Realism “The Civil War was a violent clash, not just of armies, but of ideas. Who was right, and who was wrong? What did it mean to be an American? Was any price too high to pay to keep the nation whole?”
What is Realism? • A faithful representation of reality in literature • A reaction against Romanticism • Emphasis on development of believable characters. • Written in natural vernacular, or dialect. • Prominent from 1855-1870.
Realist Writers • Walt Whitman • Emily Dickinson • Frederick Douglass • Abraham Lincoln • Ambrose Bierce
What brought about Realism? • Cultural Divide • The Civil War • The urbanization and industrialization of America • Increasing rates of democracy and literacy • The emerging middle class
Regionalism and Naturalism “Vast, varied, filled with seemingly limitless possibilities – that was the United States in the years following the Civil War. Yet, all around them in this land of hope and opportunity, writers saw fellow Americans living lives of hardship and even despair. Regionalism tried to capture the reality of ordinary people’s lives; naturalism searched for explanations.”
Regionalism • Often called “local color.” • Focuses on characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other features specific to a certain region (eg. the South) • Coincided with Realism and sharing many of the same traits. • Prominent from 1870-1910.
Why did Regionalism develop? • The Civil War and the building of a national identity • An outgrowth of realism with more focus on a particular setting and its influence over characters
Regionalist • Mark Twain • Kate Chopin
What is Naturalism? • Applied scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to the study of human beings. • Influenced by Darwinism (natural selection) and psychology (Freud) • Posited that men were governed by heredity and environment. • Often depict man in conflict with nature, society, or himself.
Naturalist Writers • Stephen Crane • Jack London • Charlotte Perkins Gilman • Edith Wharton
Why did Naturalism develop? • The swell of immigrants in the latter half of the 19th century, which led to a larger lower class and increased poverty in the cities • The prominence of psychology and the theories of Sigmund Freud • Pessimism in the wake of the Civil War and Reconstruction • Publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species
Points to Remember… • Realism, Regionalism, and Naturalism are intertwined and connected. • Their influence has dominated most literature created since 1910, though the movement itself is dated to roughly that point. • They are truly American modes of writing.