File Name: realism and naturalism in literature .zip
Likewise, I take moral realism to be an important part of commonsense morality.
While Realism and Naturalism are two separate literary movements, they are closely linked and sometimes used interchangeably. This is because both movements portray life as it is. These movements depicted believable, natural or real everyday activities and experiences.
This introductory article begins with a brief discussion of how American literary naturalism remains a vibrant and active field, which each generation reinterpreting the genre according to the critical theories and cultural concerns of its time.
It then discusses naturalism's receptivity to adaptation and its similarity to another genre, melodrama. Exploring naturalism as a version of melodrama is a useful way of understanding its many anomalies and inconsistencies. It suggests a way of reading naturalism that does not see it primarily in terms of evolutionary and deterministic philosophy applied to realism but rather in terms of popular narrative strategies, derived from melodrama, enlisted in support of a propagandistic cause.
Keywords: naturalism , melodrama , social issues , drama , realism , narrative strategies. Despite the premature sounding of its death-knell in the anthology What Was Naturalism? American literary naturalism remains a vibrant and active field. Since , more than two dozen books about the subject have appeared, and articles about its principal authors—Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and Jack London—continue to be published in the leading journals.
More important, the traditional conception of naturalism as a movement occurring between and and focusing on deterministic depictions of humanity as the passive pawns of an indifferent world has, in recent years, undergone considerable shifting. Drawing on this foundational work by Walcutt and Pizer, other scholars have extended, modified, and challenged these interpretations of naturalism. The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Naturalism differs from these volumes in that it is the first book to treat the subject topically and thematically in essays that attempt to present the best of current thinking about the genre.
Essays in p. In part IV, contributors explore current tensions in critical approaches to naturalism—the role of women and African American writers, depictions of sexuality, the problem of race, the critique of commodity culture and class, and the continuing presence of naturalism in twentieth- and twenty-first-century fiction.
Part V considers the role of the marketplace in the development of naturalism as well as the popular and critical response. And essays in part VI conclude the volume by exploring the influence of naturalism in other arts.
The foregoing suggests that naturalism is an adaptive genre, changing its contours over the course of time as new ideas arise and as new writers and critics respond to those ideas and to the work of the writers before them. It is useful to conceive of the naturalist novel as primarily a novel of ideas, functioning like the Blob in the science fiction movie of the same title—absorbing everything it can to propel the idea—and this capacity for absorption explains not only the varied plots and philosophies contained in naturalism but also the prevalence of the narrative strategies of realism, documentation, sensation, sentiment, and romance; the occurrence of stereotyped characters and dialogue; the role of chance and coincidence; and especially the frequency of sensation and didactic exposition.
Scholars typically conceive of naturalism as a version of realism, as a genre that grafts realistic detail onto a necessitarian ideology. When naturalistic fictions seem to depart from the realistic paradigm, usually through the inclusion of sensational effects, sentimental scenes, stilted dialogue, and improbable coincidences, critics often disparage such departures as instances of flawed technique or defective artistry.
Like melodrama, and unlike realism, naturalism conspicuously employs such emotive effects to promote the acceptance of a thesis, and this melodramatic vision is registered clearly and unmistakably in the literature of naturalism. Like melodrama and unlike realism, naturalism is an essentially didactic literature with a thesis to prove, whether it be economic determinism, the latent atavism of human beings, or the inescapable force of heredity.
The naturalist tends to share with the melodramatist a belief in the ultimate intelligibility of the world and of the discoverability of the forces that shape it. This shared belief encourages each to communicate a vision of human beings caught up in a welter of discreet events that combine to direct and prescribe their actions.
Such a vision is an essential characteristic of both the melodramatic and naturalistic imaginations, and it accounts for the frequent intrusion of sensational scenes, improbable coincidences, and stilted rhetoric into fictions that are often derided as merely aesthetically flawed versions of realism. What I am suggesting, then, is a way of reading naturalism that does not see it primarily in terms of evolutionary and deterministic philosophy applied to realism but rather in terms of popular narrative strategies, derived from melodrama, enlisted in support of a propagandistic cause.
