But Some of Us Are Brave: A History of Black Feminism in the United States The Black Feminist Movement grew

out of, and in response to, the Black Liberation Movement and the Women's Movement. In an effort to meet the needs of black women who felt they were being racially oppressed in the Women's Movement and sexually oppressed in the Black Liberation Movement, the Black Feminist Movement was formed. All too often, "black" was equated with black men and "woman" was equated with white women. As a result, black women were an invisible group whose existence and needs were ignored. The purpose of the movement was to develop theory which could adequately address the way race, gender, and class were interconnected in their lives and to take action to stop racist, sexist, and classist discrimination. Black Women Confronting Sexism and Racism Black women who participated in the Black Liberation Movement and the Women's Movement were often discriminated against sexually and racially. Although neither all the black men nor all the white women in their respective movements were sexist and racist, enough of those with powerful influence were able to make the lives of the black women in these groups almost unbearable. This section investigates the treatment of black women in these two movements and aims to show how, due to the inability of black men and white women to acknowledge and denounce their oppression of black women, the movements were unable to meet the needs of black women and prompted the formation of the Black Feminist Movement, which, though it had been gathering momentum for some time, marks its "birth" with the 1973 founding of the National Black Feminist Organization in New York. Black Women in the Black Liberation Movement Black women faced constant sexism in the Black Liberation Movement. Although there were several different movements for black liberation (the Civil Rights Movement, Black Nationalism, the Black Panthers, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and others) for the purposes of this paper they are all considered under the title Black Liberation Movement. The movement, though ostensibly for the liberation of the black race, was in word and deed for the liberation of the black male. Race was extremely sexualized in the rhetoric of the movement. Freedom was equated with manhood and the freedom of blacks with the redemption of black masculinity. Take, for example, the assumption that racism is more harmful to black men than it is to black women because the real tragedy of racism is the loss of manhood; this assumption illustrates both an acceptance of masculinity defined within the context of patriarchy as well as a disregard for the human need for integrity and liberty felt by both men and women. Many black men in the movement were interested in controlling black women's sexuality. Bell hooks comments that during the Black Liberation Movement of the 1960s, "black men overemphasize[d] white male sexual exploitation of black womanhood as a way to explain their disapproval of inter-racial relationships." It was, however, no contradiction of their political views to have inter-racial relationships themselves. Again, part of "freedom" and "manhood" was the right of men to have indiscriminate access to and control over any woman's body. As well, there was disregard for the humanity and equality of

. Cleaver later goes on to express his remorse at his action but retains his misogynist attitudes. he says. the first by Amiri Baraka and the second by Eldridge Cleaver. This is an attitude which he considers healthy and worthy of promotion to other black men and women. .. it was also a part of daily life. the gravity of the crime-i." Baraka insists that men and women are unequal by nature. supported their men.. but there is no reciprocity in their relationship to each other." Similar discrimination existed within the Civil Rights Movement. but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of a day-and when I considered myself smooth enough. For instance. We could never be equals. the damage it causes and terror it invokes both individually and within the community-is not diminished when committed against a black woman. To refine my technique and modus operandi. it was not only 'unsisterly' of us to want to eat with our Brothers. hence. The two do not submit to one another. but he considers the violence against black "girls" to be less serious than that against their white counterparts. I became a rapist. In essence. The "rules" were then explained to her and a friend: "Sisters.. Elaine Brown recalls an organizational meeting of the Black Congress in which she and the other women were forced to wait to eat until the men were served food for which they had all contributed money. "I remember refusing to leave the discussion at a regional black student society meeting to go help out in the kitchen. One can see both sexism and racism at work in this citation: not only is he committing violence against women. We cannot understand what the devils and the devilishly influenced mean when they say equality for women. and eventual healing. The process of alienation from those militant and articulate men had begun for me.e.black women. I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. we do not believe in the 'equality' of men and women. Nature has not provided thus. Black men in the Black Liberation Movement often made sexist statements which were largely accepted without criticism. and respected them. did not challenge Brothers. Not only are men and women different.. By embracing a value system that knows of no separation but only of the divine complement the black woman is for her man. E. a black man is not 'for' his woman as a black woman is 'for' her man. While it is true that a crime against a white woman bore more weight in the judicial system.. rather. the woman submits to her black man. Sexual discrimination against women in the Black Liberation Movement not only took the form of misogynist writings." It must be stressed that it was not only many of the men but also a great number of the women in the Black Liberation Movements who . Sisters... But we must erase the separateness by providing ourselves with healthy African identities. I started out by practicing on black girls in the ghetto-in the black ghetto where vicious and dark deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm. And so this separation [of black men and women] is the cause of our need for self-consciousness. Consider these two statements.. stood behind their black men. it was a sacrilege for which blood could be shed. Frances White recalls.

