I would like to have Wood explain the relationship between realism, that is, literary realism, and reality? Does he understand this autonomous human consciousness as a fictive representation of a corresponding state outside of fiction--in the presumably real world? Or does it represent a purely aesthetic reality, an ideological projection of a deeply felt belief which it is the artists responsibility to confirm? How is it possible to understand how consciousness can be autonomous? Even as an imaginative ideal, when it represents at its core a violation of the boundaries of inside and out, the distinctive achievement of life established when first a membrane governed exchange between what was within and what was external to the cell? Consciousness treated as interiority represents, not reality, but a kind of delusional thinking--one of great importance, one of those things, like belief in gods, that make us human--but what a restrictive and misleading thing it is to call this view a "realism" --by any definition!
When I look for what exemplifies human consciousness, I think of Northrop Frye writing of Homer: how in contrast to the battle scenes in the prophetic books of the Jewish Bible (very similar in many ways to the battles in the Iliad, with the heroes advancing before the assembled armies exchanging challenges and threats meant to intimidate the enemy before the battle began); what Homer contributed, Frye claims, is the possibility of an imaginative recognition of the suffering of the enemy, empathy that was not restricted to one's own tribe. The essence of human consciousness being: awareness of the other as one like oneself (think of the many versions of the Golden Rule). The sense of self grows out of both a confrontation with the limits imposed by the reality of others, and the ability to imagine and to experience the other side.
We are not monads. Language is created and experienced together. Between our first breath and our last, there is nothing we experience that is not in part a shared reality. I recently finished The Bruise, Magdalena Zurawski's wonderful extended meditation on the wound of consciousness (as close as I can come to a name for the--both physical and metaphorical bruise--carried by the novel's protagonist: a mark of Cain that both sets apart and protects, a wound like that in Kafka's Country Doctor). With great precision and insight, Zurawski leads us through the impossible journey, impossible to escape, impossible to resolve or conclude, of discovering what part of us lives out there in a real world, a world that is not us, and how it is, if we do, that we do not ourselves become nothing? In consciousness, even our bodies betray us. We cannot fulfill our animal lives, our natural sexuality without the danger of falling out of ourselves and into the other, and we cannot realize our own reality unless we do. I can't think of anyone I've read since I first came across Kafka who so deeply understood the contradictions of consciousness, and so bravely refused the temptation to falsely reconcile them, refuse to offer her readers the ideological comforts of characters in free flights of Woodsian autonomous consciousness.
Coincidental post on Laval Subjects touches on similar ideas.
More on aesthetics and realism: Wound of Consciousness II