Modern criticism has been quick to condemn the didacticism and sensationalism inherent in naturalistic fiction partly because the aesthetic yardstick by which most critics measure these fictions privileges organic integrations of theme and character, symbol and ambiguity, irony and narrative restraint.
Even Donald Pizer, who has done more than anyone to clarify our understanding of naturalism, occasionally misreads the place of melodrama in naturalism. To recognize the function of melodrama in their fictions is not, of course, to explain why these particular writers were attracted to melodrama.
We might arrive at such an understanding first by recognizing that melodrama is not only a specific genre like tragedy and comedy , with defining plot movements and stylistic strategies, but also that the melodramatist sees the world differently than does the tragedian or the comedian or the realist or satirist. As James L. What distinguishes the imaginations of Garland, Norris, Dreiser, and London from that of such an arch-realist as Howells is that the former persisted in seeing the world melodramatically, despite their advocacy of realism.
The realists were chiefly committed to exploding romantic stereotypes and p. One forever thrusts toward new forms, the other forever moulds, conserves, adapts, reproduces. What prompted the naturalists to adopt Spencer so readily was the melodramatic determinism inherent in his system that explained so smoothly the interconnections among events.
All life has been comprehended best by him. He has explained the value of things that are, and the purposes for which they are intended. Rain, sunlight, the seasons; charity, generosity, virtue,—all these are set down in their true order, and having established the empire of the mind, he invites you, as subjects, to acquaint yourselves with its laws. They are unalterable laws. The naturalists seem to have recognized the congruence of the melodramatic and the Spencerian vision, for in their fictions and in their autobiographies they record again and again the moment when Spencerian thought shattered their faith p.
Such a view, Sypher observes,. Having done with a personal God, the 19th Century could now displace the drama in its mind into the universe itself by means of the laws of geology, biology, energy, and, more immediately, economics. Melodrama is particularly well suited as a form for the exposition of ideas because of its clarity of outline and coherence of vision. It is, Michael Booth observes,. An idealization and simplification of the world of reality, it is in fact the world its audiences want but cannot get….
One of the great appeals of this world is clarity: character, conduct, ethics, and situations are perfectly simple, and one always knows what the end will be, although the means may be temporarily obscure. As most scholars of melodrama have recognized, melodrama is a didactic genre that reaffirms social and family order. Thus the inevitable triumph of the hero, the fall of the villain, the preservation of chastity. Departures from the formula rarely occurred, and if they did, plots were arranged to explain the anomaly and to reaffirm the social norm.
Naturalism, like melodrama, is therefore a literature of propaganda. Thus the prevalence of the sensational in plots, the emotional excesses in dialogue and characterization, the gothic portrayals of character, and the overt pronouncement of doctrine. In Sister Carrie , for example, Dreiser frequently halts his narrative to explain why events are unfolding as they are.
A well-known instance occurs at the beginning of chapter 8 , where Dreiser argues for the random quality of life, its essential purposelessness, in the polarities of melodrama:. Among the forces which sweep and play throughout the universe, untutored man is but a wisp in the wind.
Our civilisation is still in a middle stage, scarcely beast, in that it is no longer wholly guided by instinct; scarcely human, in that it is not yet wholly guided by reason…. We have the consolation of knowing that evolution is ever in action, that the ideal is a light that cannot fail. He will not forever balance thus between good and evil…. She followed whither her craving led. She was as yet more drawn than she drew.
Recognizing the melodramatic quality of naturalism also enables us to account for other rhetorical strategies of naturalism usually dismissed as lapses in aesthetic judgment or as inconsistencies in conception. For example, few critics can resist disparaging the melodramatic ending of McTeague where Marcus Schouler handcuffs himself to McTeague moments before the dentist kills him.
Comments range from that of Charles C. The ending of McTeague borrows from melodrama the device of the tableau , a climactic silent arrangement of actors that offers a symbolic picture of the preceding conflict.
The advantage of the tableau is that it impresses on the audience the didactic point of the drama; a form of dramatic resolution, it is as essential to the melodrama as is the expositional soliloquy that expresses the thematic values of the play.
