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Realism 1860-1910


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Title: Realism 1860-1910

Realism 1860-1910
Where We Came FromPrevious Literary Movements
  • Literature of Puritanism Work Ethic
  • Literature of the Revolutionary Period
  • American Dream
  • The Melting Pot
  • Basic rights of man
  • Emergence of the Other (women, native people,
    African Americans)
  • Literary Nationalism 1800-1840
  • Nationalism (excessive pride)
  • Self identity
  • Self examination and criticism
  • Begins real American literature
  • Respected in Europe
  • Professional writers

  • Extraordinary people in extraordinary situations
  • Truth in absolutes
  • predicated on stereotypes
  • Stress on past (Greek Classical period)
  • Treats subjects emotionally
  • Celebration of artists
  • Probe to exaggeration
  • Nature glorified
  • Belief in afterlife
  • Authors
  • Literary Nationalism
  • Fireside Poets
  • Romantics

  • Truth communion with God in nature
  • Belief in individualism
  • Rejects institutions
  • Emphasis on simplicity
  • Importance of experience
  • "majority of one"
  • "self-reliance"
  • "man thinking
  • Non-conformity
  • language and style influenced by Romanticism
  • Authors
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry David Thoreau

  • Belief in the potential destructiveness of the
    human spirit
  • Belief in individual truths, but no universal
    truths, and the truths of existence are deceitful
    and disturbing
  • Evil is an active force in the universe
  • Focus on the mans uncertainty and limitations in
    the universe
  • Nature indifferent to mankind
  • Human nature hypocritical, apathetic
  • Authors
  • Herman Melville
  • Edgar Alan Poe
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne

What Comes Next?
  • If we accept the pendulum theory of history (that
    every period moves to its opposite extreme), what
    type of voice can you predict reacts to the
    Romantic Period?

The Agnew Clinic Thomas Eakins 1889
Washington Crossing the Delaware Emanuel Leutze
Sectionalism, Industrialism and Literary
  • In 1858, Abraham Lincoln had warned his
    countryman a house divided against itself cannot
  • Events in the dark winter of 1860-1861 would
    prove him correct
  • After Lincolns minority election to the
  • South Carolina would vote to secede from the
    Union in December 1860
  • Six other states of the Deep South quickly
    followed suit
  • When Confederate troops successfully attacked
    Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor , Virginia,
    Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina elected to
    join their fellows in defense of slavery and the
    sovereign principles of states rights

Cost of the Civil War
  • Cost of the Civil War
  • The Human Cost
  • 1,094,543 Casualties
  • The North lost one out of ten
  • 110,100 in battle
  • 224,580 to disease
  • The South lost one out of four
  • 94,000 in battle
  • 64,000 to disease
  • Two percent of US population died in the Civil
    War, with only WWII claiming more lives
  • Economic Cost
  • Estimated at 6.6 billion, which would be 165
    billion today

Historical Overview
  • While an older generation of historians tended to
    view the Civil War as the watershed of modern
    American nationalism (calling it the second
    American Revolution), more recent historians
    suggest that the real factors that determined the
    future of the nation were the facts that
  • The country was still badly fragmented after the
  • Congress did little to address this and other

Historic Overview
  • And even though the language of the Constitution
    itself was amended to affirm an expanded that
    is, colorblind definition of individual rights
    and liberties, meaningful implementation of that
    vision for African Americans would have to wait
    for almost another century

Historical Overview
  • At the same time, however, the war did unleash a
    range of social and economic forces that,
    eventually, would radically transform American
  • The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 set aside vast
    tracts of land in the West to finance the
    construction of a transcontinental railroad
  • The Homestead Act of 1862 enabled yeoman farmers
    to have cheaper access to government-held land
  • The Morril Act of 1862 established Federal
    support for agricultural colleges

Historical Overview
  • Mobilization for war on such an unprecedented
    scale also had unforeseen effect on American
  • The need to achieve organizational efficiency in
    both military and civilian branches of government
    gave rise to an almost wholly new group of
    managers able to transfer their increasingly
    professional skills to the business world after
    the war.

Historical Overview
  • As an example Keeping thousands of men in
    uniform required an entirely new approach to
    apparel manufacturing.
  • At the start of the war, when almost all of the
    troops came from volunteer contingents of various
    state militias, mothers, wives and daughters
    would have sewed individual uniforms at home.
  • Before long, however, the need for additional
    soldiers made the draft inevitable. The
    unprecedented demand for huge numbers of
    identical trousers, jackets, boots, and other
    mainstays of military regimentation sparked the
    rapid modernization of the clothing industry by
    introducing standard apparel sizes.
  • The federal government was the first consumer to
    make its purchases off the rack.
  • Take that Old Navy!

