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Literary Realism & The Awakening

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on 14 January 2015

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Transcript of Literary Realism & The Awakening

Literary Realism:
A Response to Romanticism
realism: style and type of writing that sought to portray life as it real was
real characters, real jobs, real problems
response to American transcendentalism and romanticism
period of optimism, growth, westward expansion
not always very realistic
U.S. changes during end of 19th century
new literary style reflects this
at this point in the industrial nation, life no longer about the promise of westward expansion
rather, it was about working a job, feeding your family, and dealing with the hand that you were dealt
nothing romantic 'bout it
stories and characters around certain regions that include aspects of local color (local customs and personality) that made the area unique and made these stories and characters authentic and real
the characters often spoke in a way that reflected their region, class, gender, and age
Mark Twain especially known for his use of dialect
instead of looking towards an ideal, these authors focus on an accurate representation of the middle class here and now
realism not driven by fantastic or action-filled plots
defined instead by its author's use of characterization
little reliance on elevated language or literary devices
married Oscar Chopin (cotton businessman) when she was 20
moved to New Orleans, Louisiana
had 6 children & lots of freedom
financial situation took a turn for the worse - moved to small Louisiana town Cloutierville
managed plantation and store
3 years later, Oscar contracted malaria and died
1 year later, Chopin moved back to St. Louis to be near her mother
after her mother passed away, Chopin turned to writing for both therapy and financial support
Late 19th Century U.S.: Urbanization and Industry
U.S. immigrant population and working base grows
changes in industry become life-altering
machines built, manufacturing made easier
urban areas expand with both business and home life
cities become hubs of action
huge economic and social repercussions
larger gap between rich and poor
for the first time there is a large, literate,
working class
need for a literature that reflects their lives
Literary Realism & The Awakening
Major Writers: Mark Twain,
William Dean Howells,
Rebecca Harding Davis,
Henry James, Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin &
The Awakening
born in 1850 as Kate O'Flaherty
daughter of an Irish immigrant father and a French mother
spent most of childhood attending Catholic boarding school in St. Louis, Missouri
only one of five children to live past 25
lost father early, so was raised by mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother
found fame rather quickly as local writer and women's interest author
published short stories and articles in
The Atlantic Monthly
1890 - finished first novel,
At Fault
set in the Louisiana bayou
known for exploring life in Louisiana and challenging traditional concepts of gender roles through the eyes of her female protagonists
"Story of an Hour" - most famous short story
The Awakening (1899)
final work and most widely read novel
iconic work in Southern literary tradition and of feminist literature
illustrates the internal tension between the passionate woman, loving mother, and doting wife
highlights ways in which these identities cannot exist together in the traditional world
caused major controversy when published
unfavorable reviews
stopped writing, died in 1904
. . . "The Awakening," by Kate Chopin, is a feeble reflection of Bourget, theme and manner of treatment both suggesting the French novelist. We very much doubt the possibility of a woman of "solid old Presbyterian Kentucky stock" being at all like Mrs. Edna Pontellier who has a long list of lesser loves, and one absorbing passion, but gives herself only to the man for whom she did not feel the least affection. If the author had secured our sympathy for this unpleasant person it would not have been a small victory, but we are well satisfied when Mrs. Pontellier deliberately swims out to her death in the waters of the gulf. . . .
Public Opinion
(22 June 1899)
. . . Miss Kate Chopin is another clever woman, but she has put her cleverness to a very bad use in writing "The Awakening." The purport of the story can hardly be described in language fit for publication. We are fain to believe that Miss Chopin did not herself realize what she was doing when she wrote it. With a bald realism that fairly out Zolas Zola, she describes the result upon a married woman who lives amiably with her husband without caring for him, of a slowly growing admiration for another man. He is too honorable to speak and goes away; but her life is spoiled already, and she falls with a merely animal instinct into the arms of the first man she meets. The worst of such stories is that they will fall into the hands of youth, leading them to dwell on things that only matured persons can understand, and promoting unholy imaginations and unclean desires. It is nauseating to remember that those who object to the bluntness of our older writers will excuse and justify the gilded dirt of these latter days. . . .
From Providence
Sunday Journal
(7 June 1899)
late 20th century - Chopin's work gets reexamined for its value
protagonist Edna, is a bit of a rebel
goes from wife and mother to independent woman
goes deeply into human behavior
shocking and unsettling
early feminist novel??
Historical Context: Creole Society and Women's Movement
Creole society: Northern Louisiana
saw selves as different from Anglo-Americans and kept cultural traditions passed down from Spanish and French ancestors
enjoyed gambling, entertainment, and social gatherings
rarely accepted outsiders into their social circles
thought newcomers should live by their rules
men dominated the households and expected women to provide children and keep the house in order
women refined social talents: art, music, conversation
Beginnings of the
Women's Movement
1800s brought change in the status of women
1848 - women gather in New York State to being addressing issues of equality
Seneca Falls Convention
groundwork for the women's rights movement
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott
forums become available to organize and educate women about social and political issues
Full transcript