"All is true," realist writers would say of their work, to which critics now respond: All is art and artifice. Offering a new approach to reading nineteenth-century realist fiction, Lilian R. Furst seeks to reconcile these contradictory claims. In doing so, she clarifies the deceptions, appropriations, intentions, and ultimately the power of literary realism. In close textual analyses of works ranging across European and American literature, including paradigmatic texts by Balzac, Flaubert, George Eliot, Zola, Henry James, and Thomas Mann, Furst shows how the handling of time, the presentation of place, and certain narrational strategies have served the realists’ claim. She demonstrates how readers today, like those a hundred years ago, are convinced of the authenticity of the created illusion by such means as framing, voice, perspective, and the slippage from metonymy to metaphor. Further, Furst reveals the pains the realists took to conceal these devices, and thus to protect their claim to be employing a simple form. Taking into account both the claims and the covert strategies of these writers, All Is True puts forward an alternative to the conventional polarized reading of the realist text—which emerges here as neither strictly an imitation of an extraneous model nor simply a web of words but a brilliantly complex imbrication of the two. A major statement on one of the most enduring forms in cultural history, this book promises to alter not only our view of realist fiction but our understanding of how we read it.
Are We There Yet? Virtual Travel and Victorian Realism connects the Victorian fascination with "virtual travel" with the rise of realism in nineteenth-century fiction and twenty-first-century experiments in virtual reality. Even as the expansion of river and railway networks in the nineteenth century made travel easier than ever before, staying at home and fantasizing about travel turned into a favorite pastime. New ways of representing place—360-degree panoramas, foldout river maps, exhaustive railway guides—offered themselves as substitutes for actual travel. Thinking of these representations as a form of "virtual travel" reveals a surprising continuity between the Victorian fascination with imaginative dislocation and twenty-first -century efforts to use digital technology to expand the physical boundaries of the self.
As German-language literature turned in the mid-nineteenth century to the depiction of the profane, sensual world, a corresponding anxiety emerged about the terms of that depiction—with consequences not only for realist poetics but also for the conception of the material world itself. At the Limit of the Obscene examines the roots and repercussions of this anxiety in German realist and postrealist literature. Through analyses of works by Adalbert Stifter, Gustav Freytag, Theodor Fontane, Arno Holz, Gottfried Benn, and Franz Kafka, Erica Weitzman shows how German realism’s conflicted representations of the material world lead to an idea of the obscene as an excess of sensual appearance beyond human meaning: the obverse of the anthropocentric worldview that German realism both propagates and pushes to its crisis. At the Limit of the Obscene thus brings to light the troubled and troubling ontology underlying German realism, at the same time demonstrating how its works continue to shape our ideas about representability, alterity, and the relationship of human beings to the non-human well into the present day.
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.
Amanda Anderson University of Chicago Press, 2016 Library of Congress PS374.L42A53 2016 | Dewey Decimal 810.93581
Why is liberalism so often dismissed by thinkers from both the left and the right? To those calling for wholesale transformation or claiming a monopoly on “realistic” conceptions of humanity, liberalism’s assured progressivism can seem hard to swallow. Bleak Liberalism makes the case for a renewed understanding of the liberal tradition, showing that it is much more attuned to the complexity of political life than conventional accounts have acknowledged.
Amanda Anderson examines canonical works of high realism, political novels from England and the United States, and modernist works to argue that liberalism has engaged sober and even stark views of historical development, political dynamics, and human and social psychology. From Charles Dickens’s Bleak House and Hard Times to E. M. Forster’s Howards End to Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, this literature demonstrates that liberalism has inventive ways of balancing sociological critique and moral aspiration. A deft blend of intellectual history and literary analysis, Bleak Liberalism reveals a richer understanding of one of the most important political ideologies of the modern era.
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.
Contemporary Novelists and the Aesthetics of Twenty-First Century American Life gives us a new way to view contemporary art novels, asking the key question: How do contemporary writers imagine aesthetic experience? Examining the works of some of the most popular names in contemporary fiction and art criticism, including Zadie Smith, Teju Cole, Siri Hustvedt, Ben Lerner, Rachel Kushner, and others, Alexandra Kingston-Reese finds that contemporary art novels are seeking to reconcile the negative feelings of contemporary life through a concerted critical realignment in understanding artistic sensibility, literary form, and the function of the aesthetic.
