Presentation on theme: "Unit 14 Late Nineteenth Century: 1890- 1910: American Naturalism Two Approaches to the Concept Of Naturalism (from Pizer, Realism and Naturalism in Nineteenth-Century."— Presentation transcript:
Unit 14 Late Nineteenth Century: 1890- 1910: American Naturalism Two Approaches to the Concept Of Naturalism (from Pizer, Realism and Naturalism in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1966.) : 1. That it is an extension or continuation of Realism with the addition of pessimistic determinism.
"... no more than an emphatic and explicit philosophical position taken by some Realists... (that position being one of) a pessimistic, materialistic determinism." - George J. Becker It is Realism with a "necessitation ideology." - Richard Chase 2. That it is different from Realism.
Subject Matter & Characterization in Naturalistic Fiction Donald Pizer further suggests specific changes in subject matter and characterization which help in defining Naturalism as different from Realism:
1. The subject matter: a. The subject matter deals with those raw and unpleasant experiences which reduce characters to "degrading" behavior in their struggle to survive. These characters are mostly from the lower middle or the lower classes - they are poor, uneducated, and unsophisticated.
b. The milieu is the commonplace and the unheroic; life is usually the dull round of daily existence. But the naturalist discovers those qualities in such characters usually associated with the heroic or adventurous - acts of violence and passion leading to desperate moments and violent death. The suggestion is that life on its lowest levels is not so simple as it seems to be.
c. There is discussion of fate and "hubris" that affect a character; generally the controlling force is society and the surrounding environment.
2. The concept of a naturalistic character: a. characters are conditioned and controlledby environment, heredity, chance, or instinct; but they have compensating humanistic values which affirm their individuality and life - their struggle for life becomes heroic and they maintain human dignity.
b. the Naturalists attempt to represent the intermingling in life of the controlling forces and individual worth. They do not dehumanize their characters.
"The primary goal of the late nineteenth-century American Naturalists was not to demonstrate the overwhelming and oppressive reality of the material forces present in our lives. Their attempt, rather, was to represent the intermingling in life of controlling forces and individual worth. The Naturalists do not dehumanize man." - Pizer
Free Will or Determinism - In Naturalism, characters do not have free will; external and internal forces, environment, or heredity control their behavior. This belief is called determinism. All determinists believe in the existence of the will, but the will is often enslaved on account of different reasons.
A man said to the universe: 'Sir, I exist!' 'However,' replied the universe, 'The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation.' -- From War Is Kind, 1900
Achievement A brilliant writer, Crane was dead at twenty eight. Nevertheless, in an extraordinary burst of energy, he produced two great books Maggie and The Red Badge of Courage, wrote impressive poems, and ninety pieces of short fiction. His depiction of ghetto life and the deprivation of war made him internationally well known. True to naturalism, Crane shows his characters trapped in situations which they cannot control. Still, these characters show courage and valor in the face of insurmountable adversities.
Achievement Author of more than fifty books, Jack London, born in San Francisco, grew up across the bay in Oakland. Variously a tramp, a fisherman, a longshoreman, and a sailor, London also worked as a gold prospector and a war correspondent. Among his influences are those of Social Darwinism, Nietszche, and Marx. Although his writings suggest a complexity of ideas, he is commonly categorized as a literary naturalist. His adventure stories of Alaska and the Pacific continue to fascinate new generations of readers. "Jack London's Life of Adventure and Excess Biography shows writing was just one of the novelist's obsessions"
Like Crane, Frank Norris had a short life but it was rich in creative writing. The overriding theme in Norris' fiction is the impact of industrialization on peaceful agricultural communities and the consequent chaos in the lives of people who lived in these communities. His most glaring metaphor is that of the tentacles of the railway tracks spreading and choking the countryside in the appropriately titled book The Octopus. The spirit of the turn-of-the-century San Francisco is impressively captured in McTeague. Its theme, that of a powerful man failing against unexpected adversity, typifies the thrust of the best of Naturalistic writing
Study Questions 1. Locate Norris's allusions to animals and animal-like behavior in the excerpt from Vandover and the Brute. Analyze what he is trying to say about human motivation and character. 2. Compare and contrast the correspondent from Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat " with Norris's Vandover. Analyze the prose style, thematic content, use of narrative point of view, and portrait of human nature that these works convey.