Historical Overview
  • These new concepts of scale, efficiency, and
    organizational complexity would eventually make
    possible what one influential historian referred
    to as the incorporation of American or the
    way we live now.
  • Politically, the goal of securing equal rights
    for freed slaves largely failed.
  • Likewise, failure to integrate the high-minded
    ideals of New England into effective public
    policy also proved a crucial turning point in
    Americas intellectual history

Historical Context
  • Indeed the period following the Civil War was
    marked by an affronting sense of the hard
    realities of life and the more sobering aspects
    of the human experience.
  • By the End of the Civil War
  • The Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment
    had abolished slavery
  • The industrial North had defeated the agrarian
  • Social order grew based on mass labor and mass
  • Steam power replaced water power
  • Machines replaced hand labor
  • Extreme contrast between the rich and poor (the
    Gilded Age)
  • The Industrial Revolution had begun

Historic Overview
  • Migration westward expanded the U.S. from the
    Atlantic to the Pacific
  • Native American populations displaced and
  • Growth of Industry
  • Steelmaking, the nations dominant industry
  • Alternating electrical current (1886)
  • American petroleum industry begins
  • Growth of population
  • Total population doubled from 1870 to 1890
  • National income quadrupled
  • Gap between rich and poor widened

Historic Overview
  • The Effects of the Industrial Revolution
  • Migration from rural to urban areas
  • Independent, skilled workers replaced by
    semi-skilled laborers
  • Large corporations were established, devaluing
    the personal relationship between management and
    workers or company and customers.
  • Mass Communication and Migration
  • Coast-to-coast communication
  • Pony Express (1860)10 days
  • Telegraph (1861)just seconds to communicate
    across country
  • Transatlantic telegraph cable (1866) allowed
    instant communication with Europe
  • Telephone patented (1867)
  • By 1900, 1.3 million telephones in U.S.
  • Coast-to-coast travel
  • Transcontinental Railroad (1869)
  • By 1889, coast-to-coast travel4 days
  • Citizens witnessed the entirety of there country
    and grew
  • curious for more

Photography and Realism
  • The invention ignited an artistic and scientific
  • Best portrait makers could bring out the very
    human essence of a subject
  • The advantages of photography immediacy,
    reliable representation, low cost, etc
  • Massive social changes reflected in literature
  • 1861-65 - Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner honest
    photographic record of the Civil War.
  • Photography, like literary Realism and
    Regionalism showed TRUTH.

Historic Overview
  • Intellectual Revolution Changes in Thinking
    brought about by Changes in Society
  • Changes in science
  • Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species
  • Changes in psychology
  • Sigmund Freud - unconscious system of ideas that
    governs human reactions and response
  • Changes in philosophy
  • Karl Marx - human history as the result of class
    struggles (The Communist Manifesto)
  • William James American pragmatism truth is
  • tested by its usefulness or practical
  • a commodity accessible on the surface of things
  • perceptible to the senses and verifiable through

Historical Overview
  • During this period, Americas literary traditions
    also shifted. By the time Lee surrendered at
    Appomattox, his armys ranks were severely
    depleted, and the same was true of the roll call
    of American authorship. Washington Irving, Henry
    David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne had died.
    Herman Melville was in professional exile and
    Ralph Waldo Emerson had published his last book.
  • The nation now looked to new literary voices
    whose accents were not always so comforting. The
    cultural supremacy of New England, so long taken
    for granted was now open to challenge.

Historical Overview
  • In essence
  • The experience of war had expanded American
    awareness of its boundaries, physical, emotional,
    and spiritual.
  • The world of the naive, innocent, optimistic, and
    contained past appeared hopelessly outdated and
    absurdly idealistic.
  • America enters adulthood Realism is born

  • Nothing more and nothing less than the truthful
    treatment of material.
  • William Dean Howells

Historical Overview Realism
  • As the novelist Henry James had occasion to
    observe in 1879, the Civil War marks an era in
    the history of the American mind. It introduced
    into the national consciousness a certain sense
    of proportion and relation, of the world being a
    more complicated place than it had hitherto
    seemed, the future more treacherous, success more
    difficult. At the rate at which things are
    going, it is obvious that good Americans will be
    more numerous than ever but the good American,
    in the days to come, will be a more critical
    person than his complacent and confident
    grandfather. He has eaten of the tree of