Kingston-Reese reveals how contemporary writers refract and problematize aesthetic experience, illuminating an uneasiness with failure: firstly, about the failure of aesthetic experiences to solve and save; and secondly, the literary inability to articulate the emotional dissonance caused by aesthetic experiences now.
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.
John R. Reed The Ohio State University Press, 2009 Library of Congress PR4592.R37R44 2010 | Dewey Decimal 823.8
In Dickens’s Hyperrealism, John R. Reed examines certain features of Dickens’s style to demonstrate that the Inimitable consciously resisted what came to be known as realism in the genre of the novel. Dickens used some techniques associated with realism, such as description and metonymy, to subvert the purposes usually associated with it. Reed argues that Dickens used such devices as personification and present-tense narration, which are anathema to the realist approach. He asserts that Dickens preferred a heightened reality, not realism. And, unlike the realism which seeks to mask authorial control of how readers read his novels, Dickens wanted to demonstrate, first openly, and later in his career more subtly, his command over his narratives.
This book opens a new avenue for investigating Dickens’s mastery of his art and his awareness of its literary context. In addition, it reopens the whole issue of realism as a definition and examines the variety of genres that coexisted in the Victorian period.
Donald Pizer presents the major critical discussions of American realism and naturalism from the beginnings of the movement in the 1870s to the present. He includes the most often cited discussions ranging from William Dean Howells, Henry James, and Frank Norris in the late nineteenth century to those by V. L. Parrington, Malcolm Cowley, and Lionel Trilling in the early twentieth century. To provide the full context for the effort to interpret the nature and significance of realism and naturalism during the periods when the movements were live issues on the critical scene, however, he also includes many uncollected essays. His selections since World War II reflect the major recent tendencies in academic criticism of the movements.
Through introductions to each of the three sections, Pizer provides background, delineating the underlying issues motivating attempts to attack, defend, or describe American realism and naturalism. In particular, Pizer attempts to reveal the close ties between criticism of the two movements and significant cultural concerns of the period in which the criticism appeared. Before each selection, Pizer provides a brief biographical note and establishes the cultural milieu in which the essay was originally published. He closes his anthology with a bibliography of twentieth-century academic criticism of American realism and naturalism.
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.
Winner of the 2018 Robert Penn Warren—Cleanth Brooks Award for Outstanding Literary Scholarship and Criticism” from the Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies at Western Kentucky University
Probes the ways in which two major periods in nineteenth-century American literature—Romanticism and Realism—have come to be understood and defined.
Echoes of Emerson: Rethinking Realism in Twain, James, Wharton, and Cather traces the complex and unexplored relationship between American realism and the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Critics often read American realism as a clear disavowal of earlier American romantic philosophy and as a commitment to recognizing the stark realities of a new postbellum order. Diana Hope Polley’s study complicates these traditional assumptions by reading American realism as an ongoing dialogue with the ideas—often idealisms—of America’s greatest romantic philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
In this illuminating work, Polley offers detailed readings of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, and Willa Cather’s My Ántonia—all through the lens of Emersonian philosophy and discourse. This unique contribution to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literary studies shows how these texts revisit Emerson’s antebellum “republic of the spirit” philosophy, specifically the trope of the Emersonian hero/heroine navigating the harsh contingencies of the modern world.
Romanticism and realism are often seen as opposing binaries, with romanticism celebrating the individual, self-reliance, and nature and realism emphasizing the weight of socio-historical forces. Realism is often characterized as rejecting the transcendent principles of Emersonian thought. Rather than accept those distinct boundaries between romance and realism, Polley argues that American realists struggled between celebrating Emerson’s core philosophies of individual possibility and acknowledging the stark “realities” of American social and historical life. In short, this study recognizes within realism a divided loyalty between two historical trends and explores how these seemingly contradictory notions—Emerson’s romantic philosophy and later nineteenth-century visions of historical reality—exist, simultaneously, within the literature of the period.
