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American Literature College - Essay Example

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In American literature, realism emerged in the late nineteenth century. Realism has often pointed to the prevailing cachet of science and its stress on observation and exactness. Realism borrowed from this ideology and sought to mimic the new technologies of reproduction that industrial advances made possible…
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Download file "American Literature College Essay" to see previous pages... Thesis Literary realism emerged as a response to new social and economic changes, technological innovations and new social order of the American society.
Literary realism was an essential component of the intellectual movement of the late nineteenth century. Steeped in the intellectual environment of the period and drawing upon many of the same sources as the new or revitalized disciplines,
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realists brought to literature the same concern for the mapping of society and its behavioral rules and the same method of observing the concrete rather than replicating the abstract. American realists argued that the truthful treatment of material meant picturing men and women as they were, not as the writer wished they were (Harmon and Holman 68). Unlike sociology, philosophy, or political science, the realist novel had no need to compartmentalize knowledge along disciplinary lines. The novel was a popular form and not the province of specialists. Its practitioners were not striving to establish their scientific credentials or attach themselves to the academy, and its consumers did not require extraordinary or special training (Bressler 55).
American authors undertook a series of new fictions that declared a departure from a literature that they believed had become so rarefied and study-bound that it simply trotted out archetypes and caricatures for inspection and acclaim. Honing its representational techniques and developing its theoretical justifications, realism matured during the 1880s. Although the simultaneous appearance of Howells, Twain, and James may be reckoned as the literary high point of classical American realism, the movement possessed both vitality and diversity. Realist narrators were generally disembodied, coherent sources of the novel that traversed the entire range of activities they related (McMichael 71). Occupying a privileged position by virtue of this omniscience, only some of which was revealed to the reader, the realist narrator was able to present the narrative as a fluid, proportioned whole. Descending into the consciousness of characters and withdrawing to a vantage point without, realist narration aspired to as much coverage as possible while preserving the fundamental goal of naturalness.
Realist practice entailed more than mere photographic reproduction of objects and people. Literary realism centered around the emergence and meaning of society and social life. Unlike the romantics, whose novels had their moments of verisimilitude, realists did not envision their protagonists as faced with an unapproachable and foreign "world." Instead of simply pondering their position within the world, realist characters attempted to negotiate the treacherous currents of social life and sought to change their world as well as contemplate it. In realist novels "society" has a concrete existence as the space in which human beings define themselves. The characters of Hawthorne and Melville faced metaphysical problems that drove them to confront ultimate essences; those of the realists find life's enigmas within the boundaries of the secular world (Harmon and Holman 63). The confrontation that most intrigued realists was not that between humans and some absolute outside themselves but that between hum ...Download file "American Literature College Essay" to see next pagesRead More
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