Henrik Ibsen and idealism: Rethinking literary history of the XIX century
Considered as the incarnation of an outdated realism Ibsen's theatre has often been opposed to forms apparently more modern or modernistic like Artaud's, Brecht's or Becektt's. The idea that realism is a naively transparent form of representing the world, a form that has since been overruled by more reflexive modes of writing, underlies this judgement. In reality this opposition is untenable and Ibsen's realism is a modernism full of reflections on theatre and theatrality as well. Ibsen's realist plays shocked his contemporaries not so much because of their realism but because of their anti-idealism. The disputes over naturalism caused by a play like Ghosts were in the end disputes over idealism. Literary history of the second half of the 19th century can be viewed as a long battle between dying idealism and rising modernism in which Ibsen's plays took a determining part.