In the closing paragraphs of McTeague , Norris sketches the final confrontation between Marcus and McTeague in the fictional equivalent of the tableau:. As McTeague rose to his feet, he felt a pull at his right wrist; something held it fast. Looking down, he saw that Marcus in that last struggle had found strength to handcuff their wrists together. Marcus was dead now; McTeague was locked to the body. All about him, vast, interminable, stretched the measureless leagues of Death Valley.
McTeague remained stupidly looking around him, now at the distant horizon, now at the ground, now at the half-dead canary chittering feebly in its little gilt prison. The melodramatic hero is an essentially unified character, undivided by the complexities of conflicting motives or values.
But the conflict is imposed from without; the heroine is never torn between an ethical determination to remain virginal and a conscious desire to experience sex. She is simply faced with some external obstruction that momentarily frustrates her ability to choose the correct course of action. Similarly, the melodramatic villain does not ponder the moral or ethical choice between altruism and self-interest. He is aware of but one desire, though circumstances may frustrate his acting on it.
For the melodramatic character, there is no mixture of contradictory motives, no true moral or ethical dilemma of which he or she is conscious. As a result, there is no true anxiety attached to the choice, no incapacitating anguish, no psychological self-betrayal. For the naturalists, casual explanations for human motivation are typically reductive. Their portrayals of behavior concentrate on such externals as socioeconomic forces or elemental emotions of greed, lust, or ambition rather than indecision and reflective consciousness.
The oft-noted scene in McTeague , where the dentist battles the brute within while Trina lies unconscious in his dental chair, illustrates the naturalist tendency to depict mental conflict in terms of the clash of elemental forces rather than through reasoned choices:. It was a crisis—a crisis that had arisen all in an instant; a crisis for which he was totally unprepared. Blindly, and without knowing why, McTeague fought against it, moved by an unreasoned instinct of resistance.
Within him, a certain second self, another better McTeague rose with the brute; both were strong, with the huge crude strength of the man himself. The two were at grapples. In other words, his nature is dual or multifold, and the different competing elements are present at the same time, are operative in the dramatic situation, and are known to us as realities that have to be reckoned with.
In the naturalistic novel, as in the melodrama, characters are essentially whole. McTeague does not experience any meaningful self-awareness; he is only dimly conscious of conflicting desires; he is propelled by a single force, a latent atavism that manifests itself in instinctive, physical desires. He was sure that at first the good had been the strongest. Little by little the brute had grown, and he, pleasure-loving, adapting himself to every change of environment, luxurious, self-indulgent, shrinking with the shrinking of a sensuous artist-nature from all that was irksome and disagreeable, had shut his ears to the voices that shouted warnings of the danger, and had allowed the brute to thrive and to grow.
In the naturalistic novel, as in the melodrama, characters are polarized both in their depiction and in their actions. Multiple motivations, in the sense of causal determinants, may be ascribed to the characters, but the causal forces are seldom in conflict with themselves and, more important, the characters are seldom aware of the existence of potential conflict. Lee Clark Mitchell points out that while naturalist characters do have choices and do choose, they can never refrain from acting as their desires compel them to act, even if they have resolved to act otherwise 8—9.
In melodrama, characters function as types representing abstractions: the hero typifies virtue, fidelity, fortitude, patience, and so forth; the villain represents greed, lust, heartlessness; the heroine, chastity, purity, domesticity, obedience. The naturalist tends to borrow from melodrama this allegorical typing to depict people and their conflicts as concrete manifestations of abstractions. This interest in making the unseen visible, in exposing the hidden forces that motivate human interaction, thus leads the naturalists to adopt the methods of melodrama, with its clear visual enactments of right and wrong, justice and injustice, duty and passion, charity and exploitation.
Melodrama therefore becomes an ideal vehicle for the exposition of ideas—the naturalist can embody the idea in a character or in a conflict to reveal, dramatically and emphatically, the meaning of the idea as it impinges upon human lives.
The farmers are heroic toilers of the soil, the principle of labor exerted to increase the value of property; the landholder, Jim Butler, is the heartless villain, the exploitation of labor to yield unearned increment of profit. The characters are types, representing honest labor and dishonest gain. Naturalism, then, at its core expresses a melodramatic vision of human beings at the mercy of forces over which they have little control but whose purpose is ultimately intelligible.
The predominant characteristic of the melodramatic vision, I have suggested, is a tendency to see the world in terms of a polarized conflict between representatives of some simplified set of ideas.
