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American Literature. Lecture Six. The American Realism (I) (1865 - 1918). I. Introduction. The reasons for the coming of American realism:

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Lecture Six

The American Realism

(I)

(1865 - 1918)

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I. Introduction

  • The reasons for the coming of American realism:
  • The Civil War which broke out in 1861 taught men that life was not so good, man was not and God was not. The war marked a change, in the quality of American life, a deterioration, in fact, of American moral values. It led people to question the assumptions: natural goodness, the optimistic view of nature and man, benevolent God.
  • In post-bellum America increasing industrialization and mechanization of the country in full swing produced soon extremes of wealth and poverty. Wealth and power were more and more concentrated in the hands of the few “captains of industry” or “robber barons”, but life for the millions was fast becoming a veritable struggle for survival.
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The frontier was about to close and the safety valve was ceasing to operate, a reexamination of life began. Beneath the glittering surface of prospective there lay suffering and unhappiness, Disillusionment and frustration were widely felt.
  • The age of Romanticism and Transcendentalism was by and large over. Meanwhile younger writers appeared on the scene, such as William Dean Howells, Henry James, Mark Twain, and so on, which means the coming of new literary age, American realism.
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What is American realism?
  • As a literary movement realism came in the latter half of the nineteenth century as a reaction against “the lie” of romanticism and sentimentalism. It expressed the concern for the world of experience, of the commonplace, and for the familiar and the low.
  • The American realists advocated “verisimilitude of detail derived from observation,” the effort to approach the norm of experience —— a reliance on the representative in plot, setting, and character, and to offer an objective rather than an idealized view of human nature and experience.
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The schools of American Realism:
  • Frontier Humor
  • Midwestern realism
  • Cosmopolitan Novelist
  • Regionalism (local color)
  • Naturalism
  • The Chicago School of poets
  • The rise of black American literature
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II. Frontier Humor

  • It is the vital and exuberant literature that was generated by the westward expansion of the United States in the late 18th and the 19th centuries.
  • The spontaneity, sense of fun, exaggeration, fierce individuality, and irreverence for traditional Eastern values in frontier humor reflect the optimistic spirit of pre-Civil War America.
  • Frontier humor appears mainly in tall tales of exaggerated feats of strength, rough practical jokes (especially on sophisticated Easterners and greenhorns), and tales of encounters with panthers, bears, and snakes. These tales are filled with rough, homely wisdom.
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III. Midwestern Realism

  • It just refers to William Dean Howells’s realism because he came from the American midwest and carefully interweaved the life and emotions of ordinary middle-class there in his works.
  • Also because he was the champion of realism, having helped to publish many realistic local color writings by Bret Harte, Mark Twain, George Washington Cable, and others.
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About the author:
  • Howells, the second son of eight children, had little formal education. Working as a typesetter and a printer's apprentice, he educated himself through intensive reading and the study of Spanish, French, Latin, and German.
  • His campaign biography for Abraham Lincoln earned him enough money to travel to New England and meet the great literary figures of the day, and the post of U. S. Consul to Venice from 1861 to 1865.
  • As editor and critic Howells was generous in constructive and sympathetic reviews, helping younger and more radical writers to get a hearing by encouraging many others from Henry James to Bret Harte and Frank Norris to Mark Twain.
  • He was, for several decades, the dean of his country’s literature and became the first president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1907.
  • He supported socialism and opposed American imperialism.
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His literary-aesthetic ideas:
  • He defines realism as “fidelity to experience and probability of motive”, as a quest of the average and the habitual rather than the exceptional or the uniquely high or low.
  • To him realism is not mere photographic pictures of externals but includes a central concern with motives and psychological conflicts. So the main line of development in the novel is not from Dickens and Thackeray but from the psychological analysis of Hawthorne and George Eliot to James.
  • In his eyes truth is the highest beauty, but truth includes the view that morality penetrates all things.
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A free and simple design where event follows event without the fettering control of intrigue, but where all grows naturally out of character and conditions, is the supreme form of fiction.

Writers should winnow tradition and write in keeping with current humanitarian ideals.

The literary critic should not try to impose arbitrary or subjective evaluations on books but should follow the detached scientist in accurate description, interpretation, and classification.

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His Works:
  • Although he wrote over a hundred books in various genres, including novels, poems, literary criticism, plays, memoirs, and travel narratives, Howells is best known today for his realistic fiction, including
  • A Modern Instance (1881), on the then-new topic of the social consequences of divorce
  • The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), his best-known work and one of the first novels to study the American businessman
  • A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890), an exploration of cosmopolitan life in New York City as seen through the eyes of Basil and Isabel March, the protagonists of Their Wedding Journey (1871) and other works.
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His masterpiece:The Rise of Silas Lapham
  • A fine specimen of American realistic writing. There is nothing heroic, dramatic or extraordinary. Howells is here so devoted to the small, the trivial, and the commonplace.
  • He has always emphasized on ethics. He stresses the need for sympathy and moral integrity, and the need for different social classes to harmoniously adapt to their environment and to one another.
  • Howells did not approve of competitive economic individualism. He was convinced that laissez-faire competition had proved the rapacity of man .
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IV. Cosmopolitan Novelist

