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American Realism and Naturalism
Romanticism and Sentimentalism (dates_
- Romanticism 1840-1865 US
- Sentimentalism late 1700's to early 1800's US
- Naturalism was the reaction to this period
Held that the creative imagination could transform the world into a better place through portrayals of a more ideal world. This perspective emphasized the importance of the individual. (1840-1865)
Sought mostly to entertain, to seize the emotions of the reader. It was usually overblown and melodramatic, and its plot was contrived to bring happy resolution, to confirm that the virtuous always come out better than those who are unethical or immoral. (late 1700’s to early 1800’s in the U.S.)
- 1860's to 1910
- Emphasized the importance of viewing the
- world objectively (or scientifically), suggesting that individual feelings can motivate unjust actions or judgments (hearkening back to the Enlightenment, beginning in early 1700’s).
•Darwin’s Origin of the Species, 1859
•Freud’s work in psychoanalysis in the latter part of the 19th century
•The writings of Marx in the mid 1800’s.
•The catastrophic losses of the Civil War.
•W.D. Howells, editor of The Atlantic Monthly 1871-1881
Realist Lit Characteristics
•Characters are ordinary people.
- •The work critiques social mores and
- •The setting is an everyday, common, often
- urban one.
- •The writer strives for a carefully
- constructed unity (content and form should work organically together) since rationalism insists that the world does make logical sense if viewed scientifically.
- •The writer strives for objectivity, like
- a journalist or a photojournalist.
- •Evolved later in the century out of
•Was darker, more pessimistic.
- •Offered not just a critique of social
- manners but also of the political and religious systems from which those
- manners spring.
- •Suggested that as victims of the forces
- around them (social and political systems, economic and physical conditions), people are often utterly destroyed. They are victims of their and our own human natures.
Realism vs. Naturalism
- •Realist writing suggests that if we would just take off our blinders and look at
- reality, we would be able to act more morally. This philosophy is directly in line with Enlightenment thought: Only through learning and knowledge can we overcome our base impulses and make a better world.
- •Naturalism suggests that this is much more difficult than it sounds—economic and
- psychological forces are working on us subconsciously, often in ways we cannot
- understand. Still, naturalist works imply that the nobility of mankind that is destroyed in the process is a great loss.
Belief of realist and naturalist writers
The "American Dream" is under fire by these writers.
They suggested the dream
–1) is usually unattainable
–2) can be obtained only with great, corruptive consequences for its seeker
•Enlightenment, early 1700’s
- •American Sentimental Novels, late 1700’s
- – early 1800’s
•American Romanticism, 1840 – 1865
•American Realism, 1860’s to 1910’s
•American Modernism, 1914-1950
•American Postmodernism, 1950’s to 1990’s
By the 1660’s American writers and thinkers were leaning toward Enlightenment perspective, though it wouldn’t be fully embraced until the era of Benjamin Franklin.
•Preacher, businessman, and judge
•Salem witch trials
•“The Selling of Joseph,” 1700
•Anti-slavery, in favor of increased women’s rights
Heroic Pastoral (examples)
•Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer, 1782
•Thomas Jefferson: Notes on the State of Virginia, 1784-5
“Philosophy turned from rigid theology toward natural science; the values of Deism and
moral naturalism, liberalism and progress increasingly became the appropriate ways to interpret American experience”
1700’s Philosophical Shift
- century idealist (“American Aquinas”)
•Respect for science
•Awareness of human subjectivity
- •Foreshadows (and influences) American
- –Images or Shadows of Divine Things,
–Personal Narrative 1739.
- –“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry
- God,” 1741
•Type for self-created American
•18th century materialist
- •Believed in the possibility of self-discipline
- and control over one’s experience
•Poor Richard’s Almanac,1733-58
•The Autobiography, 1791
US Political Writings
- •Thomas Jefferson and John Adams,
- “Declaration of Independence,” 1776
•James Madison, Virginia Plan, 1787 (basis for American Constitution)
•Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776
400’s to 1400’s. Focused on the role of the
supernatural/divine in human life (both pagan and Christian). Honor, chivalry, and courtly love are primary themes.
- Medieval (British)
- Renewed interest in classical Greek literature
- and ideas. Also an age of discovery geographically and scientifically.
This era saw the beginnings of Humanism.
- Locke in 1660's
Martin Luther post Ninety-Five Theses sparking Protestant Reformation
Characterized by a burgeoning interest in reforming society through rational thought (rather than through tradition, faith and revelation) and pursuing progress through science. Is the basis for humanism, the idea that humans can be perfected through empirical learning.
Reaction to Enlightenment philosophy
- Romanticism 1770's-1830's; beginning in mid-1800’s and ending in late
- 1800’s in the U.S.
