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Realism/ Naturalism/ Civil War Era (1850-1890)
Transcript of Realism/ Naturalism/ Civil War Era (1850-1890)
- Theme of literature that persons are fated to whatever station in life their heredity, environment, and social conditions prepare for them.
- Outgrowth of Realism
- Focused on grim reality
- Focused on the ideology of the objective reality and revolted against exaggerated emotionalism of Romanticism.
- Portray things “as they are”, and replicate the true nature of reality
- Rejection of Romanticism
- “Realism is nothing more and nothing less than the truthful treatment of material.” --William Dean Howells
Civil War- the bloodiest war on American soil, the civil war influenced the ideas of heroism. Commoners becoming heroes, tragic stories, & war stories and memoirs were popular literary works.
a. Civil War brings demand for a "truer" type of literature that doesn't idealize people or places.
b. During this time racism was occurring as well as Reconstruction, KKK, & westward expansion.
c. Writers reflect the ideas of Darwin (survival of the fittest) & Karl Marx (how money and class structure control a nation).
d. End of slavery- leaders such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois advocated for increased rights of African American.
Values & Beliefs
Genre & Style
By: Karina, Kadija, Farhana, Gabriel, & Phuong
The Civil War was arguably the most brutal war the United States had ever witnessed, consisting of more deaths and bloodshed than all previous major wars combined. It was a time when common belief and system of unalienable rights, equality, and togetherness by which the nation was founded on was overlooked by slavery, political economic and moral disagreements, eventually leading to disunity. The Civil war era ignited a time of struggle, lost hope, and lead many people to question previous ideas on morality as well as their faith.
" The definitive flaw of mankind is moral, and what better way to reiterate this reality than by the relentless termination of literary protagonists? This time period greatly influenced literature and art at the time, rather than focusing on nonfictional fantasies, people based their works on reality, irrationalism and inhumanity of mankind. They focused more on the character of men and society rather than plot. Naturalism: Relationship between mankind and their surroundings, perceived at the time to be nondiscriminatory. Every man would eventually face the wrath of nature and war.
a. Religion was very important during the Civil War era, mainly Protestant.
b. The Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century in particular greatly impacted American society. This revived interest in matters of faith led northerners to embrace a view of Christian perfection for individuals, a theology which in turn was applied to society in an effort to eliminate social problems. Southerners, on the other hand, reacted to the revivals by assuming a faith of personal piety which focused on a literal reading of the Bible, but expressed little concern for addressing society’s problems.
c. Naturalism as a worldview is based on the premise that knowledge about what exists and about how things work is best achieved through the sciences, not personal revelation or religious tradition.
Throughout the Civil War, there were many genres in which authors chose to write about considering the issue of the Civil War. Many of them were poems, passages, essays and even novels which helped the readers understand more about the war and how it was affecting other. Walt Whitman was a successful author during this time period. He promoted many symbols and unusual images portraying realism throughout his poetry, Whitman chose to write various poems in which he gave different perspectives about the war.
For example, one of his poems titled "1861" was written in the perspective of a union soldier in which he sated all the issues that the civil war was bringing and how much all the soldiers were suffering. All these different types of genres were tremendously important because it helped people be informed; genres such as passages made people realize how terrifying the war truly was, how it affected people, and the country itself. It's clear that all the genres written during this era had its purpose which was to transmit all the importance and significance of the Civil War.
- Novel and short stories are important
- Prefers objective narrator
- Dialogue includes many voices from around the country does not tell the reader how to interpret the story
- Short story, novel
- Characters usually lower class or lower middle class
- Fictional world is commonplace and unheroic; everyday life is a dull round of daily existence.
- Characters ultimately emerge to act heroically or adventurously with acts of violence, passion, and/or bodily strength in a tragic ending.
Authors & Works
Civil War Writer
- Harriet Beecher Stowe
a. Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American author and abolitionist, whose novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) attacked the cruelty of slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential, even in Britain. It made the political issues of the 1850s regarding slavery tangible to millions, energizing anti-slavery forces in the American North. It angered and embittered the South.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
: The narrative drive of Stowe's classic novel is often overlooked in the heat of the controversies surrounding its anti-slavery sentiments. In fact, it is a compelling adventure story with richly drawn characters and has earned a place in both literary and American history.
Civil War Writer
- Frederick Douglass
a. Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland around February 1818 and died in February 20, 1895. He became one of the most famous intellectuals of his time, advising presidents and lecturing to thousands on a range of causes, including women’s rights and Irish home rule. Among Douglass’ writings are several autobiographies eloquently describing his experiences in slavery and his life after the Civil War.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave
: Frederick Douglass tells his own story in this remarkable narrative-remarkable not only for the life it chronicles but also for its eloquence.
Local Color Writer (Regionalists)
- Mark Twain
a. Born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, Samuel L. Clemens wrote under the pen name Mark Twain and went on to pen several novels, including two major classics of American literature, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He was also a riverboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur and inventor. Twain died on April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
: Take a lighthearted, nostalgic trip to a simpler time, seen through the eyes of a very special boy named Tom Sawyer. It is a dreamlike summertime world of hooky and adventure, pranks and punishment, villains and young love, filled with memorable characters. Adults and young readers alike continue to enjoy this delightful classic of the promise and dreams of youth from one of America’s most beloved authors.
