AMERICAN NATURALISM

Sources
• Development of science: • Charles Darwin’ s theory of evolution • The first public announcement of natural selection: Charles Darwin, and Alfred Russel Wallace, 1823-1913."On the tendency of species to form varieties: and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection.” Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean When Charles Darwin published The Society: Zoology, 3 (1858) Descent of Man in 1871, he challenged
the fundamental beliefs of most people by asserting that humans and apes had evolved from a common ancestor. Many critics of Darwin misunderstood his theory to mean that people had descended directly from apes. This caricature of 2 Charles Darwin as an ape appeared in the London Sketch Book in 1874.

Charles Darwin
• On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for life. London: John Murray, 1859. • Revealed the animalistic struggle underlying all human behaviour
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Progress and Poverty
• Henry George: Progress and Poverty, 1879 • “This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times. It is the central fact from which spring industrial, social, and political difficulties that perplex the world, and with which statesmanship and philanthropy and education grapple in vain.”

This image (from a Henry George Cigar box) reflects George's fame at the time of his run for the Mayoralty of New York in 1886 (and later in 1897). George outpolled a young Theodore Roosevelt, but lost to machine Democrat Abraham Hewitt. The rooster was George's campaign icon, and his slogan was "The democracy of Thomas Jefferson. And although the cigars were advertised "for men", 4 George was in fact an outspoken advocate for women's suffrage.

“Muckraking” journalism
• A period of grim social struggle • Issues of poverty and political abuse • Blended into the reportages of the muckraking journalists • Both Crane and Dreiser journalists exploring the life of the slum long before they were novelists
Photo of correspondents Richard Harding Davis (left) and 5 Stephen Crane during the Spanish

Emil Zola
• Showed how this 'scientific' vision might be expressed in fiction • "I chose characters completely dominated by their nerves and their blood, deprived of free will, pushed to each action of their lives by the fatality of their flesh."

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Absolute determinism
• In determinism, individuals no longer appeared as morally independent actors in a Christian Universe • Filings aligned by magnets • Succumb to the logic of heredity and environment • Thus behaviour - a problem for science, not a mystery of life
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Naturalist Characters
• A thoroughly different sense of character emerges: • dehumanized • determined • moved by inner and outer forces beyond conscious moral control

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• Any sure evidence of effective choice, of free will, or autonomous action, makes a novel something other than naturalist • In realism - a wide variety of individuals , but each one has the ability to choose and characteristically does so through scenes that enact a process of deliberation • Weighing of alternative actions through consideration of consequences • The possibilities for the self are conceived in terms of responsible choice

Naturalist Vs. Realist Characters

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Naturalist Vs. Realist Characters
• Naturalist characters act out of a similar set of motives and desires • Differ only in being unable to resist the conditions that press upon them • The self may be no more than an illusion • The dynamic forces that constrain one's actions from within as well as without not only overwhelm an otherwise integrated self but rather are that self in a fragmented state • No disjunction between outer events and inner disposition
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Naturalist Vs Realist Characters
• Circumstances are the source of character in naturalism • The realist heroes might always act differently in circumstances that destroy them • They can attain a tragic stature • Not so with the naturalist characters • All the major American realists succumbed to certain determinist possibilities • Sinclair Lewis: fictionalized circumstances that deprive their characters of autonomy
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Absolute Determinism
• How could such a philosophy thrive in a country so committed to personal liberty and individualism? • Partly explained by - rapid industrialization - unprecedented influx of immigrants

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American Naturalists
• Lacked any sense of common purpose • No self-conscious 'school’ • Shared in common an attraction to the philosophical determinism • This concept that inspired the new narrative conceptions of setting and character was fully incorporated in the works of four American writers - Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser and Jack London a
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Frank Norris 1870 - 1902
• The representative American naturalist • A cultural seismograph • Registering the wide variety of ideological formations and cultural practices • The most conspicuous and overt proponent of literary naturalism • The most incompetent practitioner of the craft - labored and lugubrious style
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Norris’ Art
• The literary value of his work - revolt against style: • “I detest ‘fine writing’, ‘rhetoric’, ‘elegant English’ - tommyrot. Who cares for fine style! Tell your yarn and let your style go to hell. We don’t want literature, we want life.”
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Norris’s Works
• Yvernele, A Tale of Feudal France, a romantic poem, 1891 • Moran and the Lady Letty, 1898, a wild tale of pirate adventure • McTeague, 1899 - sensational treatment of greed and degeneracy • The Octopus, 1901 • The Pit, 1903 • The Wolf • Vandover and the Brute, 1914

