Chapter 3 The Age of Realism
I. Background: From Romanticism to Realism
1. the three conflicts that reached breaking point in this period
(1) industrialism vs. agrarian
(2) culturely-measured east vs. newly-developed west
(3) plantation gentility vs. commercial gentility
2. 1880’s urbanization: from free competition to monopoly capitalism
3. the closing of American frontier
1. truthful description of life
2. typical character under typical circumstance
3. objective rather than idealized, close observation and investigation of life
“Realistic writers are like scientists.”
Life is complex and cannot be fully understood. It leaves much room for readers to think by themselves.
5. concerned with social and psychological problems, revealing the frustrations of characters in an environment of sordidness and depravity
III. Three Giants in Realistic Period
1. William Dean Howells – “Dean of American Realism”
(1) Realistic principles (来源：EnglishCN.com)
a. Realism is “fidelity to experience and probability of motive”.
b. The aim is “talk of some ordinary traits of American life”.
c. Man in his natural and unaffected dullness was the object of Howells’s fictional representation.
d. Realism is by no means mere photographic pictures of externals but includes a central concern with “motives” and psychological conflicts.
e. He condemns novels of sentimentality and morbid self-sacrifice, and avoids such themes as illicit love.
f. Authors should minimize plot and the artificial ordering of the sense of something “desultory, unfinished, imperfect”.
g. Characters should have solidity of specification and be real.
h. Interpreting sympathetically the “common feelings of commonplace people” was best suited as a technique to express the spirit of America.
i. He urged writers to winnow tradition and write in keeping with current humanitarian ideals.
j. Truth is the highest beauty, but it includes the view that morality penetrates all things.
k. With regard to literary criticism, Howells felt that 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.
a. The Rise of Silas Lapham
b. A Chance Acquaintance
c. A Modern Instance
(3) Features of His Works
a. Optimistic tone
b. Moral development/ethics
c. Lacking of psychological depth
2. Henry James
(2) Literary career: three stages
a. 1865~1882: international theme
l The American
l Daisy Miller
l The Portrait of a Lady
b. 1882~1895: inter-personal relationships and some plays
l Daisy Miller (play)
c. 1895~1900: novellas and tales dealing with childhood and adolescence, then back to international theme
l The Turn of the Screw
l When Maisie Knew
l The Ambassadors
l The Wings of the Dove
l The Golden Bowl
(3) Aesthetic ideas
a. The aim of novel: represent life
b. Common, even ugly side of life
c. Social function of art
d. Avoiding omniscient point of view
(4) Point of view
a. Psychological analysis, forefather of stream of consciousness
b. Psychological realism
c. Highly-refined language
(5) Style – “stylist”
a. Language: highly-refined, polished, insightful, accurate
b. Vocabulary: large
c. Construction: complicated, intricate
3. Mark Twain (see next section)
1. uneven development in economy in America
2. culture: flourishing of frontier literature, humourists
3. magazines appeared to let writer publish their works
II. What is “Local Colour”?
Tasks of local colourists: to write or present local characters of their regions in truthful depiction distinguished from others, usually a very small part of the world.
Regional literature (similar, but larger in world)
l Garland, Harte – the west
l Eggleston – Indiana
l Mrs Stowe
l Jewett – Maine
l Chopin – Louisiana
III. Mark Twain – Mississippi
(1) The Gilded Age
(2) “the two advantages”
(3) Life on the Mississippi
(4) A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
(5) The Man That Corrupted Hardleybug
(1) colloquial language, vernacular language, dialects
(2) local colour
(3) syntactic feature: sentences are simple, brief, sometimes ungrammatical
(5) tall tales (highly exaggerated)
(6) social criticism (satire on the different ugly things in society)
IV. Comparison of the three “giants” of American Realism
Howells – middle class
James – upper class
Twain – lower class
Howells – smiling/genteel realism
James – psychological realism
Twain – local colourism and colloquialism