In a major contribution to the study of race in American literature, Kenneth W. Warren argues that late-nineteenth-century literary realism was shaped by and in turn helped to shape post-Civil War racial politics. Taking up a variety of novelists, including Henry James and William Dean Howells, he shows that even works not directly concerned with race were instrumental in the return after reconstruction to a racially segregated society.
Provides an important examination of Charles Chesnutt as a practitioner of realism
Although Chesnutt is typically acknowledged as the most prominent African American writer of the realist period, scholars have paid little attention to the central question of this study: what does it mean to call Chesnutt a realist? As a writer whose career was restricted by the dismal racial politics of his era, Chesnutt refused to conform to literary conventions for depicting race. Nor did he use his imaginative skills to evade the realities he and other African Americans faced. Rather, he experimented with ways of portraying reality that could elicit an appropriate, proportionate response to it, as Ryan Simmons demonstrates in extended readings of each of Chesnutt’s novels, including important unpublished works overlooked by previous critics.
In addition, Chesnutt and Realism addresses a curiously neglected subject in American literary studies—the relationship between American literary realism and race. By taking Chesnutt seriously as a contributor to realism, this book articulates the strategies by which one African American intellectual helped to de?ne the discourses that in?uenced his fate.
Examines the prehistory of the American struggle to address cultural difference.
"Culture" is a term we commonly use to explain the differences in our ways of living. In this book Michael A. Elliott returns to the moment this usage was first articulated, tracing the concept of culture to the writings-folktales, dialect literature, local color sketches, and ethnographies-that provided its intellectual underpinnings in turn-of-the-century America.
The Culture Concept explains how this now-familiar definition of "culture" emerged during the late nineteenth century through the intersection of two separate endeavors that shared a commitment to recording group-based difference-American literary realism and scientific ethnography. Elliott looks at early works of cultural studies as diverse as the conjure tales of Charles Chesnutt, the Ghost Dance ethnography of James Mooney, and the prose narrative of the Omaha anthropologist-turned-author Francis La Flesche. His reading of these works-which struggle to find appropriate theoretical and textual tools for articulating a less chauvinistic understanding of human difference-is at once a recovery of a lost connection between American literary realism and ethnography and a productive inquiry into the usefulness of the culture concept as a critical tool in our time and times to come.
Michael A. Elliott is assistant professor of English at Emory University.
In Culture, Genre, and Literary Vocation, Michael Davitt Bell charts the important and often overlooked connection between literary culture and authors' careers. Bell's influential essays on nineteenth-century American writers—originally written for such landmark projects as The Columbia Literary History of the United States and The Cambridge History of American Literature—are gathered here with a major new essay on Richard Wright.
Throughout, Bell revisits issues of genre with an eye toward the unexpected details of authors' lives, and invites us to reconsider the hidden functions that terms such as "romanticism" and "realism" served for authors and their critics. Whether tracing the demands of the market or the expectations of readers, Bell examines the intimate relationship between literary production and culture; each essay closely links the milieu in which American writers worked with the trajectory of their storied careers.
Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism is Donald Fanger's groundbreaking study of the art of Dostoevsky and the literary and historical context in which it was created. Through detailed analyses of the work of Balzac, Dickens, and Gogol, Fanger identifies romantic realism, the transformative fusion of two generic categories, as a powerful imaginary response to the great modern city. This fusion reaches its aesthetic and metaphysical climax in Dostoevsky, whose vision culminating in Crime and Punishment is seen by Fanger as the final synthesis of romantic realism.
Victorians were fascinated with how accurately photography could copy people, the places they inhabited, and the objects surrounding them. Much more important, however, is the way in which Victorian people, places, and things came to resemble photographs. In this provocative study of British realism, Nancy Armstrong explains how fiction entered into a relationship with the new popular art of photography that transformed the world into a picture. By the 1860s, to know virtually anyone or anything was to understand how to place him, her, or it in that world on the basis of characteristics that either had been or could be captured in one of several photographic genres. So willing was the readership to think of the real as photographs, that authors from Charles Dickens to the BrontÃƒÂ«s, Lewis Carroll, H. Rider Haggard, Oscar Wilde, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster, and Virginia Woolf had to use the same visual conventions to represent what was real, especially when they sought to debunk those conventions. The Victorian novel's collaboration with photography was indeed so successful, Armstrong contends, that literary criticism assumes a text is gesturing toward the real whenever it invokes a photograph.
Table of Contents:
Introduction: What Is Real in Realism?
