Les Limites de l’engagement politique et social des premiers réalistes (1849–1857)

The first realist artists, such as Courbet, Champfleury, Duranty or Buchon (also called “realists of sincerity”), theorized the concept of realism as an aesthetic, social and politic revolution, and they considered realism as the only way to speak of and to the people. Their attitude towards art and literature was close to what Sartre would later call “engagement.” However, even if this movement seemed ideally positioned to create a truly “engaged literature,” realist artists never managed to bring their theoretical intentions to full fruition in their works. This failure could be due to their inability to create a new language that could reach the people, or to “become” common people themselves, as Sartre would say. Or it might simply stem from their basic concept of “sincerity,” an ethical impossibility to speak of an unknown world. This limited engagement led them in fact to a dead end. (In French)