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Realism and Naturalism Late 19 th -century – early 20 th century.

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Presentation on theme: "Realism and Naturalism Late 19 th -century – early 20 th century."— Presentation transcript:

1 Realism and Naturalism Late 19 th -century – early 20 th century

2 Difficult to distinguish between realism and naturalism. One rough distinction made by critics is that realism that espouses a deterministic philosophy and focuses on the lower classes is considered naturalism.

3 Realism defined “The faithful representation of reality" or "verisimilitude" A reaction against romanticism, The interest in scientific method, the systematizing of the study of documentary history, and the influence of rational philosophy all affected the rise of realism. According to William Harmon and Hugh Holman, "Where romanticists transcend the immediate to find the ideal…realists center their attention…on the immediate, the here and now, the specific action, and the verifiable consequence“ (A Handbook to Literature 428).

4 Traits of Realism Renders reality closely and in comprehensive detail; Selective presentation of reality with an emphasis on verisimilitude, even at the expense of a well-made plot; Character is more important than action and plot; Complex ethical choices are often the subject; Class is important -- the novel has traditionally served the interests and aspirations of an insurgent middle class; Diction is natural and vernacular, not heightened or poetic; tone may be comic, satiric, or matter-of-fact; Objectivity in presentation becomes increasingly important -- overt authorial comments are absent.

5 Naturalism defined “ If a writer wishes to depict life as it really is, he or she must be rigorously deterministic in the representation of the characters’ thoughts and actions in order to show forth the causal factors that have made the characters inevitably what they are.... Unlike realism, which also seeks to represent human life as it is actually lived, naturalism specifically connects itself to the philosophical doctrine of biological and social determinism, according to which human beings are devoid of free will.” (Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown, Glossary of Literary Theory).

6 Traits of Naturalism Objective Deterministic Pessimistic—Emotional Coldness Settings in the Everyday World Ordinary Events Everyday Characters

7 ROMANTICISM Often Subjective Free Will Optimistic— Emotional Intensity Tends to exotic settings Extraordinary Events Unusual Protagonists REALISM Objective Free Will Often Optimistic Settings in the everyday world Ordinary Events Everyday characters NATURALISM Objective Deterministic Pessimistic— Emotional Coldness Settings in the everyday world Ordinary Events Everyday characters

8 GenreAmerican AuthorsPerceived the individual as... RomanticRalph Waldo Emerson Nathaniel Hawthorne a god; idealistic figure RealistsHenry James William Dean Howells Mark Twain a person with depth, ability to make ethical choices & act on environment NaturalistStephen Crane Frank Norris a helpless object who is nevertheless heroic

9 Naturalism Characters -are often poorly educated, lower class; -are controlled by forces of heredity, animalistic instinct, raw passion; -have no free will or choice—DETERMINISM -cannot control “the brute within”

10 Naturalism “The naturalist populates his novel primarily from the lower middle class or the lower class.... His fictional world is that of the commonplace and unheroic in which life would seem to be chiefly the dull round of daily existence, as we ourselves usually conceive of our lives. But the naturalist discovers in this world those qualities of man usually associated with the heroic or adventurous, such as acts of violence and passion which invoke sexual adventure or bodily strength and which culminate in desperate moments and violent death” (Donald Pizer, Realism and Naturalism in Nineteenth- Century American Fiction, 10).

11 “The naturalist often describes his characters as though they are conditioned and controlled by environment, heredity, instinct, or chance. But he also suggests a compensating humanistic value in his characters or their fates which affirms the significance of the individual and of his life. The tension here is that between the naturalist’s desire to represent in fiction the new, discomfiting truths which he has found in the ideas and life of his late nineteenth-century world, and also his desire to find some meaning in experience which reasserts the validity of the human experience” (Pizer 11).

12 Naturalism Key themes include survival (often survival in brutal nature) determinism, violence, social taboo (man against nature, man against himself) Social determinism “Survival of the fittest”

13 Naturalism Plots often follow a “plot of decline” that depicts progression toward degeneration or death Typical settings include slums, sweatshops, and factories

14 Naturalism Nature is pictured as an indifferent force acting on the lives of humans. “A man said to the universe: / ‘Sire, I exist!’ / ‘However,’ replied the universe, / ‘The fact has not created in me / A sense of obligation.” -Stephen Crane


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