  • Henry James ‘s fame rested largely upon his handling of his major fictional theme, the international theme, that is the meeting of America and Europe, American innocence in contact and contrast with cosmopolitan European decadence, and the moral and psychological complications arising therefrom. So he was called the cosmopolitan novelist.
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Henry James

(1843 - 1916)

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Brief account of his life:
  • He was born into a wealthy cultured family of New England. His father was an eminent philosopher and reformer, and his brother, William James, was to e the famous philosopher and psychologist.
  • Most of his life he settled down in Europe except of some visits to America. In 1915 he became the naturalized British citizen. He was not married but once loved his attractive cousin who died young.
  • A voluminous writer, he was influenced by some English, European and American writers. One American author who exerted a measure of influence on James is Hawthorne whose insight into the human psyche impressed the younger writer deeply.
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His creative life
  • The first period(1865-1882). The works in this period reveal James’ fascination with his “international theme”
  • The American
  • Daisy Miller
  • The Portrait of a Lady
  • The second period (1882-1895). During this time he focuses on tales and plays, but most of them prove a failure.
  • The last one(1895-1909)
  • A few novellas and tales dealing with childhood and adolescence.
  • In the major phase of his career he returned to his old ground. He completed his trilogies (the summit of his art): The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowl
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His literary-aesthetic ideas(see his The Art of Fiction)
  • Art must be related to life. It must be life transformed and changed so that the art form would give the truthful impression of actuality.
  • Though closely related to life, art is important in its own way. It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance.
  • He was concerned with point of view which is at the center of his aesthetic of the novel.
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His political-social ideas and attitudes:
  • The spokesman of the wealthy.
  • Be conservative toward overzealous reformers(the similar way of Hawthorne)
  • But he was critical of U.S. imperialist behavior and American’s obsession with business, its extremes of wealth and poverty, its lack of culture and sophistication.
  • Like Hawthorne, James regarded evil as essentially of inward cause and cure, advocated free willed renunciation of the low or mean, and repeatedly emphasized magnanimity and the beauty of goodness.
homework
Homework:
  • Please read Mark Twin’s masterpiece The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and introduce it’s major themes to the class.
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Lecture Seven

The American Realism

(II)

(1865 - 1918)

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IV. Regionalism (local color writing)