Focusing on representational approaches to emotion during the years of American literary realism’s dominance and in the works of such authors as Edith Wharton, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, W. D. Howells, Charles Chesnutt, and others, Emotional Reinventions: Realist-Era Representations Beyond Sympathy contends that emotional representations were central to the self-conscious construction of high realism (in the mid-1880s) and to the interrogation of its boundaries. Based on realist-era authors’ rejection of “sentimentalism” and its reduction of emotional diversity (a tendency to stress what Karen Sanchez-Eppler has described as sentimental fiction’s investment in “overcoming difference”), Melanie Dawson argues that realist-era investments in emotional detail were designed to confront differences of class, gender, race, and circumstance directly. She explores the ways in which representational practices that approximate scientific methods often led away from scientific theories and rejected rigid attempts at creating emotional taxonomies. She argues that ultimately realist-era authors demonstrated a new investment in individuated emotional histories and experiences that sought to honor all affective experiences on their own terms.
Molly Youngkin takes on a major literary problem of the turn-of-the-century: Was the transition from the Victorian novel to the modern novel enabled by antirealist or realist narrative strategies? To answer this question, Youngkin analyzes book reviews that appeared in two prominent feminist periodicals circulated during the late-Victorian era—Shafts and The Woman’s Herald.
Through reviews of the works of important male and female authors of the decade—Thomas Hardy, Sarah Grand, George Gissing, Mona Caird, George Meredith, Ménie Dowie, George Moore, and Henrietta Stannard—these periodicals developed a feminist realist aesthetic that drew on three aspects of woman’s agency (consciousness, spoken word, and action) and emphasized corresponding narrative strategies (internal perspective, dialogue, and description of characters’ actions). Still, these periodicals privileged consciousness over spoken word and action and, by doing so, encouraged authors to push the boundaries of traditional realism and anticipate the modernist aesthetic.
By acknowledging the role of the woman’s press in the development of the novel, this book revises our understanding of the transition from Victorianism to modernism, which often is characterized as antirealist. Late-Victorian authors working within the realist tradition also contributed to this transition, particularly through their engagement with feminist realism. Youngkin deftly illustrates this transition and in so doing proves that it cannot be attributed to antirealist narrative strategies alone.
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
Everyone agrees that Balzac is a realistic writer, but what do we actually mean when we say that? This book examines the richness and variety of Balzac’s approaches to realism, employing several different interpretive methods. Taking love and money as the “Prime Movers” of the world of La Comédie humaine, twenty-one chapters provide detailed analyses of the many strategies by which the writing forges the powerful impression of reality, the construction we famously think of as Balzacian realism. Each chapter sets the methods and aims of its analysis, with particular attention to the language that conveys the sense of reality. Plots, devices, or interpretive systems (including genealogies) function as images or reflections of how the novels make their meanings. The analyses converge on the central point: how did Balzac invent realism? No less than this fundamental question lies behind the interpretations this book provides, a question to which the conclusion provides a full answer.
A major book in English devoted entirely to Balzac was overdue. Here is the American voice of Balzac studies, an engaging, insightful, and revealing excursion among the masterworks of one of the most important authors of all time.
Haunting Realities: Naturalist Gothic and American Realism is an innovative collection of essaysexamining the sometimes paradoxical alignment of Realism and Naturalism with the Gothic in American literature to highlight their shared qualities.
Following the golden age of British Gothic in the late eighteenth century, the American Gothic’s pinnacle is often recognized as having taken place during the decades of American Romanticism. However, Haunting Realities explores the period of American Realism—the end of the nineteenth century—to discover evidence of fertile ground for another age of Gothic proliferation.
At first glance, “Naturalist Gothic” seems to be a contradiction in terms. While the Gothic is known for its sensational effects, with its emphasis on horror and the supernatural, the doctrines of late nineteenth-century Naturalism attempted to move away from the aesthetics of sentimentality and stressed sobering, mechanistic views of reality steeped in scientific thought and the determinism of market values and biology. Nonetheless, what binds Gothicism and Naturalism together is a vision of shared pessimism and the perception of a fearful, lingering presence that ominously haunts an impending modernity. Indeed, it seems that in many Naturalist works reality is so horrific that it can only be depicted through Gothic tropes that prefigure the alienation and despair of modernism.
In recent years, research on the Gothic has flourished, yet there has been no extensive study of the links between the Gothic and Naturalism, particularly those which stem from the early American Realist tradition. Haunting Realities is a timely volume that addresses this gap and is an important addition to scholarly work on both the Gothic and Naturalism in the American literary tradition.