A Powerful Reaction Against Romanticism
  • The Civil War and the social, political, and
    cultural events following the war created an
    environment that demanded a literary voice that
    honored that experience. Romanticism with his
    dreamy, optimistic, and highly emotional emphasis
    proved false in light of the turmoil of the
  • This voice would serve as a reaction against
  • rejected heroic, adventurous, or unfamiliar
  • Note the unmistakable mocking treatment of
    Romantic ideals - Emmeline, Tom, and the
    traditions of the South in The Adventures of
    Huckleberry Finn)
  • Authors sought to portray life as they saw it,
    insisting that the ordinary and local were just
    as suitable for art as the sublime.

Nothing more and nothing less than the truthful
treatment of material. William Dean Howells
From these social changes come two literary
  • Realism,
  • first begun as the local color movement
  • Includes regionalism
  • The tall tale
  • Naturalism
  • Realism
  • Denotation a literary movement that developed
    towards the end of the Civil War and stressed
    the actual (reality) as opposed to the imagined
    or fanciful
  • Begins in France, as realisme, a literary
    doctrine calling for reality and truth in the
    depiction of ordinary life.
  • Grounded in the belief that there is an objective
    reality which can be portrayed with truth and
    accuracy as the goal
  • The writer does not select facts in accord with
    preconceived ideals, but rather sets down
    observations impartially and objectively.

Characteristics of Realism
  • Subject matterordinary people and events
  • PurposeVerisimilitude, the truthful
    representation of life
  • Point of Viewomniscient and objective
  • Charactersmiddle class, psychological realism
  • Class is important the novel has traditionally
    served the interests and aspirations of an
    insurgent middle class.
  • Diction is natural vernacular, not heightened or
    poetic tone may be comic, satiric, or
  • Focus away from New England and other
    intellectual centers and out to the Midwest and
    West (regionalism)
  • Plot de-emphasized
  • Focus on everyday life
  • Complex ethical choices often the subject
  • (I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide,
    forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.)
  • Events are made to seem the inevitable result of
    characters choices
  • (Aunt Sally shes going to adopt me and sivilize
    me, and I cant stand it. I been there before. )

Characteristics of Realism, cont...
  • Subject matter drawn from our experience the
    common, the ordinary, the probable
  • Focuses on the norm of daily experience
    dialect, geography, regional manners.

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
  • Harks back to the noble past
  • Emotional
  • 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
  • Exists in the unfiltered present
  • Neutral (observant)

Themes in Realism
  • Humans control their destinies
  • characters act on their environment rather than
    simply reacting to it.
  • Slice-of-life technique
  • often ends without traditional formal closure,
    leaving much untold to suggest mans limited
    ability to make sense of his life.
  • Pragmatism
  • Social Criticism
  • Importance of place--regionalism, "local color"
  • Sociology and psychology
  • Rejection of Romanticism

Defining Strain
  • VOICE the tonal qualities, attitudes, or entire
    personality of a speaker as revealed directly or
    indirectly through sound, diction, and other
    stylistic devices
  • "Voice reminds us that a human being is behind
    the words of a poem, that he is revealing his
    individuality by means of the poem, and that this
    revelation may be the most significant part of
    what we receive from the poem."

Huckleberry Finn and Realism
  • Published in 1885
  • Set in pre-Civil War years (40-50 years before
  • Slavery ended, but racism still rampant (Jim Crow
  • Mark Twain, a Southerner, undergoes moral
    transformation. Suggestion (via Ken Burnss
    American Voices) is that this transformation
    sprung from a trip along the river years after
    Twain left the South. Here, along the shore of
    his beloved river, Twain witnessed the great
    failings of Reconstruction and the ubiquity of
    Jim Crow (a new slavery).
  • The impression stuck with him.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a
  • COMING-OF-AGE NOVEL moral growth of a comic
    character in an physically beautiful yet morally
    repugnant setting
  • PICARESQUE NOVEL typically satirical story that
    illustrates with realistic and witty detail the
    adventures of a roguish hero of lower social
    standing who lives by their common sense in a
    corrupt society.