  • The concept:
  • The style of writing derived from the presentation of the features and peculiarities of a particular locality and its inhabitants. Simply it means The use of regional detail in a literary or artistic work. The name is given especially to a kind of American literature that in its most characteristic form made its appearance just after the Civil War and for nearly three decades was the single most popular form of American literature.
  • Following in the footsteps of the pre-war "sectional humorists," local colorists were interested in realistically depicting life in different sections of the United States in order to promote understanding and unification.
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Fiction writers like Sarah Orne Jewett, Bret Harte, O. Henry, and Mark Twain have been identified within this tradition.
  • By the 1930s, the local color style had spread beyond the bounds of novels and short stories into less formal territory like the "hometown material" section of local newspapers. Local color writing had always been premised on an informal approach and rejection of high-culture concerns. Now it entered mass media.
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His Life:
  • Clemens was born on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri, of a Virginian family. He was brought up in Hannibal, Missouri. After his father's death in 1847, he was apprenticed to a printer and wrote for his brother's newspaper. He later worked as a licensed Mississippi river-boat pilot. The Civil War put an end to the steamboat traffic and Clemens moved to Virginia City, where he edited the Territorial Enterprise. On February 3, 1863, 'Mark Twain' was born when Clemens signed a humorous travel account with that pseudonym.
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In 1864 Twain left for California, and worked in San Francisco as a reporter. He visited Hawaii as a correspondent for The Sacramento Union, publishing letters on his trip and giving lectures. He set out on a world tour, traveling in France and Italy. His experiences were recorded in 1869 in The Innocents Abroad, which gained him wide popularity, and poked fun at both American and European prejudices and manners.
  • The success as a writer gave Twain enough financial security to marry Olivia Langdon in 1870. They moved next year to Hartford. Twain continued to lecture in the United States and England. Between 1876 and 1884 he published several masterpieces, Tom Sawyer (1881) and The Prince And The Pauper (1881). Life On The Mississippi appeared in 1883 and Huckleberry Finn in 1884.
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In the 1890s Twain lost most of his earnings in financial speculations and in the failure of his own publishing firm. To recover from the bankruptcy, he started a world lecture tour, during which one of his daughters died. Twain toured New Zealand, Australia, India, and South Africa. He wrote such books as The Tragedy Of Pudd'head Wilson (1884), Personal Recollections Of Joan Of Arc (1885), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) and the travel book Following The Equator (1897). During his long writing career, Twain also produced a considerable number of essays.
  • The death of his wife and his second daughter darkened the author's later years, which is seen in his posthumously published autobiography (1924). Twain died on April 21, 1910.
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His Works:
  • The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches (1867)
  • The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873)
  • Mark Twain's Sketches: New and Old (1876)
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
  • The Prince and the Pauper (1881)
  • Life on the Mississippi (1883)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)
  • The 1,000,000 Pound Bank-Note, and Other New Stories (1893)
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His masterpiece: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Much of the book is concerned with Huck’s inner struggle between this sense of guilt in helping Jim to escape and his profound conviction that Jim is a human being.
  • The book is written in the colloquial style, in the general standard speech of uneducated Americans.
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1. Plot Summary-
  • Huck lives with Miss Watson who is trying to civilize him. He and Tom Sawyer become friends with her slave Jim. Huck's drunk father returns to try and take Huck back, but Huck fakes his own murder and runs away with Jim to a nearby island. Jim and Huck discover a raft, which they make their new home and set out to sail down the Mississippi River where they will both be free. Jim and Huck travel by night to avoid being caught, and sleep out in the woods during the day time. During the journey, Huck and Jim's friendship grows considerably, and the two become like family. Huck and Jim are separated when their raft hits a steamboat and Huck goes ashore to stay with a family, the Grangerford's. Huck soon becomes involved in their ongoing feud and leaves when several family members are killed. Huck also plays with the concept of morality and debates over the question of whether to turn Jim in or risk being shunned by society if he is caught with a runaway.
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The Duke and the King soon join Huck and Jim on the raft, and the four scam several cities out of money by performing plays and circuses. They stay at the Wilkes' house where they steal money from a family of girls whose father just died, by pretending to be their uncles. Huck eventually confesses to the girls, and abandons the Duke and the King when they try to sell Jim.
  • Eventually Huck winds up at Aunt Sally's house and pretends to be Tom Sawyer, who they are expecting. He soon learns that she is keeping Jim hostage until his master comes to get him, and tries to think of a way to free his friend. When the real Tom comes to Aunt Sally's, the two form an intricate plan involving ransom notes and digging holes in order to free Jim. When the plan is activated, Huck and Tom are caught by angry townspeople and are forced to confess their identity and reason for disturbing the slave. Huck learns that Miss Watson set Jim free in her will, and he is no longer a slave. Huck plans to escape being civilized once more, and suggests that he will flee to live in Indian territory.
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2. Major Themes
  • Maturity: Huck is forced to take care of himself because he has no parents. Although he is a young boy, he faces many problems that adults struggle with, and is forced to deal with them maturely.
  • Friendship: Huck never really had any true friend before Jim, but the time spent with him allowed the two to become very close.
  • Legality vs. Morality: Huck faces the question of whether he should obey the law and turn in Jim, or if he should risk a bad reputation and keep his friend happy.
  • Love: Jim loves Huck and he has been a true friend and been through many tough situations. Huck learns to love through his friendship with Jim, who is devoted and willing to do anything for Huck.
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Racism: The novel is set in the South. Blacks are slaves with no legal rights and are faced with high degrees of discrimination. Their status is lower than that of a white person, and Huck grows up debating that reality. It is a barrier at first between himself and Jim, which they eventually realize and overcome.
  • Freedom : Literally, Jim seeks freedom from slavery. Figuratively, Huck seeks to be free, and not have to live in fear of his father, or being civilized.
  • Lessons: Huck learns that although society has taught him to regard blacks as inferior, he should listen to his own opinion, even if it means sacrificing his reputation and being labeled. He realized this when he befriended Jim and went out of his way to secure Jim's freedom, by risking his own safety and name.
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Morals: Huck also learned that although people in his life may have hurt him, he is able to be loved and to love back. He learns this when his friendship with Jim evolves, and they become like family. Huck is able to love Jim back, and is willing to help him escape slave if it will attain happiness.
  • Applications: Huck realizes that Tom's intricate plans for solving problems sometimes are fun, but are not usually the best answers. Huck is a more realistic character and understands that effort and efficiency are better than confusion and complication. He depicts this when Tom's plan to free Jim becomes involved and eventually backfires. Huck's plan at the beginning was more reasonable, but he used Tom's plan instead.
