Some examples of verisimilitude, please?I'm working on this project, and I don't understand the word verisimilitude. Definitely would appreciate some examples, definitions, anything! The more...

Some examples of verisimilitude, please?

I'm working on this project, and I don't understand the word verisimilitude. Definitely would appreciate some examples, definitions, anything! The more examples, the better.


Asked on by freebird29

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amarang9's profile pic

amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Verisimilitude (veritas - truth; and similis - similar to); so it means similar to the truth. In art, verisimilitude was used to portray nature as accurately as possible. (See mimesis - imitation). In literature, this is just what you'd think. With the development of the novel, the goal was to present literature that the reader would find believable (closer to reality, similar to truth). Certainly, Realism was a clear example of this. With poetry, one strategy was to keep the elegant language but make everything else more believable (in terms of characters, content, historical background and so on). Another strategy was to move away from lofty, poetic speech since you would not typically hear this in daily life.

With fiction (sci-fi, realism, or whatever) the novel must also engage the reader, so it would do no good if the author constantly pointed out "this could happen; this is similar to truth." For verisimiltude to be successful, the reader must get swept up in the novel, so even if it is a sci-fi book about the scenario if Hitler won in WWII, the reader would suspend their disbelief of this scenario and consider the truthfulness or its plausibility.

Writers using versimilitude began to notice that all this really relied on what the reader would find believable in reality; since every reader is different, it is problematic. So, the use of verisimiltude shifted from what all readers might find similar to the truth (realistically plausible) to focusing on the novel (or text) itself. So, then verisimiltude started from mimesis (imitating nature, the world, society) to presenting a world by itself (novel, closed book - it's own world) that would simply be believable - if it made some kind of logical sense. The idea is that a reader will find a work of literature more meaningful if he/she believes it could actually happen.

So, it depends on what era of literature you're talking about and historical background will play a role in a text's verisimilitude. These days, in postmodern novels, meaning or truth is understood more subjectively (meaning everyone has a different idea of reality, what's possible, metaphorically and literally). So, in postmodern novels, verisimiltude (as accurately imitating the world) is not as important as plausibility. In Plato's time, truth meant something different than it does now; not just because we have satellites and cell phones, but because our notion of truth is different.



lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Verisimilitude means truthfulness.  When we read literature we are always thinking about the verisimilitude of the work -- we are judging how "true" it is. 

1.  When we consider setting and historical context we ask ourselves, "does this work actually reflect the time period's attitudes and historical facts?"

2.  When we consider characterization we ask ourselves, "would the character really act that way?  Would other people act that way?  How realistic is the character?"

3.  When we consider the story itself we ask ourselves, "could this really happen?  If not, is that the author's point?  Are the actions and reactions of the characters authentic?"  Is the outcome too predictable?"

Not all good literature have to be "true" but I would argue that it has to have elements of truth or it can be frustrating, or alienating, or just plain stupid.  Good science fiction isn't "true" but it can have verisimilitude because it captures a truth of human nature or the world we live in.  The silliest romantic comedies can be predictable, but have verisimilitude because they capture an attitude men and women have about each other.   

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