Amer Novel Before WWI
Amer Novel Before WWI ENG 351
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Date Created: 10/30/15
Prof Derek P Royal ENG 351 7 American Novel before WWI American Realism Realism as a movement in American literature spanned roughly the last third of the nineteenth century and in many ways was a reaction to much of the earlier romantic and sentimental fiction It differed from American romanticism in that it avoided the symmetry balance and contrived plots that defined much of the earlier fiction 2 avoided undue emphasis on idealized settings and social situations 3 attempted to shift from imaginative sensibility and Emersonian optimism with its valuing of intuition the privileging of the noble savage and an emphasis on the independent Jeffersonian agrarian In uenced in many ways by the work of French writers Honore de Balzac and Gustave Flaubert American realists were chie y concerned with the commonplaces of middleclass life Philosophic pragmatism a school of thought concerned with the practicality of everyday life was also an in uence on many of these writers Charles S Peirce who coined the term pragmatism in 1878 one such proponent believed that value and meaning in life are significant only with a recognition of their utility and consequences Many realist writers attempted to describe life without idealization subjective prejudice or romantic color Those considered realist in one way or another and some arguably include William Dean Howells Henry James Harriet Beecher Stowe Mark Twain Sarah Ome Jewett and Kate Chopin V American Realism resulted from among other things the closing of the western frontierithe transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869 o a new generation of writers who lived in Europe after the Civil War and who were in uenced by realism in art as well as in literature the effects of the Civil War different regions of the country once unfamiliar to American writers were now exposed this rst modern war demanded a more realistic treatment of its subject matter common people not aristocratic warriors were seen as heroes the war was seen as a triumph of American principles which helped in the call to a new American literature the war unleashed forces of industry mass production technological innovation national pro ts and became a stable market for foreign capital industrialization immigration and urbanization the growth of technological innovations such as the telephone invented in 1876 and the automobile whose popularity in the 1890s saw much growth social transformations that affected the authors personally had grown up to adulthood in an antebellum America but had to confront rapid and disruptive changes in this new world Some of the general features of Realism include an adherence to common everyday life a belief that details are important in an of themselves details make ction seem like life a deemphasizing of literary symbols symbols in a narrative are limited to ideas within the text not to larger external truths a rejection of absolute truths moral truths are always relativistic pragmatic attitudes toward life the need to expose the false and repressive nature of many commonly held beliefs and assumptions a valuation of toughness and competence and an admiration of the pro an antielitist attitude a literature about and for the common person characters that have mixed motives and are fallible and whose choices re ect the lives of everyday people characters that grow and or decline in the text and respond to their social contexts character is a process that develops as the text moves along not an inherent way of being characters who are not types but speci c and unique uniquely personal an attempt to understand characters never to judge them the narrator never intrudes to judge or moralize Prof Derek P Royal ENG 351 7 The American Novel before WW I Gothic Narrative The Gothic In architecture Gothic is a term applied to the style that succeeded the Romanesque in Western Europe ourishing from the twelfth century to the sixteenth Its characteristics include the high pointed arch and vault suggesting depth and recess vertical effects suggesting aspiration stained windows connected to mystery slender spires ying buttresses intricate traceries and a wealth and variety of detail In terms of literature the designation was used by eighteenth century neoclassicists as synonymous with barbaric The romantics of the next generation put a more positive spin on the Gothic To them it suggested the natural primitive wild free authentic romantic side of existence Gothic ction is characterized by magic mystery and chivalry It includes a brooding atmosphere of gloom one that is housed not only in the physical setting but in the psychological state of mind of its characters as well The physical setting usually betrays gothic characteristics as well with action taking place in castles mansions and monasteries that are often remote crumbling andor ruined These structures are usually furnished with an abundance of dungeons sliding panels and subterranean passages Events are often uncanny cruel or melodramatically violent Atypical gothic story would involve an innocent heroine falling prey to a lustful villain and in the mix there are usually ghosts mysterious events or disappearances and other examples of sensational and supernatural occurrences Most formulaic gothic novels would evoke terror through the exploitation of what its audiences would commonly accept as horrific By emphasizing the irrational or perverse side of existence gothic writers suggest that there is more going on underneath the seeming ordered surface of realityi that unnatural impulses and nightmarish terrors are what really underlie civilization The roots of the Gothic novelior the Gothic romance as it is sometimes callediare usually traced to Horace Walpole s Castle of Otranto 1764 which is seen by most critics as inaugurating the genre Other 18thcentury examples include William Beckford s Vathek an Arabian Tale 1786 Anne Radcliffe s The Mysteries of Udolpho 1794 and Matthew Gregory Lewis s The Monk 1796 American practitioners of Gothic narrative include Charles Brockden Brown Edgar Allen Poe Nathaniel Hawthome Louisa May Alcott Henry James and in the twentiethcentury William Faulkner Flannery O Connor Truman Capote and Stephen King Gothic Modes Gothic narratives can be either determinate that which ultimately contains an answer to the mystery or indeterminate with openended uncertain conclusions 1 Determinate 2 3 Indeterminate Supernatural 7 in this mode the laws of nature are suspended includes pretematural settings events scenarios Explained 7 what at rst seems to be supernatural is later explained in a natural way rational explanations of the mysteries spoil the supernatural Ambiguous 7 uncertainty and indeterminacy is foregrounded the fantastic and the supernatural are embraced but never ultimately endorsed in this mode the horror is heightened due to the uncertain reality of the situation Historic 7 embodies the old chivalric romance tradition with its interests in wonders and marvels the magical becomes infused with the more realistic elements of the narrative gt7