Huckleberry Finn as a Literary Milestone
  • Something new happened in Huck Finn that had
    never happened in American literature before. It
    was a bookthat served as a Declaration of
    Independence from the genteel English novel
  • It allowed a different kind of writing to
    happen a clean, crisp, no-nonsense, earthly
    vernacularit was a book that talked. Hucks
    voice, combined with Twains satiric genius,
    changed the shape of fiction in America, and
    African-American voices had a great deal to do
    with making it what it was.
  • - Dr. Shelley Fishkin, 1995

The Linch Pin Between the Movements
  • Linch Pin - "something or someone that holds
    the various elements of a complicated structure
  • The transition between two contrasting movements
    can be clearly identified in one man, Walt
    Whitman, who incorporating both views in his

Walt Whitman Americas Poet
  • His poetry celebrated...
  • The individual
  • common man
  • American democracy
  • American industry
  • American ingenuity
  • mystery of existence (not to be feared, but
  • The body and its functions
  • He was
  • A humanist
  • A teacher
  • An optimist
  • Supporter of the Union
  • Among the most influential poets in the American
  • Highly controversial
  • Gay
  • And your very flesh shall be a great poem
  • I celebrate myself, and sing myself,And what I
    assume you shall assume,For every atom belonging
    to me as good belongs to you.
  • Be curious, not judgmental
  • Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I
    contradict myself, I am large, I contain
  • Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road,
    healthy, free, the world before me.

Walt Whitman, cont
  • The genius of the United States is not best or
    most in its executives or legislatures, nor in
    its ambassadors or authors or colleges, or
    churches, or parlors, nor even in its newspapers
    or inventors, but always most in the common
  • Leaves of Grass (1855) collection of poems
    attempt to reach common person through an
    American epic
  • "Father of Free Verse" -- sought to capture
    America's voice through his poetry
  • Whitman created new poetic forms and subjects to
    fashion a distinctly American type of poetic
  • He rejected conventional themes, traditional
    literary references, allusions, and rhymeall the
    accepted forms of poetry in the 19th century.

Whitmans Themes
  • Transcendent power of love, brotherhood, and
  • Imaginative projection into others lives
  • Optimistic faith in democracy and equality
  • Nature and return
  • Belief in regenerative and illustrative powers of
    nature and its value as a teacher
  • Equivalence of body and soul and the unabashed
    exaltation of the body and sexuality

Whitmans Poetic Techniques
  • Whitman declared his poetry would have
  • Long lines that capture the rhythms of natural
  • Free verse lack of metrical regularity and
    conventional rhyme
  • Vocabulary drawn from everyday speech.
  • A base in reality, not morality.
  • Exception O Captain My Captain
  • Written on the passing of Abraham Lincoln
  • Traditional Forms
  • Traditional Subject
  • Invoked in the last scene of Dead Poets Society
    (boys on desk upon seeing their captain and
    his passing)
  • Use of repeated images, symbols, phrases, and
    grammatical units
  • Use of enumerations and catalogs
  • Use of anaphora (initial repetition) in lines and
    Epanaphora (each line hangs by a loop from the
    line before it)
  • Contrast and parallelism in paired lines

Whitmans Use of Language
  • Idiosyncratic spelling and punctuation.
  • Words used for their sounds as much as their
    sense foreign languages
  • Use of language from several disciplines
  • The sciences anatomy, astronomy, botany
    (especially the flora and fauna of America)
  • Businesses and professions, such as carpentry
  • Military and war terms nautical terms

Whats So Shocking about the Good Grey Poet
  • Why were so many writers shocked by Whitman?
  • His lack of regular rhyme and meter (free verse)
    and nontraditional poetic style and subject
    matter shocked more traditional writers.
  • He also wrote poetry with unabashedly sexual
    imagery and themes, some of them homoerotic.
    Examples include the Calamus poems and I Sing
    the Body Electric.

Whitmans Influence
  • Along with Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman stands
    as one of two giants of American poetry in the
    nineteenth century.
  • Whitmans poetry would influence such Harlem
    Renaissance writers as Langston Hughes and James
    Weldon Johnson.
  • Whitman influenced Beat poets such as Allen
  • Chilean writer Pablo Neruda claimed to have been
    influenced by Whitman.
  • Whitmans poetry was a model for French
    symbolists, such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul
    Verlaine, and Arthur Rimbaud.
  • Modernist poets such as Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot,
    and W.H. Auden were also influenced by Whitman.
  • Lets listen From Favorite Poem Project, Song
    of Myself as read by Bostons John Doherty

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Mark Twain and Realism
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