middle class women were described as universal "women's experiences. however." however. In addition to this." rather than themselves. black women fell prey to perpetuating patriarchy within the black community. White women. who were (and still are) without question sexually oppressed by white men. and classist society in which we all live. It has been the tendency of white feminists to see men as the "enemy. and children. They were not equally. seven times as many women of color (of whom 90 percent were black) as white women were employed as private household workers. It generally took the form of exclusion: black women were not invited to participate on conference panels which were not specifically about black or Third World women. well-known black women were often treated as tokens. their work was accepted as representing "the" black experience and was rarely ever criticized or challenged.. some claimed that white women had always been anti-racist. believed that because of this oppression they were unable to assume the dominant role in the perpetuation of white racism." largely ignoring the differences of black and white women's experiences due to race and class. "our white foresisters have . Black Women in the Feminist Movement Black Women who participated in the feminist movement during the 1960s often met with racism. the experiences of white.. as part of the patriarchal.were enforcing strict gender roles on black women. In most women's movement writings. they sprang from a desire to strengthen white society's morals or to uplift the place of white women in that society. or even proportionately. Not only did some white feminists refuse to acknowledge their ability to oppress women of color. women. supported and advocated racist ideology and have acted individually as racist oppressors. Part of the overwhelming frustration black women felt within the Women's Movement was at white feminists' unwillingness to admit to their racism. Traditionally." Every women's movement in the United States has been built on a racist foundation: women's suffrage for white women. as bell hooks points out "[t]here is little historical evidence to document Rich's assertion that white women as a collective group or white women's rights advocates are part of an anti-racist tradition. they have absorbed. often [defied] patriarchy . the temperance movement for the moral uplifting of white society. represented on the faculty of Women's Studies Departments. In much the same way that women in dominant society do not resist but encourage sexism.. black women in their respective movements had two choices: they . rather. Toward a Black Feminist Movement Faced with the sexism of black men and the racism of white women. women's sphere of influence has extended over the home. racist. Adrienne Rich claims. the abolition of slavery for the fortification of white society. None of these movements was for black liberation or racial equality. We have a strong anti-racist female tradition. and it is no coincidence that in 1963.. nor were there classes devoted specifically to the study of black women's history. not on their own behalf but for the sake of black men. This unwillingness comes from the sentiment that those who are oppressed can not oppress others.

The Black woman is already liberated. black women are no exception. be they white men or men of color. People of color need to deal with the "larger struggle. Building a Black Feminist Movement was not an easy task.could remain in the movements and try to educate non-black or non-female comrades about their needs. Now we hear it is the task of women of Color to educate white women-in the face of tremendous resistance-as to our existence. and heading the household-has been thrust upon black women. While it often requires no stretch of the imagination to infer man-hating in some early (and some recent) feminist writings. 4. 3. Barbara Smith articulates the reservations of many black women about a black feminist movement: Myths to divert Black women from our own freedom: 1. Definition and Focus of the Black Feminist Movement . Feminism is nothing but man-hating. our differences. supporting the family economically as well as emotionally. Black feminism struggles against institutionalized. Those feminists are nothing but Lesbians. the goal of feminism is the end of sexism. or they could form a movement of their own. the other myths prove to be false. While it is true that black men needed to be educated about the effects of sexism and white women about the effects of racism on black women's lives. 2. Despite the need for such a movement. as forms of oppression. Women of all races. It is only a sane response of an oppressed people to work toward their own liberation. though noble in its intent. this "freedom"-working outside the home. nationalities. Women's issues are narrow. there were few black women in the early 1970s who were willing to identify themselves as feminists. In light of these facts. religions. Racism and sexism must be confronted at the same time. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master's concerns. In fact. Finally. This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought. and ethnicities are sexually oppressed. Noted Audre Lorde: Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. the assumption that feminists are nothing but lesbians reveals the homophobia which persists in many black communities as well as a misunderstanding of both lesbians and motivations for joining the feminist movement." 5. the Black Feminist Movement. Racism is the primary (or only) oppression Black women have to confront. the women decided to forge their own movement. These myths illustrate long-held misconceptions about black women. apolitical concerns. systematic oppression rather than against a certain group of people. including the belief that the extraordinary strength black women have shown in the face of tremendous oppression reveals their liberation. The first alternative. Upon further examination. classes. to wait for one to end before working on the other reflects an incomplete understanding of the way racism and sexism. was not a viable option. work to perpetuate each other. our relative roles in our joint survival. it was not solely the responsibility of black women to educate them.

