The Problem of American Realism: Studies in the Cultural History of a Literary Idea

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1996-01-01
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
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Ever since William Dean Howells declared his "realism war" in the 1880s, literary historians have regarded the rise of realism and naturalism as the signal development in post-Civil War American fiction. Questioning this generalization, Michael Davitt Bell investigates the role that these terms played in the social and literary discourse of the 1880s and 1890s. He argues that "realism" and "naturalism" were ideological categories used to promote a version of "reality" based on radically anti-"literary" and heavily gendered assumptions. In chapters on William Dean Howells, Frank Norris, Mark Twain, Henry James, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, and Sarah Orne Jewett, Bell examines the effects that ideas about realism and naturalism had on writers. He demonstrates that, for many of them, claiming to be a realist or a naturalist was a way to provide assurance that one was a "real" man rather than an "effeminate" artist.

Table of Contents

Introduction: American Realism
The First Generation
The Sin of Art: William Dean Howells The Problem of Howellsian Realism The Road to Realism A Portrait of the Artist as a "Real" Man The Problem of American Realism
Humor, Sentiment, Realism: Mark Twain Mark Twain as Critic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Artist Fables: Henry James's Realist Phase A Different Road/A Different Realism Realism and Reform Naturalism, Impressionism, Revolution
The Problem of Naturalism
The Revolt against Style: Frank Norris The Road to Naturalism Naturalism and Style
Irony, Parody, and "Transcendental Realism": Stephen Crane The Language of the Street Words of War
Fine Styles of Sympathy; Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie Dreiser and American Naturalism Condescension and Identification
A "Woman's Place" in American Realism
Local Color and Realism: Sarah Orne Jewett Jewett's Place in American Realism Maine Person and Boston Professional Realism, Feminism, and the World of Dunnet Landing
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