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The Realism War

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Title: The Realism War


1
The Realism War
  • James, Twain, and Howells

2
Nineteenth-century Definitions of Romance
  • Romance focuses upon the extraordinary, the
    mysterious, the imaginary. Bliss Perry (1903)
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne the romance has fairly a
    right to present that truth under circumstances,
    to a great extent, of the writers own choosing
    or creation (Preface to The House of the Seven
    Gables)

3
Nineteenth-Century Definitions of Realism
  • Realism sets itself at work to consider
    characters and events which are apparently the
    most ordinary and uninteresting, in order to
    extract from these their full value and true
    meaning. In short, realism reveals. Where we
    thought nothing worth of notice, it shows
    everything to be rife with significance. George
    Parsons Lathrop, 'The Novel and its Future,"
    Atlantic Monthly 34 (September 1874) 313-24.

4
Nineteenth-Century Definitions of Realism,
continued
  • Realism, n. The art of depicting nature as it is
    seen by toads. The charm suffusing a landscape
    painted by a mole, or a story written by a
    measuring-worm. --Ambrose Bierce The Devil's
    Dictionary (1911)

5
Romance and Realism Taste and Class
  • Romance
  • Aspired to the ideal
  • Thought to be more genteel since it did not show
    the vulgar details of life
  • Realism
  • Thought to be more democratic
  • Critics stressed the potential for vulgarity and
    its emphasis on the commonplace
  • Potential poison for the pure of mind

6
W. D. Howells
  • Editor of the Atlantic Monthly, 1871-1881
  • Editors Study in Harpers New Monthly Magazine
    (January 1886- March 1892)
  • Criticism and Fiction (1891 collected from
    Editors Study columns)

7
Howellss Early Novels
  • Dr. Breens Practice (1881)
  • A Modern Instance (1882)
  • The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885)
  • April Hopes (1888)
  • Annie Kilburn (1889)

8
Howells on Realism
  • Realism is nothing more and nothing less than
    the truthful treatment of material --William
    Dean Howells, Editors Study, November 1889.

9
The Ideal Grasshopper
  • We hope the time is coming when not only the
    artist, but the common, average man . . . .will
    reject the ideal grasshopper wherever he finds it
    . . . Because it is not like a real grasshopper
    --W. D. Howells, 1887

10
The Smiling Aspects of Life
  • We invite our novelists, therefore, to concern
    themselves with the more smiling aspects of life,
    which are the more American, and to seek the
    universal in the individual rather than in the
    commonplace. W. D. Howells, 1886

11
Howells on James (Century 1882)
  • The art of fiction has, in fact, become a finer
    art in our day than it was with Dickens and
    Thackeray . . . . These great men are of the
    past.
  • The new school derives from Hawthorne and George
    Eliot rather than any others . . . . This school,
    which is so largely of the future as well as the
    present, finds its chief exemplar in Mr. James.

12
The Reaction
  • A Literary Combination.
  • Mr. H-w-lls Are you the tallest now, Mr. James?
  • Mr. J-mes (ignoring the question) Be so
    uncommonly kind, H-w-lls, as to let me down easy
    it may be we have both got to grow.

13
 Henry James and Realism
  • The Art of Fiction, 1884
  • Washington Square (1880)
  • The Portrait of a Lady (1881)
  • The Bostonians (1886)
  • The Princess Casamassima (1886)
  • The Aspern Papers (1888)
  • The Turn of the Screw (1898)

14
Mark Twain
  • Fenimore Coopers Literary Offenses North
    American Review, 1895
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884/5)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court
    (1890)
  • Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1895)

15
Defending Realism
  • W. D. Howells
  • Henry James
  • H. H. Boyesen, The Great Realists and the Empty
    Story-Tellers
  • Mark Twain
  • Hamlin Garland
  • Thomas Sergeant Perry
  • George Pellew

16
Attacking Realism
  • W. R. Thayer, The New Story-tellers and the Doom
    of Realism Forum 18 (December 1894) 470-80.
  • H. C. Vedder.
  • Maurice Thompson.

17
Attacking Realism (England)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • H. Rider Haggard
  • Andrew Lang

18
Attack on Howells I
  • H. C. Vedder. Can it be that Mr. Howells gives
    us in his books a fair representation of life as
    he has known it? Has his whole experience been
    of this stale, flat unprofitable sort?
  • Has he never known anybody who has a soul above
    buttons? American Writers of Today, 1894.

19
Attack on Howells II William Roscoe Thayer
  • French realism should be called Epidermism, not
    realism, because it reduces literature, art, and
    morals to anarchy.
  • The Rise of Silas Lapham was produced by
    Epidermist methods by an author who smacked his
    lips over Zolas filth.
  • Picture of Emile Zola.

20
Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  • Romance beside his unstrung lute,Lies stricken
    mute.The old-time fire, the antique grace,You
    will not find them anyplace,Polemic, scientific
    airWe strip Illusion of her veilWe vivisect
    the nightingaleTo probe the secret of his
    note.The Muse in alien ways remoteGoes
    wandering.

21
Maurice Thompson Realism As Disease.
  • Realists represent literary decadence and
    worship the vulgar, the commonplace, and the
    insignificant.
  • The best part of Howells is romance disguised as
    realism. His literary tissue is healthy, the
    spirit of his work is even, calm, just, and his
    purpose is pure, so he cannot be a realist.
  • Picture is Thomas Eakinss The Gross Clinic
    (1875).

22
Reaction Against Realism The Turn Toward
Romanticism
  • A large number of readers, who have wearied of
    minute descriptions of the commonplace, are
    to-day often found condemning an author who does
    not keep his hero in imminent danger of death
    through at least seventy-five percent of his
    pages. --John Kendrick Bangs, 1898

23
Howells to James, 1915
  • I am comparatively a dead cult with my statues
    cast down and the grass growing over them in the
    pale moonlight (Selected Letters 6 31).
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