1. The Prehistory of Realism 2. The World as Image 3. Foundational Photographs: The Importance of Being Esther 4. Race in the Age of Realism: Heathcliff's Obsolescence 5. Sexuality in the Age of Racism: Hungry Alice 6. Authenticity after Photography
Reviews of this book: In this engaging look at Victorian fiction, Armstrong show how the unprecedented popularity of photography affected and informed the works of major writers. Choosing well from classic Victorian novels, Armstrong examines the works of authors like Dickens, Emily Bronte;, and Oscar Wilde as she traces the development of realism and discusses the powerful visual clues that began to drive plot and determine how characters relate to one another. As much social commentary as literary criticism, the book brings to life a society obsessed with the camera and burdened with what Armstrong calls a 'mass visuality.' An important work. --Ellen Sullivan, Library Journal
Here is intellectual leadership at its best. Entirely responsive to yet entirely independent of the conventional explanations of the origins of nineteenth- and twentieth-century British fiction, Nancy Armstrong argues that the photographic image has long been present as a structuring principle in both realist and modernist modes of writing. By foregrounding visuality, she radically reconceptualizes the relationship between realism and modernism, bringing about a paradigm shift with which scholars will have to reckon in the decades to come. As much a model of critical imagination as it is of scholarly integrity, this book accomplishes what only the rarest of books do: it teaches you how to think. --Rey Chow, author of Ethics after Idealism
Nancy Armstrong, a well-known literary critic, has contributed a major work to the new field of visual studies. The crossover is significant, for she manages to highlight the complex interplays between work and image, photography and prose, production and reception, in order to show how image-making subtly replaced writing as the grounding of fiction. The pictorial persuasions that she charts in a variety of Victorian genres subtly invert standard notions of both realism and readership. Armstrong's range is broad, her erudition and imagination are impressive, and her command of theory in putting it all together is simply stunning. --Michael Holly, author of Past Looking: Historical Imagination and the Rhetoric of the Image
Exploring a dazzling variety of topics--landscape gardening, cartes de visite, folklore, contagious diseases legislation, the shift to paper currency, Bleak House, Dorian Gray, Heathcliff, and Alice--Nancy Armstrong pursues a single and original theme: the absolute interdependence of literary realism and the advent of photography in nineteenth-century Britain. Her elegant and compelling account makes it clear that visual studies is more than an interesting new field of study. Rather, it is central to the projects of aesthetic theory and literary history. --Janet Wolff, author of The Social Production of Art
The common characterization of Mark Twain as an uneducated and improvisational writer took hold largely because of the novelist's own frequent claims about his writing practices. But using recently discovered evidence--Twain's marginal notes in books he consulted as he worked on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court--Joe Fulton argues for a reconsideration of scholarly views about Twain's writing process, showing that this great American author crafted his novels with careful research and calculated design.
Fulton analyzes Twain's voluminous marginalia in the copies of Macaulay's History of England, Carlyle's History of the French Revolution, and Lecky's History of the Rise of Rationalism and England in the Eighteenth Century available to Twain in the library of Quarry Farm, the New York farm where the novelist and his family routinely spent their summers. Comparing these marginal notes to entries in Twain's writing journal, the manuscript of Connecticut Yankee, and the book as published in 1889, Fulton establishes that Twain's research decisively influenced the novel. Fulton reveals Twain to be both the writer from experience he claimed to be and the careful craftsman that he attempted to downplay. By redefining Twain's aesthetic, Fulton reinvigorates current debates about what constitutes literary realism.
Fulton's transcriptions of the marginalia appear in an appendix; together with his analysis, they provide a valuable new resource for Twain scholars.
Mimetic Disillusion reevaluates the history of modern U.S. drama, showing that at mid-century it turned in the direction of a poststructuralist "disillusionment with mimesis" or mimicry.
This volume focuses on two major writers of the 1930s and 1940s--Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams--one whose writing career was just ending and the other whose career was just beginning. In new readings of their major works from this period, Long Day's Journey into Night, The Iceman Cometh, The Glass Menagerie, and A Streetcar Named Desire, Fleche develops connections to the writings of Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, and Michel Foucault, among others, and discusses poststructuralism in the light of modern writers such as Bertolt Brecht, Antonin Artaud, and Walter Benjamin. Fleche also extends this discussion to the work of two contemporary playwrights, Adrienne Kennedy and Tony Kushner. The aim of Mimetic Disillusion is not to reject "mimetic" and "realistic" readings but to explore the rich complexities of these two ideas and the fruit of their ongoing relevance to U.S. theatre.
Why has the realist novel been persistently understood as promoting liberalism? Can this tendency be reconciled with an equally familiar tendency to see the novel as a national form? In A Probable State, Irene Tucker builds a revisionary argument about liberalism and the realist novel by shifting the focus from the rise of both in the eighteenth century to their breakdown at the end of the nineteenth. Through a series of intricate and absorbing readings, Tucker relates the decline of realism and the eroding logic of liberalism to the question of Jewish characters and writers and to shifting ideas of community and nation.