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Conflict between civilization and "natural life": The primary theme of the novel is the conflict between civilization and "natural life." Huck represents natural life through his freedom of spirit, uncivilized ways, and desire to escape from civilization. He was raised without any rules or discipline and has a strong resistance to anything that might "sivilize" him. This conflict is introduced in the first chapter through the efforts of the Widow Douglas: she tries to force Huck to wear new clothes, give up smoking, and learn the Bible. Throughout the novel, Twain seems to suggest that the uncivilized way of life is more desirable and morally superior. Drawing on the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Twain suggests that civilization corrupts, rather than improves, human beings.
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Honor: The theme of honor permeates the novel after first being introduced in the second chapter, where Tom Sawyer expresses his belief that there is a great deal of honor associated with thieving. Robbery appears throughout the novel, specifically when Huck and Jim encounter robbers on the shipwrecked boat and are forced to put up with the King and Dauphin, both of whom "rob" everyone they meet. Tom's original robber band is paralleled later in the novel when Tom and Huck become true thieves, but honorable ones, at the end of the novel. They resolve to steal Jim, freeing him from the bonds of slavery, which is an honorable act. Thus, the concept of honor and acting to earn it becomes a central theme in Huck’s adventures.
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Food: Food plays a prominent role in the novel. In Huck’s childhood, he often fights pigs for food, and eats out of "a barrel of odds and ends." Thus, providing Huck with food becomes a symbol of people caring for and protecting him. For example, in the first chapter, the Widow Douglas feeds Huck, and later on Jim becomes his symbolic caretaker, feeding and watching over him on Jackson's Island. Food is again discussed fairly prominently when Huck lives with the Grangerford's and the Wilks's.
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Mockery of Religion: A theme Twain focuses on quite heavily on in this novel is the mockery of religion. Throughout his life, Twain was known for his attacks on organized religion. Huck Finn’s sarcastic character perfectly situates him to deride religion, representing Twain’s personal views. In the first chapter, Huck indicates that hell sounds far more fun than heaven. Later on, in a very prominent scene, the "King", a liar and cheat, convinces a religious community to give him money so he can "convert" his pirate friends. The religious people are easily led astray, which mocks their beliefs and devotion to God.
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Superstition: Superstition appears throughout the novel. Generally, both Huck and Jim are very rational characters, yet when they encounter anything slightly superstitious, irrationality takes over. The power superstition holds over the two demonstrates that Huck and Jim are child-like despite their apparent maturity. In addition, superstition foreshadows the plot at several key junctions. For instance, when Huck spills salt, Pap returns, and when Huck touches a snakeskin with his bare hands, a rattlesnake bites Jim.
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Money: The concept of wealth or lack thereof is threaded throughout the novel, and highlights the disparity between the rich and poor. Twain purposely begins the novel by pointing out that Huck has over six thousand dollars to his name; a sum of money that dwarfs all the other sums mentioned, making them seem inconsequential in contrast. Huck demonstrates a relaxed attitude towards wealth, and because he has so much of it, does not view money as a necessity, but rather as a luxury. Huck's views regarding wealth clearly contrast with Jim’s. For Jim, who is on a quest to buy his family out of slavery, money is equivalent to freedom. In addition, wealth would allow him to raise his status in society. Thus, Jim is on a constant quest for wealth, whereas Huck remains apathetic.
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Slavery: The theme of slavery is perhaps the most well known aspect of this novel. Since it’s first publication, Twain’s perspective on slavery and ideas surrounding racism have been hotly debated. In his personal and public life, Twain was vehemently anti-slavery. Considering this information, it is easy to see that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn provides an allegory to explain how and why slavery is wrong. Twain uses Jim, a main character and a slave, to demonstrate the humanity of slaves. Jim expresses the complicated human emotions and struggles with the path of his life. To prevent being sold and forced to separate from his family, Jim runs away from his owner, Miss Watson, and works towards obtaining freedom so he can buy his family’s freedom. All along their journey downriver, Jim cares for and protects of Huck, not as a servant, but as a friend. Thus, Twain's encourages the reader to feel sympathy and empathy for Jim and outrage at the society that has enslaved him and threatened his life.
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However, although Twain attacks slavery through is portrayal of Jim, he never directly addresses the issue. Huck and Jim never debate slavery, and all the other slaves in the novel are very minor characters. Only in the final section of the novel does Twain develop the central conflict concerning slavery: should Huck free Jim and then be condemned to hell? This decision is life-altering for Huck, as it forces him to reject everything "civilization" has taught him. Huck chooses to free Jim, based on his personal experiences rather than social norms, thus choosing the morality of the “natural life” over that of civilization.
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Mississippi River:
  • The majority of the plot takes place on the river or its banks. For Huck and Jim, the river represents freedom. On the raft, they are completely independent and determine their own courses of action. Jim looks forward to reaching the free states, and Huck is eager to escape his abusive, drunkard of a father and the “civilization” of Miss Watson. However, the towns along the river bank begin to exert influence upon them, and eventually Huck and Jim meet criminals, shipwrecks, dishonesty, and great danger. Finally, a fog forces them to miss the town of Cairo, at which point there were planning to head up the Ohio River, towards the free states, in a steamboat.
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Originally, the river is a safe place for the two travelers, but it becomes increasingly dangerous as the realities of their runaway lives set in on Huck and Jim. Once reflective of absolute freedom, the river soon becomes only a short-term escape, and the novel concludes on the safety of dry land, where, ironically, Huck and Jim find their true freedom.
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His contributions and achievement :
  • Mark Twain, pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, is a very famous humorist, whose best work is characterized by broad, often irreverent humor or biting social satire. His writing is also known for realism of place and language, memorable characters, and hatred of hypocrisy and oppression.
  • One of his significant contributions to American literature lies in the fact that he made colloquial speech an accepted, respectable literary medium in the literary history of the country.
  • In social criticism he loved life, people, freedom and justice, felt a pride on human dignity and advocated brotherhood of man. He hated tyranny and iniquity, despised meanness and cruelty, and took his role as a social critic in a serious and responsible manner.
  • He was not indifferent either to the Chinese immigrants persecuted in America or to a China suffering intense agonies of humiliation and dismemberment by imperialist powers.
homework1
Homework:
  • Analyze MT’s short story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County on page 68 of the text book.
  • What’s your impression after reading the short story.
  • Hand in your exercise books next Wednesday.
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Lecture Eight