Robert Frost stood at the intersection of nineteenth-century romanticism and twentieth-century modernism and made both his own. Frost adapted the genteel values and techniques of nineteenth-century poetry, but Barron argues that it was his commitment to realism that gave him popular as well as scholarly appeal and created his enduring legacy. This highly researched consideration of Frost investigates early innovative poetry that was published in popular magazines from 1894 to 1915 and reveals a voice of dissent that anticipated “The New Poetry” – a voice that would come to dominate American poetry as few others have.
In Improbability, Chance, and the Nineteenth-Century Realist Novel, Adam Grener advances a new approach to evaluating realism in fiction by arguing that nineteenth-century literary realism shifted attention to the historical and social dimensions of probability in the period’s literature. In an era in which probability was increasingly defined by statistical concepts of aggregation and abstraction, the realist writers discussed here turned to chance and improbability to address representational problems of contingency, difference, and scale.
Contemporary thinking about probability came to recognize the variability and even randomness of the world while also discovering how patterns and order reemerge at scale. Reading chance as a tension between randomness and order, Grener shows how novels by Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and Thomas Hardy resist the demands of probabilistic representation and develop strategies for capturing cultural particularity and historical transformation. These authors served their visions of realism by tactically embracing improbability in the form of coincidences, fatalism, supernaturalism, and luck. Understanding this strategy helps us to appreciate how realist novels work to historicize the social worlds and experiences they represent and asks us to rethink the very foundation of realism.
Both newspaper and magazine journalism in the nineteenth century fully participated in the development and emergence of American Realism in the arts, which attempted to accurately portray everyday life, especially in fiction. Magazines and newspapers provided the raw material for American Realism, but were also its early and vocal advocates. This symbiotic relationship reached its peak from 1890 to 1910, when writers who might be called the first literary journalists (or, much later, “new journalists”) closed the circle by more fully adopting the fiction writer’s style of attempting to “show the reader real life,” as their literary progeny Tom Wolfe would put it many years later. Journalism and Realism fills a much-needed gap in the scholarship of American Realism.
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.
Miles of Stare explores the problem of nineteenth-century American literary vision: the strange conflation of visible reality and poetic language that emerges repeatedly in the metaphors and literary creations of American transcendentalists.
The strangeness of nineteenth-century poetic vision is exemplified most famously by Emerson’s transparent eyeball. That disembodied, omniscient seer is able to shed its body and transcend sight paradoxically in order to see—not to create—poetic language “manifest” on the American landscape. In Miles of Stare, Michelle Kohler explores the question of why, given American transcendentalism’s anti-empiricism, the movement’s central trope becomes an eye purged of imagination. And why, furthermore, she asks, despite its insistent empiricism, is this notorious eye also so decidedly not an eye? What are the ethics of casting a boldly equivocal metaphor as the source of a national literature amidst a national landscape fraught with slavery, genocide, poverty, and war?
Miles of Stare explores these questions first by tracing the historical emergence of the metaphor of poetic vision as the transcendentalists assimilated European precedents and wrestled with America’s troubling rhetoric of manifest destiny and national identity. These questions are central to the work of many nineteenth-century authors writing in the wake of transcendentalism, and Kohler offers examples from the writings of Douglass, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Howells, and Jewett that form a cascade of new visual metaphors that address the irreconcilable contradictions within the transcendentalist metaphor and pursue their own efforts to produce an American literature. Douglass’s doomed witness to slavery, Hawthorne’s reluctantly omniscient narrator, and Dickinson’s empty “miles of Stare” variously skewer the authority of Emerson’s all-seeing poetic eyeball while attributing new authority to the limitations that mark their own literary gazes.
Tracing this metaphorical conflict across genres from the 1830s through the 1880s, Miles of Stare illuminates the divergent, contentious fates of American literary vision as nineteenth-century writers wrestle with the commanding conflation of vision and language that lies at the center of American transcendentalism—and at the core of American national identity.
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.
From 1929 to the latest issue, American Literature has been the foremost journal expressing the findings of those who study our national literature. The jouranl has published the best work of literary historians, critics, and bibliographers, ranging from the founders of the discipline to the best current critics and researchers. The longevity of this excellence lends a special distinction to the articles in American Literature. Presented in order of their first appearance, the articles in each volume constitute a revealing record of developing insights and important shifts of critical emphasis. Each article has opened a fresh line of inquiry, established a fresh perspective on a familiar topic, or settled a question that engaged the interest of experts.
