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Realism and Naturalism in American Literature.

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Realism & Naturalism in the American literature I. The Realistic period: (1865-1900). During this period modern America was born and the American dream has been intellectually lost. After the civil War a strong critical movement toward realism appeared. Realism has been defined by one of its most vigorous advocates, W.D.Howells, as ?the truthful treatment of materials? (i.e. realism= verisimilitude ?the appearance of being true or real?). 1. What is realism: Realistic fiction is often opposed to romantic fiction: romantic writing is said to present life as we would have it be, idealized, more picturesque, more adventurous, more heroic than the actual; realism, to present an accurate imitation of life as it is. The realist sets out to write a fiction which will give the illusion that it reflects life as it seems to the common reader. To achieve this effect, the realist is deliberately selective in his material and prefers the average, the common place, and the everyday over the rarer aspects of the contemporary scene. His characters, therefore, are usually of the middle class or (less frequently) ...read more.


Breen Practice? (1881); the self-made man, in ?The Rise of Silas Lapham? (1885); factory workers and summer resort people, in ?Annie Kilburn? (1889). His books also discuss serious social questions honestly: divorce, in ?A modern instance? (1882); and social justice, in ?A Hazard of New Fortunes? (1889). Taken together, Howells? novels give a full, clear picture of American life in the last years of the 19th century. II. Naturalism (the harsher form of realism 1990): Naturalism is sometimes claimed to be an even accurate picture of life than is realism. Naturalism is a mode of fiction that was developed by a school of writers in accordance with a special philosophical thesis. This thesis, a product of post-Darwinian biology in the mid-nineteenth century, held that man belongs entirely to the order of nature; and does not have a soul or any other connection with a religious or spiritual world beyond nature; that man is therefore merely a higher-order animal whose character and fortunes are determined by two kinds of natural forces, heredity and environment. He inherits his personal traits and his compulsive instincts, especially hunger and sex, and he is helplessly subject to the social and economic forces in the family, the class, and the milieu into which he was born. ...read more.


In his novels, he tries to treat human beings scientifically, rather than intuitively with the poetic insight so much prized by writers of the 19th century. He saw that life is hard and found, in social Darwinism and in the theory of Zola and naturalists, the explanation that man is the product of social processes and forces and of an inevitable kind of social evolution. His tone is always serious, never satirical or comic. His major work Sister Carry. 3. Frank Norris: another important follower of Zola, he was preoccupied with La bête humaine in a book called Mc Teague. It is a book that depicts a naturalistic process (a movement toward degeneration), there is a chain of events which once set in motion releases forces (energies/ conflicts). All these novels were written in the mode of literary naturalism, which invited writers to examine human being objectively, as a scientific studies nature. In portraying ugliness and cruelty, the authors refrained from preaching about them; rather they left readers to draw their own conclusions about the life so presented. Naturalistic fiction shocked many readers; but in revealing hitherto neglected areas of life, it greatly broadened the scope of fiction. ...read more.

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