The American Realism

(III)

(1865 - 1918)

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VI. Naturalism and Muckraking

  • The reasons on the coming of American Naturalism:
  • Industrialism produced financial giants, but at the same time created an industrial proletariat entirely at the mercy of external forces beyond their control. Slums appeared in great numbers where conditions became steadily worse.
  • New ideas about man and man’s place in the universe began to take root in America. Living in a cold, indifferent, and essentially Godless world, man was no longer free in any sense of the word. Darwinian concepts like “the survival of the fittest” and “the human beast” became popular catchwords and standards of moral reference in an amoral world.
  • French naturalism, with its new technique and new way of writing, appealed to the imagination of the younger generation.
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The main characteristics of naturalism:
  • The writers of naturalism tore the mask of gentility to pieces and wrote about the helplessness of man, his insignificance in a cold world, and his lack of dignity in face of the crushing forces of environment and heredity.In their works there is a desire to assert one’s human identity, to define oneself against the social and natural forces one confronts
  • They reported truthfully and objectively, with a passion for scientific accuracy and an overwhelming accumulation of factual detail.
  • The major representatives of American naturalists include Jack London, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser and so on.
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Muckraking:
  • In dictionary:
  • Finding and publishing stories, perhaps using underhand methods, that expose misconduct, corruption, hypocrisy, or the like.
  • Publishing (perhaps invented) stories that give salacious details of peoples’ private lives
  • In literature:
  • Muckraking is applied to American journalists, novelists, and critics who in the first decade of the 20th century attempted to expose the abuses of business and the corruption in politics.
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Muckraking novels used eye-catching journalistic techniques to depict harsh working conditions and oppressions. Norris’s Octopus (1901) exposed big railroad companies while Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) painted the squalor of the Chicago meat-packing houses, and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, emphasizes the quiet poverty, loneliness, and despair in small-town America.
  • The muckraking movement lost support in about 1912. Historians agree that if it had not been for the revelations of the muckrakers the Progressive movement would not have received the popular support needed for effective reform.
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About the author:
  • It is believed that London is an illegitimate child, who passed his childhood in poverty in the Oakland slums. He had little formal schooling, but was an avid reader, educating himself at public libraries.
  • At the age of 17, he ventured to sea on a sealing ship and from then on to voyages on ship became one of his favorites and material for his later writing.
  • In his teens, he joined Coxey’s Army in its famous march on Washington, D.C., and was later arrested for vagrancy. The turning point of his life was a thirty-day imprisonment that was so degrading it made him decide to turn to education and pursue a career in writing.
  • His years in the Klondike a Gold Prospector (from 1897-1898 ) had to be ended because of his poor health, which would provide abundant material for his future novels and stories .
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Upon his return to Oakland, California, he could not find steady work. In desperation, he decided to dive into writing, launching his writing career.
  • Jack married two times in his life. The first wife is his math tutor and the second one his secretary.
  • From 1905 to 1913, London set up his own “Beauty Ranch” totaling 1,400 acres bought. At Beauty Ranch, he raised many animals such as prize bulls, horses, and pigs and cultivated a wide variety of crops, fully enjoying the life of a rancher.
  • By his death at age forty on November 22, 1916, Jack had been plagued for years by a vast number of health problems, including stomach disturbances, ravaging uremia, and failing kidneys.
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His masterpiece:
  • Many people argue as to what London's masterpiece was. Some say The Call of the Wild, others say The Sea Wolf, and still others say Martin Eden.

The Call of the Wild is thrilling adventure story set in the Yukon frontier, telling the gripping tale of a dog named Buck who is wrenched out of his life of ease and luxury to become a sled dog in Alaska. Drawing on his wolf heritage, Buck must fight for survival in an alien environment, experiencing both the cruelty of man and the freedom of the wild.

