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American Realism

American Realism

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American Realism

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  1. American Realism The Civil War and Post-War Period 1850-1914

  2. The Age of Realism – Overview • Civil War • Technological Advancements • Railroads, telegraph, mass industrialization • Mass immigration • Urban, Centralized Society • -Gilded Age

  3. North vs. South • Plantations/farms  living in agriculture • Opposed tariffs – needed to import raw goods • Slavery – for survival • Cities/towns  worked in factories/shops • Supported tariffs – did not want competition

  4. Tension grows…. • 1850 Fugitive Slave Act • 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act • Breaking point  election of Lincoln • South started to succeed

  5. Results of the bloody war • Approx. 620,000 soldiers died on both sides • Approx. 500,000 wounded • South was destroyed • American faces reconstruction alone – Lincoln assassinated

  6. Other Key Events • Homestead Act of 1862 • 1st Transcontinental Railroad – 1869 • “Removal” of Indians • Electricity trumps steam power • Automobiles, telephones, movies • Immigration booms – 9 million immigrants • Poverty was at a high – industries – low pay • Hard to get ahead • End of slavery

  7. Basics of Realism • 1. Rejections of all previous models • 2. Joy of individual rejected • 3. Based on Direct Observation of visible world • 4. Removal of intruding narrator: “Ah, gentle reader…” • 5. Refusal to moralize: present facts and let reader decide • 6. Opposes Idealism • 7. Belief in choices/consequences

  8. Basics continued • 8. subject matter drawn from common people, their lives and language • 9. belief that the world can be known and navigated

  9. Realism/Naturalism • “real life” • focus on details • Honest/objective • Vision – war, frontier, growing cities • Heavy use of symbolism • American Dream – most often failure of it • Darker form of realism • Nature, heredity, and fate ruled a person’s destiny in life • Ex. “To Build a Fire” • A cruel and unforgiving environment

  10. Difference between Realism/Naturalism • Ethical choice • Unified self • Autonomy • Self-creating • Internally consistent • Contextualized characters • Appearance reveals reality • Moral • Character driven • Reserved prose style • What you do to the world • Choice is determined • No unified self • Coercion • ‘self’ is a fiction we believe • Chaotic • Stereotypes • Appearance is reality • Amoral • Event driven • Wild prose style • What the world does to you

  11. Important Terminology • Dialect • Colloquialism • Elegy • Parallelism • Psychological Realism • Slave Narrative • Stereotype • Flashback • Regionalism • Local Color • Feminism • Vernacular • Determinism

  12. William Dean Howells • The Rise of Silas Lapham • Philosophy • Ordinary people • Character fully developed • Good over evil • Silas must choose between bankruptcy and shady business dealings • Returns to the poor life

  13. Frank Norris • Thought Howell’s lit too “strait-laced”/“narrow” • Interested in greater forces on the individual (Naturalism) • Model – Emile Zola • Relied on psychology and sociology • “attempted to dissect human behavior with as much objectivity as a scientist would dissect a frog or a cadaver” • Life is cruel/harsh

  14. Henry James • “America’s greatest psychological novelist” • Focused on motivations of characters • Interested in complex social/psychological situations • Settings of most novels—Europe • Considered Europe’s society as more sinister than America’s • Typical story: American faces problems with European society and either defeats them or is overcome by them • Ex. The American

  15. Stephen Crane • Interested in characters who were in stressful situations • Settings: battlefield, streets of a slum, western outpost, lifeboat lost at sea • ironist

  16. Homework • Please read Stephen Crane’s An Episode of War on pages 486-490