Whereas previous critics have explored the relationship between liberalism and the novel by studying the novel's liberal characters, Tucker argues that the liberal subject is represented not merely within the novel, but in the experience of the novel's form as well. With special attention to George Eliot, Henry James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and S. Y. Abramovitch, Tucker shows how we can understand liberalism and the novel as modes of recognizing and negotiating with history.
Ever since William Dean Howells declared his "realism war" in the 1880s, literary historians have regarded the rise of realism and naturalism as the signal development in post-Civil War American fiction. Questioning this generalization, Michael Davitt Bell investigates the role that these terms played in the social and literary discourse of the 1880s and 1890s. He argues that "realism" and "naturalism" were ideological categories used to promote a version of "reality" based on radically anti-"literary" and heavily gendered assumptions.
In chapters on William Dean Howells, Frank Norris, Mark Twain, Henry James, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, and Sarah Orne Jewett, Bell examines the effects that ideas about realism and naturalism had on writers. He demonstrates that, for many of them, claiming to be a realist or a naturalist was a way to provide assurance that one was a "real" man rather than an "effeminate" artist.
Any review of 20th-century American theatre invariably leads to the term realism. Yet despite the strong tradition of theatrical realism on the American stage, the term is frequently misidentified, and the practices to which it refers are often attacked as monolithically tyrannical, restricting the potential of the American national theatre.
This book reconsiders realism on the American stage by addressing the great variety and richness of the plays that form the American theatre canon. By reconsidering the form and revisiting many of the plays that contributed to the realist tradition, the authors provide the opportunity to apprise strengths often overlooked by previous critics. The volume traces the development of American dramatic realism from James A. Herne, the "American Ibsen," to currently active contemporaries such as Sam Shepard, David Mamet, and Marsha Norman. This frank assessment, in sixteen original essays, reopens a critical dialog too long closed.
American Dramatic Realisms, Viable Frames of Thought
The Struggle for the Real--Interpretive Con§ict, Dramatic Method, and the Paradox of Realism
The Legacy of James A. Herne: American Realities and Realisms
Whose Realism? Rachel Crothers's Power Struggle in the American Theatre
The Provincetown Players' Experiments with Realism
Servant of Three Masters: Realism, Idealism, and "Hokum" in American High Comedy
"A highly original and gripping account of the works of Eakins and Crane. That remarkable combination of close reading and close viewing which Fried uniquely commands is brought to bear on the problematic nature of the making of images, of texts, and of the self in nineteenth-century America."—Svetlana Alpers, University of California, Berkeley
"An extraordinary achievement of scholarship and critical analysis. It is a book distinguished not only for its brilliance but for its courage, its grace and wit, its readiness to test its arguments in tough-minded ways, and its capacity to meet the challenge superbly. . . . This is a landmark in American cultural and intellectual studies."—Sacvan Bercovitch, Harvard University
In The Realistic Imagination, George Levine argues that the Victorian realists and the later modernists were in fact doing similar things in their fiction: they were trying to use language to get beyond language. Levine sees the history of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novel as a continuing process in which each generation of writers struggled to escape the grip of convention and attempted to create new language to express their particular sense of reality. As these attempts hardened into new conventions, they generated new attempts to break free.
With the rise of women's suffrage, challenges to marriage and divorce laws, and expanding opportunities for education and employment for women, the early years of the twentieth century were a time of social revolution. Examining British novels written in 1890-1914, Jane Eldridge Miller demonstrates how these social, legal, and economic changes rendered the traditional narratives of romantic desire and marital closure inadequate, forcing Edwardian novelists to counter the limitations and ideological implications of those narratives with innovative strategies. The original and provocative novels that resulted depict the experiences of modern women with unprecedented variety, specificity, and frankness. Rebel Women is a major re-evaluation of Edwardian fiction and a significant contribution to literary history and criticism.
"Miller's is the best account we have, not only of Edwardian women novelists, but of early 20th-century women novelists; the measure of her achievement is that the distinction no longer seems workable." —David Trotter, The London Review of Books
Kaplan redefines American realism as a genre more engaged with a society in flux than with one merely reflective of the status quo. She reads realistic narrative as a symbolic act of imagining and controlling the social upheavals of early modern capitalism, particularly class conflict and the development of mass culture. Brilliant analyses of works by Howells, Wharton, and Dreiser illuminate the narrative process by which realism constructs a social world of conflict and change.
