 20th-century theories of the novel and literary realism, problems of social engagement in literature, and questions of Marxist Aesthetics (with a special regard to György Lukács’ late work). Since 2018 he is a volunteer of the Lukács Archives International Foundation.


16 November 2020.
14:00 - 16:00