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The Sea-Wolf was based on his experiences at sea. When fate lands Humphrey Van Weyden on board the Ghost, a sealing schooner bound for Japan, little does he know of the weeks of brutality which lie ahead. Captain Wolf Larsen is feared and despised by all on board, and only the chance arrival of Maud Brewster spurs Van Weyden into action in a desperate attempt to free them both from the terrifying power of the Sea-Wolf. This work embraced the concepts of unconfined individualism and Darwinism in its exploration of the laws of nature. London portrays a version of the Nietzschean superman in schooner captain Wolf Larsen, one of the most memorable characters in American literature.
  • Martin Eden. One of London's most important books is this semi-autobiographical account of a young sailor who struggles to improve himself and achieves eventual success as a writer, but grows disenchanted with fame and wealth. It represents both an indictment of the American dream and an important reflection on London's own background and career.
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Evaluation on him:
  • Jack London, whose life symbolized the power of will, was the most successful writer in America in the early 20th Century. His vigorous stories of men and animals against the environment, and survival against hardships were drawn mainly from his own experience.
  • In fact, he was a prolific writer whose fiction explored three geographies and their cultures: the Yukon, California, and the South Pacific. He left over fifty books of novels, stories, journalism, and essays, many of which have been translated and continue to be read around the world.
  • He experimented with many literary forms, from conventional love stories and dystopias to science fantasy. His noted journalism included war correspondence, boxing stories, and the life of Molokai lepers.
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A committed socialist, he insisted against editorial pressures to write political essays and insert social criticism in his fiction.
  • He was among the most influential figures of his day, who understood how to create a public persona and use the media to market his self-created image of poor-boy-turned-success.
  • London's great passion was agriculture, and he was well on the way of creating a new model for ranching through his Beauty Ranch when he died of kidney disease at age 40.
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About the author:
  • Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1881, as the 14th child of a cultural family. Both of his parents did some writing and two of his brothers became newspapermen.
  • Crane started to write stories at the age of eight; at 16 he was writing articles for the New York Tribune.
  • Crane studied at Lafayette College and Syracuse University. After his mother's death in 1890- his father had died earlier-Crane moved to New York. He worked as a free-lance writer and journalist for the Bachellor-Johnson newspaper syndicate. While supporting himself by his writings, he lived among the poor in the Bowery slums to research his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893)
  • In 1895 the publication of The Red Badge of Courage and of his first book of poems, The Black Riders, brought him international fame.
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His reputation as a war writer, his desire to see if he had guessed right about the psychology of combat, and his fascination with death and danger sent him to Greece and then to Cuba as a war correspondent.
  • His first attempt in 1897 to report on the insurrection in Cuba ended in near disaster; the ship sank, and Crane--reported drowned--finally rowed into shore in a dinghy with the captain. The result was one of the world's great short stories, The Open Boat. His others are The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky, and The Blue Hotel.
  • In 1898 Crane settled in Sussex, England. On June 5, 1900 in Germany he died of tuberculosis, which was worsened by malarial fever he had caught in Cuba.
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His Major Works:
  • Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
  • About the story: It is the harrowing story of a poor sensitive young girl whose uneducated alcoholic parents utterly fail her. In love and eager to escape her violent home life, she allows herself to be seduced into living with a young man, who soon deserts her. When her self-righteous mother rejects her, Maggie becomes a prostitute to survive, but soon commits suicide out of despair.
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The Red Badge of Courage.
  • About the story:
  • The story is set during the American Civil War. Henry Fleming enrolls as a soldier in the Union army. He has dreamed of battles and glory all his life, but his expectations are shattered in his encounter with the enemy when he witnesses the chaos on the battle field and starts to fear that the regiment was leaving him behind. He flees from the battle.
  • Later he returns to the lines and feels sore and stiff from his experiences. In the heat of the battle, he picks up the regiment's flag with his friend when it falls from the color sergeant's hands. Following the conventions of a bildungsroman, Henry has matured after the final battle and he understands better his strengths and weaknesses.
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Relevant Evaluation:
  • Itdepicted the American Civil War from the point of view of an ordinary soldier and has been called the first modern war novel.
  • It reveals the basic theme of the animal man in a cold, manipulating world. Here Crane is looking into man’s primitive emotions and trying to tell the elemental truth about human life.
  • War shown in the novel is a plain slaughter-house. There is nothing like valor or heroism on the battlefield, and if there anything, it is fear of death, cowardice, the natural instinct of man to run from danger.
  • By thus un-romanticizing war and heroism, Crane initiated the modern tradition of telling the truth at all costs about the elemental human situation, and writing about war as a real human experience. So this was an event of a revolutionary nature both in theme and technique.
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Evaluation on him:
  • Crane was a pioneer writing in the naturalistic tradition. His writings gave the whole esthetic movement of the nineties a sudden direction and a fresh impulse.
  • Crane was also a pioneer in the field of modern poetry. His early poems, brief, quotable, with their unrhymed, unorthodox conciseness and impressionistic imagery, was to exert a significant influence on modern poetry: As a matter of a fact, he is now recognized as one of the two precursors of Imagist poetry, the other being Emily Dickinson.
  • His basic motif is about environment and heredity overwhelming man.
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Crane’s fictional world is a naturalistic one in which man is deprived of free will and expects no help from any quarter whatever.
  • The secret of Crane's success as war correspondent, journalist, novelist, short-storywriter, and poet lay in his achieving tensions between irony and pity, illusion and reality, or the double mood of hope contradicted by despair. He was a great stylist and a master of the contradictory effect.
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I.About the author:
  • Benjamin Franklin Norris, 1870–1902, American novelist, b. Chicago. After studying in Paris, at the Univ. of California (1890–94), and Harvard, he wrote McTeague (1899), a proletarian novel influenced by the experimental naturalism of Zola. His most impressive work was his proposed trilogy, “The Epic of Wheat,” of which only two parts were written—The Octopus (1901), depicting the brutal struggle between the wheat farmers and the railroad, and The Pit (1903), dealing with speculation on the Chicago grain market, and The third part, The Wolf, was never written.
  • Norris spent several years as a war correspondent in South Africa (1895–96) and Cuba (1898).
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His masterpiece: The Octopus
  • It illustrates how social and economic conditions ruined the lives of innocent, powerless people.
  • The railroad reached out its millions of tentacles , coiling round the throats of the farmers who had no alternative but to choose between leaving their crops to rot and carting them out through the railroad at a capriciously exorbitant freight rate, in either case ending up in bankruptcy and destruction; and what is worse, the railroad raises the price of the land, which it has rented for the people so that all the farmers and the poor in general face stark destitution and ruin.
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Homework:
  • Search for Dreiser’s personal information and report to the class.
  • Read his masterpiece An American Strategy and report it’s plot summary and main themes to the class next time.
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Lecture Nine