- Emphasis on reason and rationality (objectivity, empirical knowledge) as routes to the truth. Romanticism exhibits a fascination with the individual imagination and subjective experience, placing emphasis on the importance of emotion and on the relationship between nature and humanity. Untamed nature is thought to be more pure, more simply moral than
- “civilization,” or urban society, which, in its dependence on reason, has hampered its ability to be edified by nature. Since the individual (artist) can express his/her vision of the ideal world, transforming the world in the process, Romanticism is considered to be democratic.
“age of revolutions (American Revolution 1776; French Revolution 1789)
Wordsworth, Blake, Shelley (Percy and Mary
both), Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman.
Affect the reader emotionally
Primary goal of Sentimentalism
- emphasis on romantic love, a dependence on sensational
- plots, and a focus on the worthy and handsome hero and/or heroine; a story usually
- concluding with a happy--and often unrealistic--ending that artificially
- resolves plot conflicts. Howells
- (well-known Realist) called this kind of literature romanticist, and we often call novels of this sort “romance novels”—don’t
- let this confuse you! The Romantics were
- much more sophisticated and well-regarded, generally.
Reacting to Romanticism and to Sentimentalism; dominated during the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century
Realism opposes idealism. In contrast to these movements, Realism insists on a more objective kind of narrative which attempts to portray “life as it really is.” This insistence often results in stories of characters who are not heroic in the conventional sense. It often means a focus on the details of life that purposefully expose its unglamorous side.
- Depends upon careful consideration of what the character would really do, thus an
- insistence that the plot conflicts not be artificially resolved.
Realist narrative writers
- Raymond Carver
- Ernest Gaines
- Bobbie Ann Mason
- Mark Twain
- Henry James
- Stephen Crane
- Edith Wharton
Outgrowth of Realism-
- NaturalismMore deterministic. It focuses more on the ethnic “other” and on the poor rather than the middle class, and more on the extreme tests of human experience than on ordinary human experience.
Crane and Wharton have both been categorized as Naturalist by some critics.
1914 – Mid-1950’s
Anti-rationalist (in reaction to Realism
- subjective, nonlinear, experimental; still, attempts to provide a unified rendition
- of reality, even if that reality is subjective.
- Focuses more on the individual consciousness than on external
- reality. This movement was a reaction
- to the devastation of World War I; writers of the day felt that the traditional
- myths and literary forms no longer served as a way to explain the meaning of
- human existence. Literature of this time
- reflected a fragmented world, yet held that art could provide order to a fragmented, chaotic reality. In service of this goal, writers employed experimental forms, such as stream-of-consciousness narrative, multiple narrator fiction, and imagistic poetry.
Modernist writer along with
- Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway,
D.H. Lawrence The Rainbow
- Ernest Hemingway
- William Faulkner
James Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
(1916) and Ulysses
- Mid-1950’s – 1990’s
- response against the idea that great
- literature ought to capture the “universal experience,” against the assumption that there was a certain commonality to human experience. Postmodernism characterizes, in many ways, even contemporary social thought, attitudes, and values. Many see it as extremely cynical. Perhaps as a response to a culture in which media shapes much of our experience and our identity, we have come to believe that “reality” is constructed, by media images, by ads, by language itself. Thus we (as a culture) tend to mistrust anything that claims to reflect the “Truth.” The postmodernist idea of reality is a very fragmented one, as opposed to a unified one. Yet, to its credit, because of its self-critiquing stance, postmodernism is often seen as extremely democratic (“I can’t tell you what reality is; you are the only one who knows your reality.”). Also a feature of its democratic nature is that it puts the writer on the same level with the reader
- (not above the reader).
self-focused, often mirroring itself (metafiction) to show the act of writing, to show that the text is not reality (reflected either objectively or subjectively) but text, words. In the middle of the story, a writer might remind the reader not to be tricked into believing that the real world is being portrayed here. At times, the reader is even given the job of helping to create the story.
- Vladimir Nabokov
- Thomas Pynchon
- David Mamet
- Don DeLillo
- John Barth
- Donald Barthelme
- Ursula LeGuin
- Toni Morrison
•King was mostly a figurehead
•Country was governed by lords who controlled the justice, money, taxes, and military activities of their manor.
