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Naturalism in American Literature
Transcript of Naturalism in American Literature
Naturalism is a literary movement from the 1890s to the the 1920s that used detailed realism to suggest the social conditions, heredity, and environment had inescapable force in shaping human character.
Themes and common ideas
The dominant theme of Naturalist literature is that persons are fated to whatever station in life their heredity, environment, and social conditions prepare them for. The power of primitive emotions to negate human reason was also a recurring element. Adverse social conditions are taken as a matter of fact.
What caused the time period to both begin and end?
Connections with other literary time periods
Naturalism in American Literature
Themes and common ideas cont.
Frank Norris (Benjamin Franklin Norris) was an American novelist and journalist, and the first important naturalist writer in the United States. His writing was profoundly influenced by Darwinism, and had the note of socialist ideas, which later influenced socialist/progressive writers such as Upton Sinclair, David Graham Phillips, Floyd Dell, Theodore Dreiser, Charles Edward Russell and Sinclair Lewis. In his novels he explores the highs and lows in human behavior, focusing on the civilized man who tries to overcome his animalistic tendencies in topics such as the struggle between farming and railroad interests in California, corrupt business dealings in agriculture, respectful man’s moral downfall. As a journalist, he covered some of the prime events of his time.
Jack London (real name John Griffiths London) was an American author, one of the pioneers in the commercial magazine fiction and one of few who made writing into a profitable career. He gained huge success during his life due to various genres, topics and settings he explored in his works. A world traveler, playful, fiery and eloquent public speaker and supporter of social justice, he was able to spark the interest of a wide range of readers. His stories were set in different regions, from the snowy and frozen Yukon to sunny California, Hawaii, and the Solomon Islands.
Robert Lee Frost (named after Southern General Robert E. Lee) was born on 26 March 1874 in San Francisco, California to Isabelle Moodie (1844-1900) teacher, and William Prescott Frost Jr. (1850-1885), teacher and journalist. San Francisco was a lively city full of citizens of Pioneering spirit, including Will who had ventured there from New Hampshire to seek his fortune as a journalist.
Stephen Crane, (1871-1900), was an American novelist, short-story writer, poet, and journalist. Although he died of tuberculosis on June 5, 1900, at the age of 28, Crane produced a vast number of newspaper articles, more than 100 stories and sketches, two volumes of poetry, and six novels. Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey, on Nov. 1, 1871. In 1891, he moved to New York City to work as a free-lance newspaper writer. Crane's observations of slum life inspired his first novel, MAGGIE: A GIRL OF THE STREETS (1893), about a young prostitute driven to suicide.
Started in the 1890s
For the naturalist, it is the duty of the writer to present to the reader reality without illusion, to offer a scientific, detached view of it rather than to adorn or mislead or simply please the reader. The writer is also seen to have a diagnostic function, scrutinizing the ills of society, and the scientific element of naturalism has its origins in the theories of Darwin, in the development of the social sciences during the nineteenth century.
What caused this time period to both begin and end? Cont.
Time period ended in the 1920s
Although naturalism was most influential in the period 1890-1920, aspects of it survived into modernism; Hemingway's early work, for instance, often uses the naturalistic concept of the individual who is being tested by extreme circumstance and learning to live without self-delusion, and realist writers such as Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) and Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) made use of naturalistic idioms in their analyses of human motivation and circumstance.
Mark Twain, (1835-1910), was the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, one of the major authors of American fiction. Twain is also considered the greatest humorist in American literature. Twain's varied works include novels, travel narratives, short stories, sketches, and essays.
Nature as an indifferent force acting on the lives of human beings. The romantic vision of Wordsworth that "nature never did betray the heart that loved her" here becomes Stephen Crane's view in "The Open Boat" , "This tower was a giant, standing with its back to the plight of the ants. It represented in a degree, to the correspondent, the serenity of nature amid the struggles of the individual nature in the wind, and nature in the vision of men.
The Naturalist simply takes the world as it is, for good or ill. The Naturalist novel is then a sort of laboratory of fiction, with studies underway that ethically could not be performed in the real world.
Themes and common ideas cont.
The forces of heredity and environment as they affect--and afflict--individual lives.
An indifferent, deterministic universe. Naturalistic texts often describe the futile attempts of human beings to exercise free will, often ironically presented, in this universe that reveals free will as an illusion.
Themes and common ideas cont.
American naturalism developed broadly in two directions, one examining the social and political dynamics of American urban life and the other examining the biological aspects of deterministic thought.
What caused the time period to both begin and end? cont.
In some cases a single author can even be claimed by more than one movement. Tracing the evolution of literature through time scholars often group works from a certain time frame together and label it as a period or movement. This section of The Literature Network aims to dissect these movements for the better understanding of you, the reader. The movements or periods listed here where not mutually exclusive in their time frames, they overlap, liberally.
Connections with other literary time periods cont.
He explored great questions of life and death, combined with adventurous storyline dealing with the power of nature and survival with dignity. Most of it was based on his own experience as an oyster pirate, sailor, gold-seeker in the first Klondike rush, journalist, unemployed socialist or jailed vagabond.Naturalists (literary determinists) believed that life is determined by environment, heredity, and chance. Jack London's THE CALL OF THE WILD, seven interrelated short stories -- each with its own characters, plot, and climax -- is unified by Buck, a tame dog that reverts to his original primitive state when removed from his comfortable California estate and thrust into the rugged terrain of the Klondike.
Jack London Cont.
Mark Twain Cont.
ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, generally considered Twain's greatest work, was published in the United Kingdom in 1884 and in the United States in 1885. Twain had begun the book in 1876 as a sequel to TOM SAWYER. It describes the adventures of two runaways -- the boy Huck Finn and the black slave Jim -- and is told from the point of view of Huck himself. Twain used realistic language in the novel, making Huck's speech sound like actual conversation and imitating a variety of dialects to bring the other characters to life. Tom Sawyer also reappears in certain chapters, and his antics provide the familiar humor for which Twain was known.
In it he shows that "environment is a tremendous thing in the world, and frequently shapes lives regardless." The novel presents the process of the disruption of Maggie's family, her descent into prostitution, and her eventual suicide, and considers this process as an inevitable consequence of the limited choices offered by the poverty of her New York environment. MAGGIE exemplifies much American naturalistic writing in its use of an urban setting, its refusal to condemn or sentimentalize Maggie's prostitution, its depiction of slum life, and its objective focus on scandalous or immoral subjects.
Stephen Crane cont.
Naturalism is strongly associated with realism, in the shared emphasis on depicting surface reality, naturalism is more than a literary technique, involving as it does the philosophy of determinism. Realism plays a part in Naturalism,the confusion between the two words is understandable given the fact that naturalism is a branch that grew from realism. Naturalism is used as detailed realism to suggest the social conditions, heredity, and environment had inescapable force in shaping human character.