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American Realism 1850-1900. Lit Book Pg. 410. The Civil War (1861-1865): April 1861: Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, opening shots of Civil War Deadliest conflict in American history (more American lives lost than in all other wars– combined)

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The Civil War (1861-1865):

  • April 1861: Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, opening shots of Civil War
  • Deadliest conflict in American history (more American lives lost than in all other wars– combined)
  • Destroyed American lives, property, and sense of identity
slide3

Writers & Thinkers Respond to the War:

  • Optimism (Whitman & Emerson)
    • Many had optimisticand idealisticresponse to war
    • Saw it as just and inevitable (abolition of slavery)
    • Filled with patriotic pride
  • Pessimism (Melville)
    • Others were disillusionedby war and its effects
    • Their writing examined humanity’s basic evil
slide4

The War in Literature:

  • Very little literary output
  • Most major American writers did not see the war first hand (at home, abroad, or dead)
  • Whitman, a hospital volunteer, was one of the few who witnessed it first hand
  • Traditional literary forms not sufficient to express horrors of war
  • “Realistic novel” not developed yet
slide5

Realism:

  • Began in Europe
  • Portrays real life objectively and accurately—not romanticized or idealized
  • Focuses on a wide range of ordinary subjects
  • Attempts to explain why people behave the way they do
  • Dependent on new social sciences (psychology, sociology) and on biology
slide6

Psychological Fiction:

  • Psychological novel focuses on character motivation
  • Exploration of complex social and psychological situations
  • Behavior in the midst of stress

Regionalism:

  • Focuses on a particular geographical region of the country (including speech, culture, etc.)
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Ironists:

  • Juxtaposing human pretensions (arrogance) with the indifference of the universe

A man said to the universe:

“Sir, I exist!"

“However,” replied the universe,

“The fact has not created in me

A sense of obligation.”

- Stephen Crane