•Mutual obligation and service between vassals and lord
–Vassals had to take public oath of faithfulness to lord
–Lord was obligated to protect his vassals
Old English verse
Dated between 8th and early 11th century
The Seafarer and The Dream of the Rood
- c 1343-1400
- •Employs a version of Middle English recognizable to Contemporary English speakers
•Derives many narratives from existing verses (French, Latin, Italian)
Victorian Shifts in Consciousness
Emphasis on art as supreme media
Recognition of writers as artists
Fin de siècle: Uneasiness about the end of the century and what the future may hold
Faltering of Victorian self-confidence
Realism vs. “retreat into nostalgia, exoticism, fine writing” Rationalism vs. Religion
Displeasure with capitalism and class system
Rise of the short story via periodicals
- Use of conversational language in
Gerard Manley Hopkins
- Poet and Catholic priest who
- rejected his tutor Pater’s intellectual scepticism, but borrowed some ideas: “Pater’s emphasis on the uniqueness and singularity of the fleeting aspects of
- experience seems to have given a Christian dimension by Hopkins, in his use of
- the concept of haecceitas or ‘thisness’.”
- Nature as manifestation of God’s
- glory, but not as God Himself like the Romantics
- Not well regarded in his lifetime;
- published posthumously by Robert Bridges
Ideology both Victorian and Modern
- “Terrible Sonnets”: the soul fears
- that is has been abandoned by God
“To burn always with this hard, gemlike
flame, to maintain this ecstasy is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations seem alike. While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge
that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or work of the artist’s hands, or the face of one’s friend. Not to discriminate at every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways is, on
this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening.
Walter Pater 1839-1894
Supremacy of art in expressing and preserving experiences
- Marius the Epicurean 1885: Historical novel about a Roman man who is fascinated by
- early Christians. Expresses importance of ritual in life and the “religion of art”.
- Influential to the many poets, dramatists, and novelists of the Late 19th and
Born in Dublin
Won the Nobel Prize in Literature (1923)
Very much a part of the fin de siècle movement in London
Irish Literary Revival
Founded the Abbey Theatre
- William Butler Yeats
- became a “mythmaker”
- The Celtic Twilight (1893)
- The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems,
- 1889 (based on Irish mythology)
Against Unworthy Praise
In the Seven Woods
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898)
George Bernard Shaw
Mrs. Warren’s Profession (1895)
Treasure Island (1883)
Robert Louis Stevenson
Particularly interested in the duality of people: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
H. G. Wells
The Time Machine (1895)
The Invisible Man (1897)
The War of the Worlds (1898)
Plain Tales from the Hills (1888)
The Jungle Book (1894)
Just So Stories (1902)
The ordered, stable, and inherently meaningful world view of the 19th century could not be reconciled to the new feeling of “futility and anarchy”
- (Quote by T.S. Eliot)
- Modernism sentiment
The relationship of the present to the past is not a simple linear one, in which the past remains fixed and the present is built upon it like a house built upon its foundation.
Since our old myths can no longer serve to bring order to the chaos of living, artistic forms must do the job for us.
Theme of Stevens' modernist poem I Placed a Jar in Tennessee
The relationship of the mind and reality is not a reflective one; in other words, the imagination can’t simply mirror reality. Rather, the imagination creates reality, ordering in the process.
Characters of Modernist fiction
Men and women deprived of faith in the moral values in which they had believed, some of whom live with cynical disregard for anything but their own emotional needs and some of whom search desperately for meaning
Places where decay pervades, where the past still haunts the characters but offers no hope for the future
(Oh such fun) Modernist settings
Narratives of Modernist fiction...
concentrate more on the consciousness of the character than on the plot or on external reality.
High Victorian Period
Characterized by enhanced political and cultural awareness, expansion of education, better technology for printing and, thus, better and faster circulation of books, industrialization and urbanization.
George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
Late Victorian (dates)
People like Gerard Manley Hopkins responded Victorian faltering confidence, edginess, uncertainty about the future by a return to , through writing...
religious and Baroque “nostalgia and fine writing”.
Victorian/Realism era shift in literary consciousness was marked by...
•Pater: “in art…the finest sensations are to be found and where we have the best hope of preserving the intense but fleeting moments of experience”.
•“The religion of art”
•The “Paterian ‘moment’ is transformed into the ‘image’ of Ezra Pound and the Imagist poets and the ‘epiphany’ of James Joyce”.
•Pater influenced Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895) as well as W.B. Yeats.
(Realism led way to Modernism)
American Realist who was reading British writers and being read by them in the Victorian period.
French Naturalist whose novels influenced many.
Guy de Maupassant
Influenced popularity of short stories. (Victorian period)
•Tess of the D’Urbervilles, 1891 (fallen woman)
- Thomas Hardy
- Realist like James, “central figures who are or become alienated from their society”. But Hardy is regional and writes about rural customs and experience.
Very aware of effects of industrialization on his characters.
Deterministic, fatalistic, but his characters do struggle bravely against their fates—existential defiance
- Heart of Darkness (1902)
- examines the dark side of European colonization in Africa
News from Nowhere (1871): "A celebrated instance of the utopian romance"