A term coined by literary critic James Wood in a review of Zadie Smith‘s White Teeth and in an article in the Guardian. He used it to apply to the big novel, with stories and sub-stories, the pursuit of vitality at all costs and where the conventions of realism are not being abolished but, on the contrary, exhausted, and overworked. His views, also more or less supported by critic Dale Peck (who called the concept recherché postmodernism), were controversial and attacked by other critics. My personal view is that the hysterical realists are some of the most interesting novelists around.
Authors damned as being hysterical realists
The Year in Ideas; Hysterical Realism
Rejoice! Believe! Be Strong and Read Hard! (Heidi Julavits’ response to Woods)
The war for the soul of literature (on Woods’ and Peck’s views)