. black women needed to define the goals of the Black Feminist Movement and to determine its focus." i. irresponsible. Also: A woman who loves other women. of "girlish. women's emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter)." Noteworthy are the emphases on self-determination. frivolous. strategic action. except periodically. heterosexism. and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. In addition she supplements her definition saying. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. In charge. the audience of these . It was important for black feminism to address the ways that racism. not serious. Among the most notable are Alice Walker's definition and the Combahee River Collective Statement. sexually and/or nonsexually. Usually referring to outrageous. one can see the complementary nature of one's personal life in relation to one's political life. male and female. sexism. In addition. For a single movement to deal with all of the issues listed requires multi-focused. 2.) A black feminist or feminist of color. Not separatist. political definition: The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial. and class oppression. It is a broad statement.. Alice Walker. From womanish.e. sexual. The entire self.. Committed to the survival and wholeness of entire people. "Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender. is valued in womanism. and women's strength. She writes: Womanist 1. which is connected to others in the community. Serious. In these two definitions of black feminism/womanism.. for health. classism and heterosexism all worked to perpetuate each other. the striving toward wholeness individually and within the community.. appreciation for all aspects of womanhood.Having decided to form a movement of their own. Several authors have put forth definitions of the Black Feminist Movement. From the personal. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered "good" for one. sexism. and classism in their lives.. and the commitment to the survival of both men and women. heterosexual. The Combahee River Collective Statement sets forth a more specific. Black feminist writings were to focus on developing theory which would address the simultaneity of racism. the struggle against those forces that render individuals and communities unwhole. This definition is both affirming and challenging for it commends a woman's stretching of her personal boundaries while at the same time calls on women to maintain their connections to the rest of humanity.. courageous or willful behavior. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppression that all women of color face. Appreciates and prefers women's culture. especially for black women. comes the political. The personal is political. audacious. (opp. Responsible. coined the term "Womanist" to describe the Black Feminist Movement. which is exactly what was needed for black and Third World women.

several organizations were established during the late 1970s and early 1980s. well-educated. labor organizing. violence against women. aging. Their membership included black women from all class levels. (It also included a sizable amount of black lesbian writings. ¥ 1981 Establishment of a Third World women's clinic in Berkeley. DC. and classism influence the lives of black women whose needs were ignored by the black men of the Black Liberation Movement and white women in the Women's Movement. The two earliest organizations formed in the movement. New Zealand. DC. Conclusions The Black Feminist Movement was formed to address the ways sexism.) ¥ 1979 The Combahee River Collective protest of the murders of twelve black women in Boston. ¥ 1978 Varied Voices of Black Women concert tour. rather than white feminists or black male activists. child care. ¥ 1981 First Black Dyke Hui in Auckland. feminist consciousness and begin a dialogue which directly addressed their experiences and connected them to a larger political system. a literary magazine for Third World lesbians. nuclear disarmament.writings was to be black women. The movement has spawned several important organizations which are committed to the struggle against all forms of oppression. sterilization abuse. the rights of the disabled. Black women needed to develop a critical. were/are: reproductive rights. battering. (Although the statement had not yet been written at the time of their inception. New Zealand. As mentioned earlier. They have created a unique model for . ¥ 1980 First National Hui (Conference) for Black Women in Otara. and preserving the environment. ¥ 1980 First National Conference on Third World Women and Violence in Washington. anti-racist organizing. A partial listing of the organizations and some noteworthy events includes: ¥ 1973 Founding of the National Black Feminist Organization in New York. Because all of the women were affected by sexism as well as racism in their various fields of employment. equal