The American Realism

(IV)

(1865 - 1918)

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I. About the author:
  • Theodore Dreiser was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1871. The ninth child of German immigrants, he experienced considerable poverty while a child and at the age of fifteen was forced to leave home in search of work.
  • After briefly attending Indiana University for one year (1889-90), he found work as a reporter on several newspapers. Later he moved to New York where he attempted to establish himself as a novelist.
  • After his first novel Sister Carrie was published in 1900 with the help of Frank Norris, Dreiser continued to work as a journalist and as well as writing for mainstream newspapers. His second novel Jennie Gerhardt was not published until 1911. This was followed by two novels The Financier (1912) and The Titan (1914). The Genius was published in 1915 but it was another ten years before Dreiser greatest novel,An American Tragedy (1925) appeared, which brought him a degree of critical and commercial success he had never before attained.
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As a socialist, Dreiser was invited to be present at the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution in Moscow in 1927. After returning to America in early 1928, he wrote several non-fiction books on political issues. This included Dreiser Looks at Russia (1928), Tragic America(1931) and America is Worth Saving (1941). Theodore Dreiser joined the American Communist Party just before he died in 1945.
  • Though his visit to the Soviet Union had left him skeptical about communism, the Great Depression (from 1929)caused him to reconsider his opposition. His autobiographical Dawn (1931) is one of the most candid self-revelations by any major writer.
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II. Works by Dreiser:
  • Sister Carrie(1900), the story of a kept woman whose behavior goes unpunished.
  • Jennie Gerhardt(1911)
  • His Cowperwood trilogy based on the life of the transportation magnate Charles T. Yerkes.
  • The Financier(1912)
  • The Titan(1914)
  • The Stoic(posthumously 1947)
  • The 'Genius' (1915), a sprawling semi-autobiographical chronicle of Dreiser's numerous love affairs, was censured by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. Its sequel, The Bulwark, appeared posthumously in 1946.
  • An American Tragedy(1925)
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III. His masterpiece: An American Tragedy(1925)
  • The Story:
  • The novel relates, in great detail, the life of Clyde Griffiths, a boy of weak will and little self-awareness. He grows up in great poverty in a family of wandering evangelists, but dreams of wealth and the love of beautiful women.
  • A rich uncle employs him in his factory. When his girlfriend Roberta becomes pregnant, she demands that he marry her. Mean while, Clyde has fallen in love with a wealthy society girl who represents success, money, and social acceptance. Clyde carefully plans to drown Roberta on a boat trip, but at the last minute he begins to change his mind; however, she accidentally falls out of the boat. Clyde, a good swimmer, does not save her, and she drowns. As Clyde is brought to justice, Dreiser replays his story in reverse, masterfully using the vantage points of prosecuting and defense attorneys to analyze each step and motive that led the mild mannered Clyde, with a highly religious background and good family connections, to commit murder.
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The relevant evaluation:
  • This novel explores the dangers of the American dream and displays crushing authority. Its precise details build up an overwhelming sense of tragic inevitability.
  • It is a scathing portrait of the American success myth gone sour, but it is also a universal story about the stresses of urbanization, modernization, and alienation. Within it roam the romantic and dangerous fantasies of the dispossessed.
  • An American Tragedy is a reflection of the dissatisfaction, envy, and despair that afflicted many poor and working people in America’s competitive, success-driven society. As American industrial power soared, the glittering lives of the wealthy sharply contrasted with the drab lives of ordinary farmers and city workers. The media fanned rising expectations and unreasonable desires.
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IV. Evaluation on him:
  • Dreiser has been a controversial figure in American literary history. His works are powerful in their portrayal of the changing American life, but his style is considered crude. He showed a new way of presenting reality and inspired the writers of the 1920s with courage and insight. It is in Dreiser’s works that American naturalism is said to have come of age.
  • He embraced social Darwinism. He learned to regard man as merely an animal driven by greed and lust in a struggle for existence in which only the fittest, the most ruthless, survive. Human tragedy comes as a result of the collision between man’s biological needs and society’s ruthless manipulation.
  • It is Dreiser’s announced intention to report the coarse and the vulgar and the cruel and the terrible in life in defiance of the genteel and evasive current literature with which he had absolutely no patience and sympathy.
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Dreiser’s writings reveal a tremendous vital lust for life with a conviction that man is the end and measure of all things in a world which is devoid of purpose and standards.
  • Although Dreiser’s novels are formless at times and awkwardly written and his characterization is found deficient and his prose pedestrian and dull, yet his very energy proves to be more than a compensation.
  • He is good at employing the journalistic method of reiteration to burn a central impression into the reader’s mind. His interest in painting is reflected in his taste for word-pictures, sharp contrast, truth in color, and movement in outline.
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1. The concept:
  • Three Midwestern poets who grew up in Illinois and shared the midwestern concern with ordinary people are Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, and Edgar Lee Masters. Their poetry often concerns obscure individuals; they developed techniques——realism, dramatic renderings —— that reached out to a larger readership.
  • They are part of Midwestern, or Chicago, School that arose before World War I to challenge the East Coast literary establishment.
  • The “Chicago Renaissance” was a watershed in American culture; it demonstrated that America’s interior had matured.
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I. About the author:
  • Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, on January 6, 1878, as the son of poor Swedish immigrant parents. The Sandburgs were very poor; Carl left school at the age of thirteen to work odd jobs, from laying bricks to dishwashing, to help support his family.
  • At seventeen, he traveled west to Kansas as a hobo. He then served eight months in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American war but saw no combat. Upon his return he entered Lombard college in Galesburg, studying the classics. During these years he started to write poetry and published his first book In Reckless Ecstasy (1904).
  • After college without degree, from 1902 to 1912 he ever did different kinds of jobs, as an advertising writer, journalist, traveler, labor organizer, secretary, editor and so on, and married a schoolteacher in 1908.
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Then he moved to Chicago, where Carl became an editorial writer for the Chicago Daily News. It was during this period that Sandburg was recognized as a member of the Chicago literary renaissance.
  • He established his reputation with Chicago Poems (1916), and then Cornhuskers (1918). Soon after the publication of these volumes Sandburg wrote Smoke and Steel (1920), his first prolonged attempt to find beauty in modern industrialism. With these three volumes, Sandburg became known for his free verse poems celebrating industrial and agricultural America, American geography and landscape, and the American common people in Whitmanesque style.
  • From the twenties, for thirty years he sought out and collected material, and gradually began the writing of the six-volume definitive biography of Abraham Lincoln.
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The twenties also saw Sandburg's collections of American folklore, the ballads, and the brief tours across America which Sandburg took each year, playing his banjo or guitar, singing folk-songs, and reciting poems.
  • In the 1930s, Sandburg continued his celebration of America with Mary Lincoln, Wife and Widow (1932), The People, Yes (1936), and the second part of his Lincoln biography, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1939), for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
  • He received a second Pulitzer Prize for his Complete Poems in 1950. His final volumes of verse were Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960) and Honey and Salt (1963). Carl Sandburg died in 1967.
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II. His masterpiece: Chicago (1914)
  • A fine example of his themes and his Whitmanesque style

