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UNIT THREE. REALISM. REALISM. The U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) between the industrial North and the agricultural, slave-owning South was a watershed in American history. The innocent optimism of the young democratic nation gave way, after the war, to a period of exhaustion.

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unit three

UNIT THREE

REALISM

realism
REALISM
  • The U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) between the industrial North and the agricultural, slave-owning South was a watershed in American history. The innocent optimism of the young democratic nation gave way, after the war, to a period of exhaustion.
  • From 1860 to 1914, the United States was transformed from a small, young, agricultural ex-colony to a huge, modern, industrial nation.
frontier humor and realism local colorists
Frontier Humor and RealismLocal Colorists
  • Two major literary currents in 19th-century America merged in Mark Twain: popular frontier humor and local color, or "regionalism.“
  • These related literary approaches began in the 1830s -- and had even earlier roots in local oral traditions. In ragged frontier villages, on riverboats, in mining camps, and around cowboy campfires far from city amusements, storytelling flourished.
main authors
MAIN AUTHORS
  • Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) 1835-1910 “Frontier Humor and Realism”
  • Bret Harte 1836-1902 “Local Colorist”
samuel clemens mark twain 1835 1910
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) 1835-1910
  • For Twain and other American writers of the late 19th century, realism was not merely a literary technique: It was a way of speaking truth and exploding worn-out conventions. Thus it was profoundly liberating and potentially at odds with society. The most well-known example is Huck Finn, a poor boy who decides to follow the voice of his conscience and help a Negro slave escape to freedom, even though Huck thinks this means that he will be damned to hell for breaking the law.
slide6

The novel also dramatizes Twain's ideal of the harmonious community: "What you want, above all things, on a raft is for everybody to be satisfied and feel right and kind toward the others."

bret harte 1836 1902
Bret Harte 1836-1902
  • Bret Harte is remembered as the author of adventurous stories such as "The Luck of Roaring Camp" and "The Outcasts of Poker Flat”.
  • Outwardly realistic, he was one of the first to introduce low-life characters -- cunning gamblers, gaudy prostitutes, and uncouth robbers -- into serious literary works.
cosmopolitan novelists
Cosmopolitan Novelists
  • Henry James 1843-1916
  • Edith Wharton 1862-1937
henry james 1843 1916
Henry James 1843-1916
  • James is noted for his "international theme" -- that is, the complex relationships between native Americans and cosmopolitan Europeans.
  • James's first, or "international," phase encompassed such works as Transatlantic Sketches (travel pieces, 1875), The American (1877), Daisy Miller (1879), and a masterpiece, The Portrait of a Lady (1881).
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James's second period was experimental. He exploited new subject matters -- feminism and social reform in The Bostonians (1886).

  • In his third, or "major," phase James returned to international subjects, The Ambassadors (1903) (which James felt was his best novel).
edith wharton 1862 1937
Edith Wharton 1862-1937
  • Like James, Wharton contrasts Americans and Europeans. The core of her concern is the gulf separating social reality and the inner self. Often a sensitive character feels trapped by unfeeling characters or social forces.
  • Wharton's best novels include The House of Mirth (1905), The Custom of the Country (1913), Summer (1917), The Age of Innocence (1920), and the beautifully crafted novella Ethan Frome (1911).