You are here:

Literature/neo classism and neorealism


hello tue how are you ...what does neo classicsm mean interms of books and films ....and the same for neo realism ...thankyou ...val

Hello again, Val,

Well, you can start with Wikipedia:

Essentially, neo-classicism is a style of art and literature that tries to emulate or copy the styles of Ancient Greece and Rome; or of the antiquity in general ("the antiquity" basically covers all of ancient history, also known as "classical antiquity"; i.e. the first great age of civilisation in history. Read more about it here: After the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century AD, the Middle Ages began. After another five centuries had gone by, mainly dominated by the spread of Christianity, monks in monasteries began rediscovering the texts of the old Greeks and Romans, and since then the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment have done their level best to try to achieve the same great level of civilisation as the Greeks and Romans had. Of course, around the Age of Enlightenment (c.1650-1789 AD), that same level had indeed been achieved, and surpassed. The Renaissance (15th to early 17th centuries) and the Age of Enlightenment were the times when a broad cultural elite of wealthy artists and thinkers became interested in matching anf exceeding classical antiquity, by not only copying the old style but building on it, developing it in new directions, still inspired by the classical style. This activity and these works are called neo-classicist. While the main movement of neo-classicism was in the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, it has certainly been possible ever since to do (or write) a given work in the classical or neo-classical style, so the term can still be used today about the works of artists and writers who consciously try to imitate or in other ways be inspired by the classical styles.

But, neo-classicism is mainly seen in the world of art, i.e. painting and sculpture and architecture. So it's a bit harder to pin down in terms of books and films. A neo-classicist book would be one that tried to emulate the literary and poetic style of Homer's Odyssey or Iliad, for instance, or of other Greek or Roman plays or other texts. We don't see this very often today, but it was one of the most common and celebrated ways of writing in the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment.

In terms of films, neo-classicist films would be those that try to copy and/or build on the literary, poetic or just plain cultural style of the antiquity. The main film-makers of this sort that occur to me are the Italian directors Pier Paolo Pasolini (who made movies like "Oedipus Rex" and "Medea") and Federico Fellini (who made movies like "Satyricon" and "Roma").

Then there is neo-realism. I don't know much about it, besides what is on Wikipedia: - it seems to be a short-lived movement, mainly because it was also an early form of social realism, which became a strong movement soon after.   The point to orient your understanding of neo-realism according to, is realism (, but Wikipedia doesn't say much about it. Realism is a literary trend that began in the mid-19th century (i.e. around 1850). Before this point in time, it had not been safe for writers to describe things as they really were, because this would get the writers in trouble with the people in power; the king, the nobility or the rich in general. Because artists and writers have always known about social injustice, and how all of society is actually based on such injustice; on the rich exploiting the poor. This is why most writing from before this era were kept in very hard-to-decipher artistic and symbolical literary forms.

But in the mid-19th century, social conditions improved enough for people to start being more clear and honest about their opinions of how society was structured. This is also the bourgeois age, when there is the separation of church and state, and old monarchies start losing power to the new parliaments, governed by bourgeois figures, elected by their peers in a democratic process. This then gives rise to the literary trend of realism, where writers can now write about real life in specific terms, without getting into too much trouble with the powers that be. They still have to be careful, though. They can't be to critical of the rulers of society, but they can at least start describing everyday life in great detail. Once we get past World War II, realism then evolves into neo-realism, esp. in Italy (, which is where writers start focusing on the deepest problems in society: the conditions of the poor and oppressed, and start championing their rights, being more critical of society's rulers than before. The writing starts getting political, having an agenda that calls for changing society in progressive directions, to get rid of the gross injustices; the great gaps between rich and poor. This trends soon after spreads throughout European and American culture to become social realism (, which has a nearly identical goal, namely to describe the plights of the poor and disadvantaged in society, to call attention to social problems that need to be solved.

So there you have it: neo-realism is a short-lived political movement just between realism and social realism. :-) Follow the Wikipedia links to read about how it is expressed in films as well.

- Tue


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Tue Sorensen


I am an authority on the complete works of Shakespeare, and can answer any questions relating to his plays, poetry and life. I specialize in interpretation, double-meanings and translation into modern language.


I was a top-rated Allexperts expert on this same subject several years ago.

Former member of the Danish Shakespeare Society, as well as an active participant in the scholarly SHAKSPER mailing list.

Three years of studying English literature at the University of Aarhus, Denmark

©2016 All rights reserved.