access to abortion. clearly reflected the goals put forth in the Combahee River Collective Statement. to continue to address the oppressor's needs would be a waste of valuable energy. Early Actions and Organizations in the Black Feminist Movement The specific issues worked on in the Black Feminist Movement. ¥ 1973 Founding of Black Women Organized for Action in San Francisco. health care. the first widely distributed collection of Black feminist writings in the United States. ¥ 1974 Founding of the Combahee River Collective in Boston. anti-imperialist struggles. lesbian and gay rights. ¥ 1981 Establishment of the Black Women's Self-Help Collective in Washington. police brutality. the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO) and Black Women Organized for Action (BWAO). middle-class women worked together with poorly-educated women on welfare to address issues that pertained to all of them. these issues were specifically addressed by these organizations. rape. sexual harassment. racism. welfare rights.). CA. ¥ 1979 Publishing of Conditions: Five. ¥ 1977 First publishing of Azalea. ¥ 1981 Establishment of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. according to Barbara Smith. To this end. the ideas and dialogue which influenced the statement were being created during that time.

there must be a working dialogue between the white-dominated feminist movement and the black feminist movement to continue to develop theory and action which strives toward the end of sexism.C. class. The rhetoric of current black liberation movements still fails to adequately address issues which affect black women. As well. such as the rap music industry) continues to be extremely sexist and misogynist. The black feminist movement must hold the current male-dominated black liberation movement accountable for its sexism and at the same time work with the movement to end the oppression of black people. There is a need for the development of mentor relationships between black women scholar/activists and young black students. Respect for fellow black women must be developed and guarded in spite of the sexist. such as New York. Feminist theory now includes an analysis of the way race. There is also a need to develop black female subjectivity to address black women as the primary audience of theoretical and critical black feminism. became centers of African American life and culture as educational levels and economic success among African Americans rose to unprecedented levels. in the black community. The effectiveness of the movement has not been uniform in the white feminist and black communities. Sociologist Alain Locke wrote that "the Old Negro had long become more of a myth than a man". and classist "cultural baggage" with which all Americans are weighed down. as well as gender influence women's lives. we can't take down the system alone. Individual struggle must be connected with a larger feminist movement to effect change. large numbers of African Americans migrated from the rural Southern states to the industrialized metropolitan areas of the North. both female and male. Most importantly. sexuality. and Washington D. in the United States and in other countries. Differences among black women must be acknowledged and affirmed. The power and influence that each of these groups has cannot be ignored. The women's studies departments of many prominent universities and colleges now have courses which focus on black women's writings and history. the movement must find a way to broaden support among black and Third World women. However.. Detroit. Education about the true nature and goal of the movement as well as resources and strategies for change must reach the women who have little or no access to the movement. Chicago. Many white women in the feminist movement have acknowledged their racism and made attempts to address it in anti-racist training seminars. the movement has not been as effective. rather than ignored. and that . Black women and men need to develop a critical style which encourages further dialogue and development of ideas rather than merely "trashing" and silencing new black feminist voices. "White women are our natural allies. and so that new black feminists need not reinvent theory or search again for history that was never recorded. racist." Harlem Renaissance Between the years of 1919 and 1926. As one NBFO member has said. Nowhere was this blossoming of Black American culture more evident than in Harlem during the 1920s. alliances must be strengthened between the black feminist movement and its parent movements. There are several challenges facing the Black Feminist Movement.cross-class organization in which the needs of the poor are not usurped by the needs of the middle-class and the wealthy. Awareness of sexism has increased within the black academic community but the popular culture (especially that which primarily involves black men. Cities. Finally.