Hog Butcher for the World

Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat

Player with Railroads and the

Nation’s Freight Handler;

Stormy, husky, brawling,

City of the Big Shoulders…

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II. Evaluation on him:
  • Poet, historian, biographer, novelist, musician, essayist, Sandburg was all of these and more. A journalist by profession, he wrote a massive biography of Abraham Lincoln that is one of the classic works of the 20th century.
  • To many, he was a latter-day Walt Whitman, writing expansive, evocative urban and patriotic poems and simple, childlike rhymes and ballads.
  • Carl Sandburg spent a lifetime exploring what it meant to be an American and asked the eternal questions, "Who am I,where am I going and where have I been?"He did this through poetry, song, lectures, writingand lasting friendships with kindred spirits.
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I. About the author: http://www.poemhunter.com/vachel-lindsay/biography/poet-6634/
  • Lindsay's life was dedicated to the arts and was consumed, in various ways, by travel. As a young man he studied art in Chicago and New York, and when later he turned to poetry as a career, he continued his dual commitment to drawing and poetry by illustrating many of his books.
  • With his family Vachel Lindsay was also able to travel in Europe and in China. In the summers of 1906, 1908, and 1912, Lindsay took walking tours from Florida to Kentucky, from New York City to Ohio, and from Illinois to New Mexico. On these tours he developed his own "rules of the road," stipulating chiefly that he barter for room and board by offering an evening's entertainment--reading his own poetry--or a half day's work the next morning.
  • After he became famous as a poet in 1914, much the rest of his life was spent traveling across the United States earning the greater part of his income by recitations of his poetry.
  • On 1931 December 5 Lindsay commited suicide, drinking a bottle of Lysol.
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Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, 1879–1931, American poet, b. Springfield, Ill., studied at Hiram College, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the New York School of Art. Lindsay made tours selling his poems and drawings, living as a modern-day troubadour. He was particularly effective when reading his own poems. His poetry at its best is virile and strong. It has a fine spoken music, often enhanced by jazz rhythms.
  • Volumes of his poetry include General William Booth Enters into Heaven (1913), The Congo (1914), The Chinese Nightingale (1917), and Collected Poems (1938). Lindsay was plagued by poverty and illness in his later years, and the quality of his poetry declined.
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The literary achievement of African-Americans was one of the most striking literary developments of the post-Civil War era. The roots of black American writing took hold, notably in the forms of autobiography, protest literature, sermons, poetry, and song. For example:
  • Booker T. Washington’s fine and simple autobiography, Up From Slavery (1901) recounts his successful struggle to better himself.
  • W. E. B. Du Bois’s landmark book The Souls of Black Folk (1903) helped black intellectuals rediscover their rich folk literature and music.
  • James Weldon Johnson explored the complex issue of race in his fictional Autobiography of an Ex- Colored Man (1912), about a mixed-race man who "passes" (is accepted) for white. The book effectively conveys the black American's concern with issues of identity in America.