One Foot in the Finite inspires a radical shift in our view of Melville’s project in Moby-Dick, for its guiding notion is that Melville uses his book to call into question the naturalism that distinguishes the early modern period in Europe. Naturalism is not only the idea that reality is exhausted by nature, or that there exists a domain of physical entities subject to autonomous laws and unaffected by human ingenuity; it also implies a counterpart, a world of pretense and deception, a domain of mental entities ontologically distinct from physical entities and therefore constituting a different realm. To naturalists, whales are part of the background of existing objects against which man assembles his various, subjective, rather arbitrary interpretations. But in Moby-Dick Melville casts upon the world a more ingenious eye, one free of the dualist veil. He confronts a basic misconception: that the contents of consciousness comprise a different order from physical life. He rubs out the dividing line modernity has drawn between the human world of names or concepts and the nonhuman world of plants, creatures, geological features, and natural forces. Melville’s philosophizing, carried by fiction, has dramatic consequence. It overturns our view of language as a system of mental representations that might turn out to represent falsely.
For twenty-first-century veterans of the evolution culture wars, Primitive Minds: Evolution and Spiritual Experience in the Victorian Novel, by Anna Neill, makes unlikely bedfellows of two Victorian “discoveries”: evolutionary theory and spiritualism. Victorian science did much to uncover the physical substratum of mystical or dreamy experience, tracing spiritual states to a lower, reflex, or more evolutionarily primitive stage of consciousness. Yet science’s pursuit of knowledge beyond sense-based evidence uncannily evoked powers associated with this primitive mind: the capacity to link events across space and time, to anticipate the future, to uncover elements of the forgotten past, and to see into the minds of others.
Neill does not ask how the Victorians explained away spiritual experience through physiological psychology, but instead explores how physical explanation interacted with dreamy content in Victorian accounts of the mind’s most exotic productions. This synthesis, she argues, was particularly acute in realist fiction, where, despite novelists’ willingness to trace the nervous origins of individual behavior and its social consequences, activity in hidden regions of the mind enabled levels of perception inaccessible to ordinary waking thought. The authors in her study include Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Thomas Hardy.
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.
Reading Capitalist Realism
Alison Shonkwiler and Leigh Claire LaBerge University of Iowa Press, 2014 Library of Congress PS374.R37R43 2014 | Dewey Decimal 810.912
As the world has been reshaped since the 1970s by economic globalization, neoliberalism, and financialization, writers and artists have addressed the problem of representing the economy with a new sense of political urgency. Anxieties over who controls capitalism have thus been translated into demands upon literature, art, and mass media to develop strategies of representation that can account for capitalism’s power.
Reading Capitalist Realism presents some of the latest and most sophisticated approaches to the question of the relation between capitalism and narrative form, partly by questioning how the “realism” of austerity, privatization, and wealth protection relate to the realism of narrative and cultural production. Even as critics have sought to locate a new aesthetic mode that might consider and move beyond theorizations of the postmodern, this volume contends that narrative realism demands renewed scrutiny for its ability to represent capitalism’s latest scenes of enclosure and indebtedness.
Ranging across fiction, nonfiction, television, and film, the essays collected here explore to what extent realism is equipped to comprehend and historicize our contemporary economic moment and what might be the influence or complicity of the literary in shaping the global politics of lowered expectations. Including essays on writers such as Mohsin Hamid, Lorrie Moore, Jess Walter, J. M. Coetzee, James Kelman, Ali Smith, Russell Banks, William Vollmann, and William Gibson, as well as examinations of Hollywood film productions and The Wire television series, Reading Capitalist Realism calls attention to a resurgence of realisms across narrative genres and questions realism’s ability to interrogate the crisis-driven logic of political and economic “common sense.”
The 1966 edition of this book has become a standard work. In this new, revised edition, Pizer has dropped three chapters and has refined and extended the work by adding six: “American Literary Naturalism: An Approach Through Form,” “American Literary Naturalism: The Example of Dreiser,” “The Problem of Philosophy in the Naturalistic Novel,” “Hamlin Garland’s 1891 Main-Travelled Roads: Local Color as Art,” “Jack London: The Problem of Form,” and “Dreiser’s ‘Nigger Jeff’: The Development of an Aesthetic.”