- Stephen Crane
a. Born in New Jersey on November 1, 1871 and died on June 05, 1900 in Badenweiler, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, produced works that have been credited with establishing the foundations of modern American naturalism. His Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage (1895) realistically depicts the psychological complexities of battlefield emotion, and has become a classic of American literature. He is also known for authoring Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.
The Red Badge of Courage
: The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane (1871-1900). Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound-a "red badge of courage"-to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer.
- Walt Whitman
a. Born May 31, 1819 in West Hills, New York and died on March 26, 1892 in Camden, New Jersey. Considered one of America's most influential poet Whitman aimed to transcend traditional epics, avoid normal artistic form, and reflect the nature of the American experience and its democracy. In 1855 he self-published the collection Leaves of Grass, now a landmark in American literature. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse.
Leaves of Grass
: First published in 1855 and contained only twelve poems. Whitman continued to add to and revise his collection over the next 30 years. Over the years, Whitman published a number of volumes of Leaves of Grass as he wrote more poems and increased the collection. He explores many issues and themes in his work, and it is difficult to briefly summarize.
- Emily Dickinson
a. Emily Dickinson, in full Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born Dec. 10, 1830, Amherst, Mass., U.S.—died May 15, 1886, Amherst, American lyric poet who lived in seclusion and commanded a singular brilliance of style and integrity of vision. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends.
b. “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”: Poem that expresses that everyone is different, yet in society being different is not always a good thing.
Whitman sought to transform the reader's identity from one based on static & divisive notions of race, class, region, & gender to a malleable identity based on the actions of the human body.
• The rhetorical poetics is the product a number of factors, including the variety of roles poetry played in early 19th century American culture, the economics of the publishing industry, the fragmentation of the 2-part system, & 19th century oratorical culture.
• The first thing to note is that Whitman calls his poems "songs." This insinuates that Whitman feels there is an audible quality into his work; that the true meanings of his poems will not be understood if they are not heard by a listener. Thus, Whitman feels as though he will not be understood as an individual if he is not heard by the world. “Song of Myself,” as the first half of Leaves of Grass, is his attempt to make himself heard.
• Whitman’s subject is himself, but it is clear that Whitman means more than just his physical self. Whitman calls himself a universe of meanings. He uses the symbol of his naked self in nature to symbolize his own fusion with the world around him. Whitman’s self is the whole of America and the whole of nature. This is best seen in Whitman’s use of the catalog.
• A catalog is a literary device used in epic poetry as a rhetorical naming or inventory. Whitman uses a catalog in “Song of Myself” to name a variety of professions and people that he meets on his journey across the States. He says that he becomes part of these people and these people come to compose his own self. In this section, Whitman first engages the idea of individuality and collectively. The catalog is Whitman’s example of the collective. This refers back to his opening inscription in which Whitman proclaimed that his work is of the self, both the individual self and the democratic self.
Whitman uses the metaphor of grass in the sixth section of “Songs of Myself” to try and explain the democratic self. His explanation, he admits, is incomplete. Whitman describes a child coming to him and asking him what is the grass. He has no real answer, meaning that he cannot fully describe the democratic self to those that do not inherently understand it. Whitman can only tell the child that he sees the democratic self in young men and old women, meaning that he sees it in all people. Whitman then takes the metaphor one step farther, telling the child that even the grass that has died and has gone back to earth is part of the world.
“Song of Myself” balances the themes of individuality and collectivity as two important ingredients for the democratic experiment of America. There's no way to fully summarize this poem, because there is so much in the poem. Seriously – Walt Whitman changes topics almost every other line. But there are a few main ideas you should know about:
Let's start off with the basics: our speaker, who is actually named Walt Whitman, declares that he's going to celebrate himself in this poem. He then invites his soul to hang out and stare at a blade of grass. It's the party of the year.
He explains how much he loves the world, especially nature, and how everything fits together just as it should. Everything is good to him, and nothing is bad that doesn't contribute to some larger good.
The speaker divides his personality into at least three parts:
The "I' that involves itself in everyday stuff like politics, fashion, and what he's going to eat;
The "Me Myself" that stands apart from the "I" and observes the world with an amused smile; and
The "Soul" that represents his deepest and most universal essence.
Whitman thinks it's important for people to learn through experience and not through books or teachers.
A child asks him what the grass is, and he doesn't have an answer, which gets him thinking about all kinds of things, but especially about all the people buried in the earth who came before him. He identifies with everyone and everything in the universe, including the dead. He imagines that he's a bunch of different people, from a woman staring at naked bathers to a crewman on a ship during a naval battle. His soul takes him on a journey around the world and all over America.
Whitman tells us a bit about what he believes and what he's opposed to. Let's start with what he's opposed to:
People who think they preach the truth, like the clergy
Feelings of guilt and shame about the body
On the flip side, Whitman believes that:
Everyone is equal, including slaves
Truth is everywhere, but unspeakable
An invisible connection and understanding exists between all people and things
Death is a fortunate thing and not something to fear
People would be better off if they had faith in the order of nature (and death is part of this order) He's awesome, and thinks people should take pride in themselves
At the end of the poem, he says that he's going to give his body back to nature and to continue his great journey. He'll be hanging out ahead on the road, waiting for us to catch up with him.
Song of Myself
Song of Myself
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