Art was now meant to come forth from within the artist. Other actors who were popular during these years were Charles Gilpin and Paul Robeson." written. James Weldon Johnson. the buoyancy from within compensating for whatever pressure there may be. Edward Burra. and participate in intellectual exchanges with other races. Dubois published The Crisis. A musical called "Shuffle Along. It was also a critical precursor to the Neo-Expressionist artists of the 1980s. Claude McKay. Actress Florence Mills became famous in this show. Its example would later inform Abstract Expressionism. assert themselves in society. Sterling A. Palmer Hayeden. who painted "Street Life. Vincent van Gogh. Lois Mailou Jones. Expressionism was inspired most heavily by the Symbolist currents in late nineteenthcentury art. Jazz was born during the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem became the intellectual center of debate about the future of African American people. and its influence would be felt throughout the remainder of the century in German art. artists. The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and early 1930s was the first time that music. The classic phase of the Expressionist movement lasted from approximately 1905 to 1920 and spread throughout Europe. Other poets of reknown were Angelina Grimke. Jean Toomer (who also wrote the novel Cane. and John Biggers. and Nella Larsen." Synopsis Expressionism emerged simultaneously in various cities across Germany as a response to a widespread anxiety about humanity's increasingly discordant relationship with the world and accompanying lost feelings of authenticity and spirituality.E. Johnson. artists and other intellectuals of this era lives on as the foundation for present day African American culture and institutions. Writer Zora Neale Hurston espoused some controversial views. Click here for a short story by Zora Neale Hurston: Black Death Everyone who renders directly and honestly whatever drives him to create is one of us. Brown. The Crisis often commented on the controversial views of Marcus Garvey. who was publishing a newspaper also. and performed by African Americans. and . Artists flocked to Harlem as well. W. In part a reaction against Impressionism and academic art. The poetry of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen is just as fresh today as it was then. produced. Arna Bontemps and Jessie Redmon Fauset. became a huge Broadway hit. Wells-Barnett. and African American music developed a wider following than ever before. a widely distributed African American magazine funded by the NAACP. Night life in Harlem was lively." shown at the top of this page. rather than from a depiction of the external visual world.B. Key Ideas The arrival of Expressionism announced new standards in the creation and judgment of art. The work of the talented writers. Jacob Lawrence. It developed from its roots of Negro spiritual music and ragtime. In this spirit. musicians. and was brought to fruition by artists like "Fats" Waller and Earl "Fatha" Hines. Anne Spencer. Ida B. Wallace Thurman. Edvard Munch. many Black intellectuals came to Harlem as it became a mecca for writers. and has made an indelible imprint on the culture of all America. 1923.the "New Negro" was entering a "dynamic phase. Some of the best known painters were William H. Hale Woodruff. called Negro World. and Marion Vera Cuthbert also rose to prominence. art and literature of African Americans was widely noticed and adopted by non-Black America. Harlem. encouraging the distortion of form and the deployment of strong colors to convey a variety of anxieties and yearnings. examining the contrast between the "New Negro" and the lower class uneducated African American people of the time). and activists." Locke encouraged African Americans to maintain their unique culture. The work of the African American writers of the Harlem Renaissance was perhaps the greatest legacy of this time period. and James Ensor proved particularly influential to the Expressionists.