The book contains definitions of realism and naturalism based on representative novels of the period ranging from Howells’ Rise of Silas Lapham to Crane’s Red Badge of Courage; analyses of the literary criticism of the age, stressing that of Howells, Garland, and Norris; and close readings of specific works by major figures of the period.
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
If realist novels are the literary avatars of secular science and rational progress, then why are so many canonical realist works organized around a fear of that progress? Realism is openly indebted, at the level of form and content, to imperialist and scientific advances. However, critical emphasis on this has obscured the extent to which major novelists of the period openly worried about the fate of mystery and the dissolution of tradition that accompanied science’s shrinking of the world. Realism’s modernization is inseparable from nostalgia.
In Realism’s Empire: Empiricism and Enchantment in the Nineteenth-Century Novel, Geoffrey Baker demonstrates that realist fiction’s stance toward both progress and the foreign or supernatural is much more complex than established scholarship has assumed. The work of Honoré de Balzac, Anthony Trollope, and Theodor Fontane explicitly laments the loss of mystery in the world due to increased knowledge and exploration. To counter this loss and to generate the complications required for narrative, these three authors import peripheral, usually colonial figures into the metropolitan centers they otherwise depict as disenchanted and rationalized: Paris, London, and Berlin. Baker’s book examines the consequences of this duel for realist narrative and readers’ understandings of its historical moment. In so doing, Baker shows Balzac, Trollope, and Fontane grappling with new realities that frustrate their inherited means of representation and oversee a significant shift in the development of the novel.
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
In virtually every aspect of human behavior, ritual, language, and art, perceptions are organized through the act of framing. In the writing of Benito Perez Galdós, Spain's most prolific and innovative nineteenth-century novelist, Hazel Gold finds this principle insistently at work. By exploring Galdós's methods of structuring and evaluating literary and historical experience, Gold illuminates the novelist's art and uncovers the far-reaching narratological, social, and epistemological implications of his framing strategies. A close look at Galdós's novels reveals the artist at pains to contain and interpret what he perceived to be the distinctive and often disheartening experience of bourgeois liberalism of his day. At the same time, he can be seen here undermining or negating the accepted conventions of realist fiction. Looking beyond text to context, Gold examines the ways in which Galdós's work itself has been framed by readers and critics in accordance with changing allegiances to contemporary literary theory and the canon. The highly ambiguous status of the frame in Galdós's fictions confirms the author's own signal position as a writer poised at the limits between realism and modernity. Gold's work will command the interest of students of Spanish and comparative literature, narrative theory, and the novel, as well as all those for whom realism and representation are at issue.
Russian Grotesque Realism: The Great Reforms and the Gentry Decline offers a comprehensive reevaluation of the Russian realist novel and proposes that a composite style, “grotesque realism,” developed in response to social upheaval during the post-Reform era. In this compelling new study, Ani Kokobobo argues that if the realism of pre-Reform Russia could not depict socioeconomic change directly, the grotesque provided an indirect means for Russian writers to capture the instability of the times and the decline of the gentry. While realism historically represented the psychological depth of characters, the grotesque focused more on the body, materialism, and categorical confusions in order to depict characters whose humanity had eroded.
With original readings of some of Russian realism’s greatest novels, Anna Karenina, Demons, and Brothers Karamazov, as well as lesser known novels like The Family Golovlev, The Precipice, Resurrection, and Cathedral Folk, Russian Grotesque Realism traces the transformation of gentry representation from spiritual strivers and thinkers to more materialist beings. By the end of the nineteenth century, the gentry, originally seen as society’s preservers, were represented as grotesque, reflecting a broader societal breakdown that would eventually precipitate the end of the novel genre itself.
Seeming Human: Artificial Intelligence and Victorian Realist Character offers a new theory of realist character through character’s unexpected afterlife: the intelligent machine. The book contends that mid-twentieth-century versions of artificial intelligence (AI) offer a theory of verisimilitude omitted by traditional histories of character, which often focus on the development of interiority and the shift from “flat” to “round” characters in the Victorian era. Instead, by reading character through AI, Megan Ward’s Seeming Human argues that routinization, predictability, automation, and even flatness are all features of realist characters.