Variously defined as distinct philosophical approaches, complementary aesthetic strategies, or broad literary movements, realism and naturalism emerged as the dominant categories applied to American fiction of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Included under the broad umbrella of realism are a diverse set of authors, including Henry James, W. Often categorized as regionalists or local colorists, many of these writers produced work that emphasized geographically distinct dialects and customs. Others offered satirical fiction or novels of manners that exposed the excesses, hypocrisies, or shortcomings of a culture undergoing radical social change. A subsequent generation of writers, including Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, and Jack London, are most often cited as the American inheritors of the naturalist approach practiced by Emile Zola, whose treatise Le Roman Experimental applied the experimental methods of medical science to the construction of the novel.
This introductory article begins with a brief discussion of how American literary naturalism remains a vibrant and active field, which each generation reinterpreting the genre according to the critical theories and cultural concerns of its time. It then discusses naturalism's receptivity to adaptation and its similarity to another genre, melodrama. Exploring naturalism as a version of melodrama is a useful way of understanding its many anomalies and inconsistencies. It suggests a way of reading naturalism that does not see it primarily in terms of evolutionary and deterministic philosophy applied to realism but rather in terms of popular narrative strategies, derived from melodrama, enlisted in support of a propagandistic cause. Keywords: naturalism , melodrama , social issues , drama , realism , narrative strategies.
Realism is used by literary critics in two chief ways: (1) to identify a literary movement of the nineteenth century, especially in prose fiction (beginning with Balzac in.
Access options available:. These critics begin with the Marxist assumption that the ideas of the dominant class become the ruling ideas of the entire society and extend their analysis of the contemporary role and position of women to an analysis of the culture in which values of market-place aggressiveness outrank values of any other kind. To quote Lillian Robinson: [Feminist criticism] is about to contract what can only be called a me'sallUince with bourgeois modes of thought and the critical categories they inform. To be effective, feminist criticism cannot become simply bourgeois criticism in drag.
Realism was by no means a uniform or coherent movement; a tendency toward realism arose in many parts of Europe and in America, beginning in the s. To achieve this aim, realists resorted to a number of strategies: the use of descriptive and evocative detail; avoidance of what was fantastical, imaginary, and mythical; adhering to the requirements of probability, and excluding events which were impossible or improbable; inclusion of characters and incidents from all social strata, dealing not merely with rulers and nobility; focusing on the present and choosing topics from contemporary life rather than longing for some idealized past; emphasizing the social rather than the individual or seeing the individual as a social being ; refraining from the use of elevated language, in favor of more colloquial idioms and everyday speech, as well as directness and simplicity of expression. All of these aims and strategies were underlain by an emphasis on direct observation, factuality, experience, and induction arriving at general truths only on the basis of repeated experience. In adopting the strategies listed above, realism was a broad and multipronged reaction against the idealization, historical retrospection, and the imaginary worlds seen as characterizing Romanticism. Naturalism was the ancient term for the physical sciences or the study of nature.
Literary realism is a literary genre , part of the broader realism in arts , that attempts to represent subject-matter truthfully, avoiding speculative fiction and supernatural elements.
Well, according to naturalism in literature you are. Naturalism takes a deterministic view of the world and the forces surrounding humans. Learn more about naturalism in literature through examples. The vivid imagery and flowery wording of that book make it part of romanticism. However, some writers thought romantic books were just too flowery so another movement called realism came into play.
Realism and Naturalism are a reaction against Romanticism imagination, poetry and prose, as well as the main themes : nature, exoticism, history, and heroes depicted as exceptional individuals because it was thought to have lost touch with the contemporary. Three revolutions took place during the 19th century : the industrial revolution, the scientific revolution, and the moral revolution. In Great Britain, the Victorian Era lasted from to The Industrial Revolution was started by the invention of the steam machine coal, railways, factories. All this happened in the cities : the increase of the population led to misery and social problems such as alcoholism, tuberculosis, prostitution… There was a shift from a belief in progress to an increasing pessimism. Auguste Comte — is at the origin of a philosophical theory called Positivism. The theological phase of man was based on whole-hearted belief in all things with reference to God.
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