Chapter IV. Realism (1860-1890) Chapter IV. Realism (1860-1890) Focus of Study Background Definition Major Features Major Writers
Historical Background of Realism I. Territory Expansion The Monroe Doctrine (1823) America for Americans. In 1845, US annexed Texas. In 1848, New Mexico and Arizona became part of the US. In 1846 the Oregon Territory was settled between Britain and US.
II. The Civil War (1861-65) 1. The increasing sharp conflict between the plantation gentility of the South and the commercial gentility of the North. 2. Conflict between a culturally mature East and a raw and expanding West 3. Conflict between the agrarian ideal and the industrial ideal. The War and its aftermath: it marked a deterioration of American moral values.
III. Western Movement It was the most essential factor that gave rise to literary realism. After the War, Frontier was gone with extensive exploration. The Gold Rush in California in 1848. Literary expression : tall tales ( solemn exaggeration, empty boasting, pretended innocence and superficial dullness ) The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (Simon Wheeler, Jim Smiley; Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster)
Background: Gold Rush California was a world of men, isolated, homesick, and eager for entertainment. Gambling was one of the easiest and most popular ways to amuse themselves. The Easterners had a reputation for being civilized, cultured, and advanced; whereas the Westerners were considered to be less-educated, less-refined and easy to be deceived. Realistic Elements:
IV. The booming Industrialism Industrialism ushered in an age of economic boom a "gilded age. Morality was compromised to business opportunism. Life became miserable for the common people. The American Dream was seriously questioned.
IV. Scientific Advancement Darwinism and natural selection The natural tendency in literature was the adoption of naturalism The transformation of social values
Definition of Realism A reaction against romanticism, an interest in scientific method, the systematizing study of documentary history, and the influence of rational philosophy. "Realism is, in the broadest sense, simply fidelity to actuality in its representation in literature" or "the faithful representation of reality" or "verisimilitude." In American literature, the term "realism" encompasses the period of time from the Civil War to the turn of the century during which William Dean Howells, Henry James, Mark Twain, and others wrote fiction devoted to accurate representation and an exploration of American lives in various contexts.
Major Features 1.Realism is the theory of writing in which familiar aspects of contemporary life and everyday scenes are represented in a straightforward or matter-of-fact manner. 2.In realist fiction, characters from all social levels are examined in depth. 3. Realism focuses on commonness of the lives of the common people who are customarily ignored by the arts.
4.Realism emphasizes objectivity rather than an idealistic view of human nature and human experience. 5. Realism presents moral visions. Realists take interest in the problems of the individual conscience in conflict with social institutions.
Practitioners William Dean Howells: The Rise of Silas Lapham.William Dean Howells Realism is nothing more and nothing less than the truthful treatment of material. – Criticism and Fiction Mark Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnMark Twain Henry James: The Portrait of a LadyHenry JamesThe Portrait of a Lady Theodore Dreiser: Sister Carrie
Study Questions Whats the historical conditions for the rise of Realism in American literature? What is the definition of Realism? What are the characteristics of Realism? Name some of the representative writers of Realism.
References George Parsons Lathrop, 'The Novel and its Future," Atlantic Monthly 34 (September 1874):313 24. -William Dean Howells, Editors Study, Harper's New Monthly Magazine (November 1889), p. 966. Liu Baoduan. A Survey of American and British Literature. Beijing: Life & Knowledge Publication Press, 1986. Wu Weiren.. History and Anthology of American Literature. Beijing; Huairou Yundang Press 1993.
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