American Regionalism, Realism, and Naturalism 1860-1920(ish) *The Civil War to 1914 What is Realism? A faithful representation of reality in literature, also known as verisimilitude (the appearance of truth, the quality of truth)
Emphasis on development of believable characters. Written in natural vernacular, or dialect (common words of a region). Prominent from 1860-1890. Realism Realism sought to portray life as faithfully and accurately as possible, focusing on ordinary people suffering the harsh realties of everyday life. It depicts ordinary people coping with everyday realities.
Authors included Mark Twain, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, and Dunbar The Literature Presented life objectively Favored science and technology Found meaning in the mundane Focused on socials ills and social conflict Elements of Realism Rejection of the idealized, larger-than-life hero of Romantic Literature Detailed depiction of ordinary characters and
realistic events Emphasis on characters from cities and lower classes Avoidance of the exotic, sensational, and overly dramatic Use of everyday speech patterns to reveal class distinctions Focus on the ethical struggles and social issues of real-life situations Sought to explain why ordinary people behave the way they do Realist Writers
Mark Twain William Dean Howells Henry James Edgar Lee Masters Why did Realism develop? The Civil War horror / reality of war Personal accounts of horrors and injustices of slavery (violation of American principle of equality) The urbanization and industrialization of
America As a reaction to Romanticism Increasing rates of democracy and literacy The emerging middle class Upheaval and social change in the latter half of the 19th century What is Regionalism? Often called local color. Focuses on characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other features specific to a certain region (eg. the South)
Coincided with Realism and sharing many of the same traits. Prominent from 1865-1895. Regionalist Writers Kate Chopin South Mary E. WilkinsFreemanNew England Mark TwainWest Willa Cather Midwest
Why did Regionalism develop? Dual influence of Romanticism and Realism The Civil War and the building of a national identity An outgrowth of realism with more focus on a particular setting and its influence over characters What is Naturalism? Applied scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to the study of human
beings. Influenced by Darwinism (natural selection) and psychology (Freud) Posited that individuals were governed by heredity and environment. Often depict man in conflict with nature, society, or himself. Prominent from 1880-1920(ish) Naturalism-Focuses on peoples helplessness in the face of chance Sought to portray ordinary peoples lives, but suggested that environment, heredity, and
chance, or forces they could neither understand nor control, determined peoples fate. Authors included Stephen Crane, Kate Chopin, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London Mans destiny was determined by heredity and natural selection, society, psychological impulses, and economic class Created the representative, not the actual Naturalism Influenced by emerging disciplines of psychology and sociology
Attempt to analyze human behavior objectively, as a scientist would Belief that human behavior is determined by heredity and environment Sense that human beings cannot control their own destinies Sense of life as a losing battle against an uncaring universe Naturalist Writers Stephen Crane -
The Red Badge of Courage How do people behave under pressure? Ambrose Bierce Jack London Edwin Arlington Robinson Katherine Anne Porter Charlotte Perkins
Gilman Edith Wharton Why did Naturalism develop? The swell of immigrants in the latter half of the 19th century, which led to a larger lower class and increased poverty in the cities The prominence of psychology and the theories of Sigmund Freud Pessimism in the wake of the Civil War and Reconstruction Publication of Charles Darwins Origin of
the Species Points to Remember Realism, Regionalism, and Naturalism are intertwined and connected. Their influence has dominated most literature created since 1920, though the movement itself is dated to roughly that point. They are truly American modes of writing.
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