his famous painting The Scream (1893) evidenced the conflict between spirituality and modernity as a central theme of his work. and elongated bodies was a step toward the exotic colors. and jagged forms of the later Expressionists. Their representations of the modern city included alienated individuals . Expressionist artists developed a powerful mode of social criticism in their serpentine figural renderings and bold colors. Klimt was a mentor to painter Egon Schiele. Beginnings With the turn of the century in Europe. and artists reflected the psychological impact of these developments by moving away from a realistic representation of what they saw toward an emotional and psychological rendering of how the world affected them. A few years later. The Term "Expressionism" The term "Expressionism" is thought to have been coined in 1910 by Czech art historian Antonin Matejcek. In addition to Kandinsky. after the rejection of Wassily Kandinsky's painting The Last Judgment (1910) from a local exhibition. Paul Klee. the Expressionists. in 1911. and. in Emile . It should be noted. Expressionist artists often employed swirling. These techniques were meant to convey the turgid emotional state of the artist reacting to the anxieties of the modern world. Munch's frenetic canvases expressed the anxiety of the individual within the newly modernized European society. gestural brushwork. all of whom made up the loosely associated group. and Erich Heckel . Whereas the Impressionists sought to express the majesty of nature and the human form through paint. elaborately patterned surfaces. since human beings are. in the early years of the century. naturalism implies a philosophical position: for naturalistic writers. which focuses on literary technique. Fritz Bleyl. at an exhibition of their work in 1909. His vibrant and emotionally charged works opened up new possibilities for introspective expression. putting him in direct contact with the Expressionists. The Advent of Expressionism in Germany Although it included various artists and styles.Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. By 1905 Munch's work was well known within Germany and he was spending much of his time there as well. the term was widely used to apply to a variety of styles.the standard for assessing the quality of a work of art became the character of the artist's feelings rather than an analysis of the composition. Unlike realism.formed the group Die Brücke (the Bridge) in the city of Dresden. The roots of Expressionism can be traced to certain PostImpressionist artists like Edvard Munch in Norway.as well as prostitutes. Through their confrontation with the urban world of the early twentieth century. the group included Franz Marc. among others. and finally emerged in Germany in 1905. In particular. Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. nor similar sub-movements. including Post-Impressionism The term naturalism describes a type of literature that attempts to apply scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to its study of human beings. often via the painting of harsh and realistic subject matter. who worked in the Austrian Art Nouveau style of the Vienna Secession. and August Macke. however. shifts in artistic styles and vision erupted as a response to the major changes in the atmosphere of society. Gustav Klimt in Austria Another figure in the late nineteenth century that had an impact upon the development of Expressionism was Gustav Klimt. among others. according to Matejcek. as well as Gustav Klimt in the Vienna Secession.a psychological by-product of recent urbanization . that neither Die Brücke. New technologies and massive urbanization efforts altered the individual's worldview. Expressionism first emerged in 1905. who intended it to denote the opposite of Impressionism. Klimt's lavish mode of rendering his subjects in a bright palette. a like-minded group of young artists formed Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in Munich. who were used to comment on capitalism's role in the emotional distancing of individuals within cities. Edvard Munch in Norway The late nineteenth-century Norwegian Post-Impressionist painter Edvard Munch emerged as an important source of inspiration for the Expressionists. when a group of four German architecture students who desired to become painters . and exaggeratedly executed brushstrokes in the depiction of their subjects. and introduced him to the works of Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh. ever referred to themselves as Expressionist. sought only to express inner life. swaying.

June Howard's Form and History in American Literary Naturalism. A naturalistic novel is thus an extension of realism only in the sense that both modes often deal with the local and contemporary. heredity. In George Becker's famous and much-annotated and contested phrase. see also The Cambridge Guide to American Realism and Naturalism. ." Another such concise definition appears in the introduction to American Realism: New Essays. and Louis J. Naturalistic writers thus used a version of the scientific method to write their novels. without moralizing about their natures. The tension here is that between the naturalist's desire to represent in fiction the new. however. Revised Edition (1984): [T]he naturalistic novel usually contains two tensions or contradictions. The second tension involves the theme of the naturalistic novel. . But he also suggests a compensating humanistic value in his characters or their fates which affirms the significance of the individual and of his life. Mark Selzer's Bodies and Machines." characters can be studied through their relationships to their surroundings."The Country of the Blue. The naturalist populates his novel primarily from the lower middle class or the lower class. and ." Eric Sundquist comments. . The naturalist. "Revelling in the extraordinary. Lee Clark Mitchell's Determined Fictions. Zola's 1880 description of this method in Le roman experimental (The Experimental Novel. His fictional world is that of the commonplace and unheroic in which life would seem to be chiefly the dull round of daily existence. Frequently but not invariably ill-educated or lower-class characters whose lives are governed by the forces of heredity. Their attempts at exercising free will or choice are hamstrung by forces beyond their control. Budd for information on the intellectual European and American backgrounds of naturalism. . discovers in this material the extraordinary and excessive in