Early artificial intelligence movements such as cybernetics, information theory, and the Turing test define ways of seeming—rather than being—human. Using these theories of verisimilitude to read Victorian novelists such as Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant, Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy, and Henry James, Seeming Human argues that mechanicity has been perceived as anti-realist because it is the element that we least want to identify as human. Because AI produces human-like intelligence, it makes clear that we must actually turn to machines in order to understand what makes realist characters seem so human.
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.
There are thousands of books that represent the Holocaust, but can, and should, the act of reading these works convey the events of genocide to those who did not experience it? In Textual Silence, literary scholar Jessica Lang asserts that language itself is a barrier between the author and the reader in Holocaust texts—and that this barrier is not a lack of substance, but a defining characteristic of the genre.
Holocaust texts, which encompass works as diverse as memoirs, novels, poems, and diaries, are traditionally characterized by silences the authors place throughout the text, both deliberately and unconsciously. While a reader may have the desire and will to comprehend the Holocaust, the presence of “textual silence” is a force that removes the experience of genocide from the reader’s analysis and imaginative recourse. Lang defines silences as omissions that take many forms, including the use of italics and quotation marks, ellipses and blank pages in poetry, and the presence of unreliable narrators in fiction. While this limits the reader’s ability to read in any conventional sense, these silences are not flaws. They are instead a critical presence that forces readers to acknowledge how words and meaning can diverge in the face of events as unimaginable as those of the Holocaust.
To Be Suddenly White explores the troubled relationship between literary passing and literary realism, the dominant aesthetic motivation behind the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century ethnic texts considered in this study. Steven J. Belluscio uses the passing narrative to provide insight into how the representation of ethnic and racial subjectivity served, in part, to counter dominant narratives of difference.
To Be Suddenly White offers new readings of traditional passing narratives from the African American literary tradition, such as James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and George Schuyler’s Black No More. It is also the first full-length work to consider a number of Jewish American and Italian American prose texts, such as Mary Antin’s The Promised Land, Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers, and Guido d’Agostino’s Olives on the Apple Tree, as racial passing narratives in their own right. Belluscio also demonstrates the contradictions that result from the passing narrative’s exploration of racial subjectivity, racial difference, and race itself.
When they are seen in comparison, ideological differences begin to emerge between African American passing narratives and “white ethnic” (Jewish American and Italian American) passing narratives. According to Belluscio, the former are more likely to engage in a direct critique of ideas of race, while the latter have a tendency to become more simplistic acculturation narratives in which a character moves from a position of ethnic difference to one of full American identity.
The desire “to be suddenly white” serves as a continual point of reference for Belluscio, enabling him to analyze how writers, even when overtly aware of the problematic nature of race (especially African American writers), are also aware of the conditions it creates, the transformations it provokes, and the consequences of both. Byexamining the content and context of these works, Belluscio elucidates their engagement with discourses of racial and ethnic differences, assimilation, passing, and identity, an approach that has profound implications for the understanding of American literary history.
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.
When did Americans first believe they were at the center of a truly global culture? How did they envision that culture and how much do recent attitudes toward globalization owe to their often utopian dreams? In Utopia and Cosmopolis Thomas Peyser asks these and other questions, offers a reevaluation of American literature and culture at the dawn of the twentieth century, and provides a new context for understanding contemporary debates about America’s relation to the rest of the world. Applying current theoretical work on globalization to the writing of authors as diverse as Edward Bellamy, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Dean Howells, and Henry James, Peyser reveals the ways in which turn-of-the-century American writers struggled to understand the future in a newly emerging global community. Because the pressures of globalization at once fostered the formation of an American national culture and made national culture less viable as a source of identity, authors grappled to find a form of fiction that could accommodate the contradictions of their condition. Utopia and Cosmopolis unites utopian and realist narratives in subtle, startling ways through an examination of these writers’ aspirations and anxieties. Whether exploring the first vision of a world brought together by the power of consumer culture, or showing how different cultures could be managed when reconceived as specimens in a museum, this book steadily extends the horizons within which late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American literature and culture can be understood. Ranging widely over history, politics, philosophy, and literature, Utopia and Cosmopolis is an important contribution to debates about utopian thought, globalization, and American literature.
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.