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Realism in American Literature

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Teresa Tyra

on 21 February 2014

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Transcript of Realism in American Literature

The immediate effect of the printing press was to multiply the output and cut the costs of books.
Lewis Hine
Jacob Riis
The Rise of Realism in American Literature
Art--Before the Industrial Revolution:
art--After the rise of industrialism:
In literature, works by authors like Walt Whitman were a bridge between the romanticism before the Civil War and the realism after the war.
After the Civil War, people asked themselves
In spite of witnessing the tremendous horrors of war, Walt Whitman kept his optimistic view of America and her people.
Civil War
"...the tragedy of the Civil War cut deep into the heart of the nation. Reactions to the grim casualties of the war, as well as to the rapid urban expansion, inspired writers and artists to abandon their Romantic ideals" (Holt 448).
Industrialization & Urbanization
The Industrial Revolution that took place at the end of the 19th century changed our country in remarkable ways.
Although most historians believe the
Civil War had several causes,
most agree that slavery was
at its heart.
Slave narratives like those of Frederick Douglass and works of fiction like Uncle Tom's Cabin made an increasing number of Northerners aware of the cruelties of slavery and its inherent hypocricy in a country proud to view equality as a founding pillar.

At the same time, immigrants from all over the world crowded into tenements to take advantage of new urban opportunities.

People left rural homes for opportunities in urban cities.
In the end, the sweeping economic, social, and political changes that took place in post-war life allowed American Realism to prevail.

With the development of new machinery and equipment, the U.S. economy became more focused on factory production; Americans did not have to chiefly rely on farming and agriculture to support their families.
"Although many works of historical interest--soldiers' letters and diaries, as well as journalistic writings--came out of the war,...
"...works of literary significance were rare..." (Holt 156).
1. Few Major American Writers saw the war firsthand.
2. Thoreau and Hawthorne died during the war.
3. *The traditional literary forms were inadequate to express the horrors of the war--
...and "Why do ordinary people behave the way they do?"
In America, REALISM
was rooted in
Herman Melville
Considered one of the greatest authors of the time wrote Moby Dick.
the war was both heroic and futile
soldiers from both sides deserved respect
humanity was basically evil
Although fascinated by the war, he never wrote a novel about it.
"After the Civil War, a new generation of writers came of age. They were known as
Rejected the idealized, larger-than-life hero of Romantic literature
Described ordinary characters and realistic events
Avoided exotic, sensational, and overly dramatic
Used everyday speech patterns to reveal class distinction
Focused on the ethical struggles and social issues of real life situations.
Attempts to analyze human behavior objectively, as a scientist would
Believes that human behavior is determined by heredity and environment
Has a sense that humans cannot control their own destinies
Often portray life as a losing battle against an uncaring universe.
Strove to be realistic in speech patterns and manners
Often unrealistic--even sentimental--in their depiction of character and social environment.
REGIONALISM moved into REALISM in the US, developing a concern for more accuracy in portraying social conditions and human motivation.
Psychological Realism
Henry James
Instead of the blunt view that
people were driven by animal
instincts, his characters had
fine-tuned motivation and
experienced complex social
and psychological situations.

Test Review

1. Why was a novel about or set during the Civil War not written until long after the war had ended?
2. Why did the Realism era develop in Europe before America?
3. What was the effect of the Civil War on Walt Whitman?
4. What was Herman Melville's response to the Civil War?
5. What are the characteristics of the naturalistic novel?
6. Regional writers presented dialects and mannerisms accurately, but they were often unrealistic in their depictions of character and social environments.
7. While Realism writers' works often had a defeatist tone and ending, Naturalistic writers' works were more optimistic.
8. Describe the psychological novels of Henry James.
9. Describe the writings of an ironist.
Stephen Crane
Stephen Crane was an IRONIST. Like Henry James, his writings were psychological. His principal interest was the human character at moments of stress. Crane's works are set on the battlefield, streets of a slum, or a lifeboat at sea.
"...only Crane could describe a stabbing death...in this cooly cynical manner: '[The blade] shot forward, and ahuman body, this citadel of virtue, wisdom, power, was pierced as easily as if it had been a melon.' It would take this sensibility to get the 'real war' into the books at last" --The Holt Reader
The realistic novel had not been fully developed in the US yet.
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