human nature.Zola's phrase. and other works from the naturalism bibliography. naturalistic writers believed that the laws behind the forces that govern human lives might be studied and understood. Charles Child Walcutt's American Literary Naturalism: A Divided Stream. Walter Benn Michaels's The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism. The first tension is that between the subject matter of the naturalistic novel and the concept of man which emerges from this subject matter. Through this objective study of human beings. the two in conjunction comprise both an interpretation of experience and a particular aesthetic recreation of experience. and also his desire to find some meaning in experience which reasserts the validity of the human enterprise. and the grotesque in order to reveal the immutable bestiality of Man in Nature. instinct. or chance. The naturalist often describes his characters as though they are conditioned and controlled by environment. Other influences on American naturalists include Herbert Spencer and Joseph LeConte. Characters. See Lars Ahnebrink. See June Howard's Form and History for information on the spectator in naturalism. such as acts of violence and passion which involve sexual adventure or bodily strength and which culminate in desperate moments and violent death. "human beasts. social Darwinism and other theories help to explain their fates to the reader. the excessive. the two constitute the theme and form of the naturalistic novel. (10-11) For further definitions. In that piece. Richard Lehan. 1880) follows Claude Bernard's medical model and the historian Hippolyte Taine's observation that "virtue and vice are products like vitriol and sugar"--that is. naturalism dramatizes the loss of individuality at a physiological level by making a Calvinism without God its determining order and violent death its utopia" (13). In other words. instinct. Although they used the techniques of accumulating detail pioneered by the realists. that human beings as "products" should be studied impartially. . as we ourselves usually conceive of our lives. discomfiting truths which he has found in the ideas and life of his late nineteenth-century world. they studied human beings governed by their instincts and passions as well as the ways in which the characters' lives were governed by forces of heredity and environment. But the naturalist discovers in this world those qualities of man usually associated with the heroic or adventurous. naturalism's philosophical framework can be simply described as "pessimistic materialistic determinism. and passion. the naturalists thus had a specific object in mind when they chose the segment of reality that they wished to convey. . A modified definition appears in Donald Pizer's Realism and Naturalism in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction.

Themes 1. Nature as an indifferent force acting on the lives of human beings. 5. Naturalistic texts often describe the futile attempts of human beings to exercise free will. and ragtime exerted a profound influence on the literature of the period from the cadences of Langston Hughes to the later prose of James Baldwin. See Lee Clark Mitchell's Determined Fictions.Barren Ground (1925) Harlem In the 1920's and 30's the upper Manhattan district of Harlem had become the flourishing capital of African-American culture as writers.E. and the fight for survival in an amoral. Paul Robeson The most prominent figure was W. often ironically presented. artists. But she was indifferent. and Carl Van Vechten. patronize. panoramic. Walcutt says that the naturalistic novel offers "clinical. The House of Mirth (1905) Ellen Glasgow. as in Norris's McTeague. Charlotte Mason. Given his affluence and his position in white mainstream society. The conflict in naturalistic novels is often "man against nature" or "man against himself" as characters struggle to retain a "veneer of civilization" despite external pressures that threaten to release the "brute within.A. determinism. Arna Bontemps. The "brute within" each individual. The forces of heredity and environment as they affect--and afflict--individual lives. among them Joel and Amy Spingarn. nor wise. Practitioners Frank Norris Theodore Dreiser Jack London Stephen Crane Edith Wharton. and nature in the vision of men. Among the leading creative figures of the period were the writers Langston Hughes. musicians. and the musicians Duke Ellington and Eubie Blake. photographers. nor beneficent.Walcutt identifies survival. violence. standing with its back to the plight of the ants. It represented in a degree. Du Bois. Frequently an urban setting. Alain Locke. such as lust. Techniques and plots. nor treacherous. the leader of the N. greed. composed of strong and often warring emotions: passions. Philip Fisher's Hard Facts. and intellectuals created works that probed the black American heritage with a psychological intensity and fierce pride. in this universe that reveals free will as an illusion. Other prominent black and white citizens joined forces to publish. blues. indifferent universe.A. the photographer James Van Der Zee. philosophers. and Zora Neale Hurston.P." 4. deterministic universe. Jazz. and James R. . Countee Cullen. Van Vechten's slice-of-life novel NIGGER HEAVEN and his stunning photographs of Harlem and his artist friends did a great deal to win widespread attention for the renaissance that was taking place. or the desire for dominance or pleasure. She did not seem cruel to him then. Jean Toomer.C.Setting." 3. The novel of degeneration--Zola's L'Assommoir and Norris's Vandover and the Brute. to the correspondent. Jessie Redmon Fauset. and taboo as key themes. the serenity of nature amid the struggles of the individual--nature in the wind. and Harlem's legendary cabarets. and editor of THE CRISIS who served for decades as the community's conscience and a spokesperson for AfricanAmerican advancement. flatly indifferent.B. who enriched the movement artistically as well as financially. An indifferent. slice-of-life" drama that is often a "chronicle of despair" (21). The romantic vision of Wordsworth-that "nature never did betray the heart that loved her"--here becomes Stephen Crane's view in "The Open Boat": "This tower was a giant. Giles's The Naturalistic Inner-City Novel in America. and promote African-American culture. for example--is also a common type. 2. The Cotton Club and The Apollo Theater became meccas for the new music enticing visitors in the larger African-American artistic experience.