"[Kaplan] offers some enthralling readings of major novels by Howells, Wharton, and Dreiser. It is a book which should be read by anyone interested in the American novel."—Tony Tanner, Modern Language Review
"Kaplan has made an important contribution to our understanding of American realism. This is a book that deserves wide attention."—June Howard, American Literature
Raymond Carver, known in some circles as the “godfather of minimalism,” has been credited by many as the rejuvenator of the once-dying American short story. (See the link on this page to a 2008 Kenyon Review story that discusses the recent controversy over the editing of Carver’s stories.) Drawing on representative tales from each of Carver’s major volumes of fiction, Nesset’s critical exploration leads us deep into the heart of Carver country, an eerie post-industrial world of low-rent survivors. In the earliest fiction, the politics of sex are tied to politics of fortune and chance; marriage as an institution is capricious and unsettling. In later stories, the gesture of telling stories provides an escape for certain of these characters, metaphorically and otherwise; and in Carver’s last stories, subtle strategies of language offer a similar, if more tentative release. From beginning to end, Carver’s distinctive, highly imitative style is intrinsic to his subject and is crucial in presenting what Carver called the “dark side of Reagan’s America.”
In this comprehensive study of Carver, Nesset discusses the relationship of minimalism and postmodern trends and the rise of new realism. By locating Carver in the gallery of American letters, Nesset shows him to be at once more simple and more complex than we might have believed, skillfully laying the groundwork for Carver studies to come.
Broadening our understanding of what constitutes "realism," Nicolas Witschi artfully demonstrates the linkage of American literary realism to the texts, myths, and resources of the American West.
From Gold Rush romances to cowboy Westerns, from hard-boiled detective thrillers to nature writing, the American West has long been known mainly through hackneyed representations in popular genres. But a close look at the literary history of the West reveals a number of writers who claim that their works represent the "real" West. As Nicolas Witschi shows, writers as varied as Bret Harte, John Muir, Frank Norris, Mary Austin, and Raymond Chandler have used claims of textual realism to engage, replicate, or challenge commonly held assumptions about the West, while historically acknowledged realists like William Dean Howells and Mark Twain have often relied on genre-derived impressions about the region.
The familiar association of the West with nature and the "great outdoors" implies that life in the West affords an unambiguous relationship with an unalloyed, non-human, real nature. But through a combination of textual scholarship, genre criticism, and materialist cultural studies, Witschi complicates this notion of wide open spaces and unfettered opportunity. The West has been the primary source of raw materials for American industrial and economic expansion, especially between the California Gold Rush and World War II, and Witschi argues that the writers he examines exist within the intersections of cultural and material modes of production. Realistic depictions of Western nature, he concludes, must rely on the representation of the extraction of material resources like minerals, water, and oil.
With its forays into ecocriticism and cultural studies, Traces of Gold will appeal to students and scholars of American literature, American studies, and western history.
A compilation of essays focusing on the significance of material culture to Cather’s work and Cather scholarship.
Willa Cather and Material Culture is a collection of 11 new essays that tap into a recent and resurgent interest among Cather scholars in addressing her work and her career through the lens of cultural studies. One of the volume's primary purposes is to demonstrate the extent to which Cather did participate in her culture and to correct the commonplace view of her as a literary connoisseur set apart from her times.
The contributors explore both the objects among which Cather lived and the objects that appear in her writings, as well as the commercial constraints of the publishing industry in which her art was made and marketed. Essays address her relationship to quilts both personally and as symbols in her work; her contributions to domestic magazines such as Home Monthly and Woman's Home Companion; the problematic nature of Hollywood productions of her work; and her efforts and successes as a businesswoman. By establishing the centrality of material matters to her writing, these essays contribute to the reclaiming of Cather as a modernist and highlight the significance of material culture, in general, to the study of American literature.
“What would Jesus do?” is now a rhetorical fixture, but the phrase was first popularized in the nineteenth century’s best-selling novel In His Steps. Charles Sheldon’s book is part of the vast, but mostly overlooked, history of evangelical culture that began during the Great Awakening. In this groundbreaking study, Gregory S. Jackson reveals the full impact of this tradition by exploring the development of religious media in America.
Jackson shows how the homiletic tradition in Protestant sermons provided a foundation for the development of visual and literary realism. Evangelical preachers and writers used vivid language grounded in everyday life to translate abstract concepts like hell into concrete reality—a key influence on realist authors that brought about the more secular forms of the movement we know today. This emphasis on the sensuous also paved the way for Protestantism’s embrace of new media, evident in the photographs of Jacob Riis as well as the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces.
With its remarkable scope and timely insights into the interplay between religion, secularism, and politics, The Word and Its Witness will transform the way we understand American realism and American religion.