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Realism, Naturalism, Modernism

English Literature

Colleen Tripp

on 21 March 2016

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Transcript of Realism, Naturalism, Modernism


Realism Defined
Naturalism contd
Naturalism contd.
Realism conti..
Realism vs. Romanticism
Naturalism Defined
Naturalism (literature)
: a type of literature that attempts to apply scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to its study of human beings. Unlike Realism, which focuses on literary technique, naturalism implies
a philosophical position
: for naturalistic writers, human beings are (in Emile Zola's phrase) "human beasts" and
characters can be studied through their relationships to their surroundings.

The Naturalist believed in studying human beings as though they were "products" that are to be studied impartially, without moralizing about their natures.

Naturalistic writers regard
human behavior as controlled by instinct, emotion, or social and economic conditions, and reject free will
, adopting instead, in large measure, the biological determinism of Charles Darwin and the economic determinism of Karl Marx.

Realism (art and literature), in art and literature, an attempt to describe human behavior and surroundings or to represent figures and objects exactly as they act or appear in life.

*The difference between realism and naturalism is harder to define, however, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. The distinction lies in the fact that realism is concerned directly with what is absorbed by the senses;
naturalism, a term more properly applied to literature, attempts to apply scientific theories to art

is often opposed to romantic fiction.
is said to present life as we would have it be—more picturesque, fantastic, adventurous, or heroic than actuality; realism, on the other hand, is said to represent life as it really is.

Realistic fiction
is written to
give the effect that it represents life and the social world
as it seems to the common reader, evoking the sense that its characters might in fact exist, and that such things might well happen.
To achieve such effects, most realists prefer the commonplace and everyday subject matter, represented in minute detail, over rarer aspects of life—but they must render their materials in ways that make them seem to their readers the very stuff of ordinary experience.

*For example, Henry James' events and characters, whether ordinary or extraordinary, are in explicable relation to nature, to each other, to their social class, to their own past.
Naturalism is sometimes claimed to give an even more accurate depiction of life than realism. But naturalism is not only, like realism, a special selection of subject matter and a special way of rendering those materials; it is a
mode of fiction that was developed by a school of writers in accordance with a particular philosophical thesis.

This thesis, a product of post-Darwinian biology in the nineteenth century,

held that a human being exists entirely in the order of nature
and does not have a soul nor any mode of participating in a religious or spiritual world beyond the natural world; and therefore, that such a being is merely
a higher-order animal
whose character and behavior are entirely determined by two kinds of forces, heredity and environment. (Abrams 335)
A person inherits compulsive instincts—especially hunger, the drive to accumulate possessions, and sexuality—and is then subject to the social and economic forces in the family, the class, and the milieu into which that person is
born. The end of the naturalistic novel is usually "tragic," but not like the classical and Elizabethan tragedy, where the struggle of the heroic individual clashes with gods, enemies, and circumstances.
Instead, the protagonist of the naturalistic plot--depicted as a pawn to multiple compulsions and nature--is victim to external forces and decays in mind and body or is wiped out.
(Abrams 335)
Aspects of naturalistic selection are apparent in many modern novels and dramas, such as various plays by Eugene O'Neill in the 1920s, Ralph Ellison's
Invisible Man
, Cormac McCarthy's
Blood Meridian
, and Norman Mailer's novel of World War II,
The Naked and the Dead

Modernist literature is characterized chiefly by a rejection of 19th-century conventions and the consensus between author and reader (narration as non-linear, unreliable, and more). Modernists wished to distinguish themselves from virtually the entire history of art and literature.

Ezra Pound,“Make it new!”
Many Modernist writers felt that every story that could possibly be told had, in one way or another, been told already. In order to create something new, they often had to try using new forms of writing. The period thus produced many experimental and avant-garde styles. Example:
Invisible Man
Full transcript