It is rather the case that one can be more-orless realist about a particular subject matter. substantive revision Fri Apr 16. and so on. it is more common for philosophers to be selectively realist or non-realist about various topics: thus it would be perfectly possible to be a realist about the everyday world of macroscopic objects and their properties. are terms that describe manifestations of philosophical realism. there are many different forms that realism and nonrealism can take. In addition. aesthetics. conceptual schemes. Tables. The realist wishes to claim that apart from the mundane sort of empirical dependence of objects and their properties familiar to us from everyday life. or Realist or Realistic. . science. This article offers a broad brush characterisation of realism. The fact that the moon exists and is spherical is independent of anything anyone happens to say or think about the matter. 2002. or whatever. this is not the type of dependence that the realist wishes to deny. In philosophy. there is no further sense in which everyday objects and their properties can be said to be dependent on anyone's linguistic practices. Realism. First. It is always related to some form of reality. modality. including ethics. Likewise. 2010 The question of the nature and plausibility of realism arises with respect to a large number of subject matters. Although it would be possible to accept (or reject) realism across the board. Realism takes on various meanings. The question of the nature and plausibility of realism is so controversial that no brief account of it will satisfy all those with a stake in the debates between realists and non-realists. as do the following facts: the table's being square. depending on the context in which the term is used. illustrated by looking at realism about the everyday world of macroscopic objects and their properties. Scientific realism and Realism in the arts are two of a number of different senses the words take in other fields. the rock's being made of granite. In this broad sense Realism frequently contrasts with Idealism. all exist. The second aspect of realism about the everyday world of macroscopic objects and their properties concerns independence. there is a claim about existence. mathematics. it is misleading to think that there is a straightforward and clear-cut choice between being a realist and a non-realist about a particular subject matter. There are two general aspects to realism. semantics. Also. the moon. and then fills out some of the detail by looking at a few canonical examples of opposition to realism. causation. rocks. the belief that reality exists independently of observers. and the everyday world of macroscopic material objects and their properties. although there is a clear sense in which the table's being square is dependent on us (it was designed and constructed by human beings after all). and the moon's being spherical and yellow. The discussion of forms of opposition to realism is far from exhaustive and is designed only to illustrate a few paradigm examples of the form such opposition can take. but a non-realist about aesthetic and moral value.Realism First published Mon Jul 8.

realism about that subject matter will typically take the form of a claim like the following: Generic Realism: a. Non-realism can take many forms. and c and so on exist. while idealism. nominalism. and the distinctive properties are …is F. linguistic practices. G-ness. The forms of non-realism can vary dramatically from subject-matter to subject-matter. b. and the fact that they exist and have properties such as F-ness. where the distinctive objects of a subject-matter are a. …is G. b. subjectivism. c. and eliminativism typically reject realism by rejecting the existence dimension.In general. but error-theories. and H-ness is (apart from mundane empirical dependencies of the sort sometimes encountered in everyday life) independent of anyone's beliefs. … . certain styles of reductionism. Philosophers who subscribe to quietism deny that there can be such a thing as substantial metaphysical debate between realists and their non-realist opponents (because they either deny that there are substantial questions about existence or deny that there are substantial questions about independence . …is H and so on. depending on whether or not it is the existence or independence dimension of realism that is questioned or rejected. conceptual schemes. non-cognitivism. and so on. and anti-realism typically concede the existence dimension but reject the independence dimension. instrumentalism.

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