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realism in american literature 1860 1900

Realism in American Literature1860-1900

Broadly defined as "the faithful representation of reality" or "verisimilitude," realism is a literary technique practiced by many schools of writing. Although strictly speaking, realism is a technique, it also denotes a particular kind of subject matter, especially the representation of middle-class life. A reaction against romanticism, an interest in scientific method, the systematizing of the study of documentary history, and the influence of rational philosophy all affected the rise of realism.

writers of realism
Writers of Realism
  • Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Stephen Crane, Jack London
  • Frederick Douglass
    • Wrote his own narrative about his experiences as a slave and how he became free

-Lived on plantation in Maryland before his escape

-Had heard of white abolitionists, but belief was questionable

William Lloyd Garrison (writer of the Preface) mentioned, “…if Mr. Douglass could be persuaded to consecrate his time and talents to the promotion of the anti-slavery enterprise, a powerful impetus would be given to it…”

william garrison con t
William Garrison con’t.

In the very first issue of his anti-slavery newspaper, the Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison stated, "I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. . . . I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD." And Garrison was heard. For more than three decades, from the first issue of his weekly paper in 1831, until after the end of the Civil War in 1865 when the last issue was published, Garrison spoke out eloquently and passionately against slavery and for the rights of America's black inhabitants.

garrison s preface to the narrative
Garrison’s Preface to the Narrative
  • Garrison cites evidence that slaves of all races “sink on the scale of humanity.”
  • Discusses the irony of “The Domestic Institution”
  • Compared Douglass to Charles Lenox Remond
  • Charles Lenox Remond (1810-1878), born in Salem, Massachusetts, was the son of free blacks, John and Nancy Remond. The young Remond had a reputation as an eloquent lecturer and is reported to have been the first black public speaker on abolition (Merrill V 273).

The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society chose him as one of its agents in 1838, and he went with Garrison to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 as a delegate from the American Anti-Slavery Society. Instead of returning at once to the United States after the convention, Remond lectured in England and Ireland for nineteen months, where he was gratified to find himself accepted by high society, a strong contrast to his treatment at home. While a less spectacular speaker than Frederick Douglass, he continued to be an active participant in the abolitionist movement (273).

He and a number of other black abolitionists contributed to the cause a clearly presented militancy as well as effective wit, a contrast to Douglass' "towering dignity" (Bailyn 560).

Remond and Douglass joined in urging the Negro National Convention to call blacks to leave en masse any church that discriminated against them in seating or at the communion table. Their resolution was adopted (Mabee 131).

garrison s preface con t
Garrison’s Preface, con’t.
  • Talked about, “…like a brute he was treated, even by those professing to have the same mind in them that was in Christ Jesus.” -verbal irony
  • “A slaveholder’s profession of Christianity is a palpable imposture. He is a man-stealer.”
letter from wendell phelps
Letter from Wendell Phelps
  • Discussed that for too long slavery’s story was told through the POV of the slaveholder
  • “Valley of the Shadow of Death” (where the Mississippi sweeps along) - allusion to the Bible, Psalms 23
  • “I hardly knew, at the time, whether to thank you or not for the sight of them, when I reflected it was still dangerous, in Massachusetts, for honest men to tell their names.” Discuss relevance to Huck Finn’s POV.
  • Men must be willing to break the Constitution to evoke freedom for the slaves
chapter one
Chapter One
  • Published in 1845
  • Told in first person POV
  • Born in Maryland (Talbot County) to Harriet Bailey and his master
  • Discussed the difficulty for the mixed-race slaves (referred to as mulatto, which is an archaic term). The number of slaves grew on a plantation, as the master was both their owner and biological father
  • Discussed Aunt Hester’s whipping. (Why did Master Anthony care so much if Aunt Hester had a boyfriend?)
  • Discussed the separation of slave families. Why?
chapter one con t
Chapter One, Con’t.
  • Why didn’t the masters want the slaves to know their birthdays? Family histories?
  • How was Frederick’s relationship with his mother?
  • “He deemed all such inquiries on the part of a slave improper and impertinent, and evidence of a restless spirit.” Explain.