It*s About to Get Real!

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American Literary Movements
Realism and Naturalism (1865-1915)
"Winter in Union Square" by Childe Hassam
"Men of the Docks" by George Bellows
Both of these works are urban scenes from the same time
period, but what do you notice about the differences between
them?
American Impressionism
American Realism (Ashcan school)
American Realism
Replaces Romanticism
(seen as old-fashioned)
 Seeks to portray life as real
people live it in an
objective, factual way
(Journalistic)
 Development of science =
objectivity
 It was “a powerful impulse
to mirror the unmitigated
realities of life” (Henry
James); that is, it’s meant to
reflect reality without
softening or idealizing its
features.

American Realism

Historical
Considerations:
- post-war
- frontier
- transportation (journeys
commonplace for “regular
people”)
- industrialized cities
- labor unrest
- women’s votes/unequal
rights
American Realism


Response to the lack of
verisimilitude in Romantic
writing (the writings of
Poe, Hawthorne, et al).
“The personages of a tale
shall confine themselves
to possibilities and let
miracles alone; or, if they
venture a miracle, the
author must plausibly set
it forth to make it look
possible and reasonable.”
–Mark Twain
American Realism

In order to protect against the risk of
Realism becoming boring or prosaic, the
best Realist writers were expected to lay
bare to readers the hidden meanings
behind hidden words and actions and
deal honestly with the world as it exists.
Realism – Important Authors

Walt Whitman –

Frederick Douglass –

Mark Twain -

Brett Harte -
American Naturalism
 Naturalism
 American
is Realism to the extreme…
realistic writers were influenced
by European writers and the intellectual
“currents” of the time, particularly the
great interest in the SCIENTIFIC
METHOD and….
American Naturalism
…the influence of
Charles Darwin on
the idea of evolution
and natural selection.
American Naturalism
According to Emile Zola, a Naturalist
writer depicts people’s destiny as being
decided by heredity and environment,
inborn physical drives, and economic
circumstances.
 They believed that people had no
control over the events of their lives;
therefore, Naturalist writers tended to be
among the most pessimistic of American
writers.

American Naturalism

In Naturalist writing, “All of
us are more or less pawns.
We’re moved about like
chessmen by circumstances
(environment, biology,
nature) over which we have
no control.”
A Term:
Pathetic Fallacy -
n. The attribution of human
emotions or characteristics to
inanimate objects or to
nature; for example, angry
clouds; a cruel wind, the
friendly sun.
Naturalism – Important Figures

Stephen Crane –

Willa Cather –

Jack London –

E. A. Robinson -
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
-Stephen Crane
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