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Norris’ Contribution
• Definition of naturalism as a synthesis of ‘romance’ and ‘’realism’ • Understands naturalism entirely in terms of the writer’s material • Many have shared his assumptions and have tried to suppress the ‘literary’ insisting on the primacy of a fantasy of masculine ‘reality’.
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Stephen Crane 1871 - 1900
• The most bleakly nihilistic of the group • Created the most clearly selfconscious body of work • His career spanned little more than half a dozen years before he died of tuberculosis at twenty-eight

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Crane’s Works
• Maggie: A Girl of the Streets 1893 • The Red Badge of Courage 1894 • George's Mother 1895 • The Open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure 1898 • The Monster and Other Stories 1899 • War is Kind 1899 • Active Service 1899 • Whilomville Stories 1900 • Wounds in the Rain 1900
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Crane’s Art
• The perspective he offers is of a fundamentally indifferent universe • Directly contradicting those realists who felt that moral claims redeemed the starkness of experience, Crane depicted the world as inherently amoral and irredeemable • Nature provides no haven in his fiction, nor are its processes altered by desire • Dramatizes the emptiness of deliberation and choice intensifying this vision of a thoroughly unaccommodating universe
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Crane’s Art
• Settings of war, shipwreck and blizzard precluding quiet contemplation • Characters who seem in the end enslaved no less by conventions than by circumstances • Part of his characters' inability to take responsibility for experience results from the unusual form of his representation: his 'nervous' style contributes to a radical questioning of the very concept of the self
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Crane’s Art
• The absence of strong plots • Characters often lack names • A tacit repudiation of conventional labels and predictable judgements • His narratives call into question all casual assumptions • They compel us to recognize how any conclusion can only emerge from predetermining expectations
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Theodore Dreiser 1871 - 1945

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Theodore Dreiser 1871 - 1945
• No less a hybrid practitioner than other major American naturalists • Eludes clear classification as 'pessimistic', 'optimistic' or 'reform’ • The first Catholic • The first to hear a foreign language at home • The first whose family was impoverished and disreputable
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Dreiser’s Art
• In his novels impersonal energies always engulf desire, which becomes cause for neither nihilism, nor optimism • Settings no longer constrain desire, but now express it fully, if only to confirm in the end that desire itself can never be satisfied • Identifying desire with urban settings, described in unprecedented detail • The greatest chronicler of American cities
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Dreiser’s Works
• • • • • • • • • • Sister Carrie 1900, 1907, 1912 Jennie Gerhardt, 1911 The Financier, 1912 A Traveller at Forty, 1913 The Titan 1914 Free, and Other stories, 1918 The Hand of the Potter (a play), 1918 Twelve Men (sketches), 1918 Hey, Rub-A-Dub-Dub (essays) 1920 A Book About Myself 1922

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Dreiser’s Works
• • • • • • • • An American Tragedy 1925 Chains (stories) 1927 Moods, Cadenced and Declaimed (poems) 1928 Dreiser Looks at Russia 1928 A Gallery of Women 1929 America is Worth Saving 1941 The Bulwark 1946 The Stoic 1947

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Dreiser’s Art
• Recurrence of chance alignment of desire and environment • Characters drift from place to place, and from person to person • More than any other naturalist, Dreiser dramatized chance as a means of compelling characters to pay or gain for actions not their own
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Dreiser’s Significance
• Subsequent writers have borrowed from the fiction of Crane, Norris, and London • The adaptations from Dreiser have made the tradition seem to continue • John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck and Norman Mailer, even William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway have seemed to resemble Dreiser in technique or material

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American Naturalism
• Naturalism is distinguished by no particular attitude or assumption, no specific technique or style • Crane's 'impressionistic' vignettes hardly call to mind Dreiser's lumbering prose • American literary naturalists are bound together by historical context and philosophical determinism

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American Naturalism Basic Bibliography
• Vernon L. Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought,:The Beginnings of Critical Realism in America, 1930, v.III; • Charles Child Walcutt, American Literary Naturalism: A Divided Stream 1956; • Lars Ahnebrink, The Beginnings of Naturalism in American Fiction 1891-1903, 1961; • Donald Pizer, Realism and Naturalism in NineteenthCentury Literature, 1966
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Bibliography
• John J. Conder, Naturalism in American Fiction: The Classic Phase, 1984; • June Howard, Form and History in American Literary Naturalism, 1985; • Mark Seltzer, "The Naturalist Machine, in Sex, Politics, and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Novel, ed. Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 1986; • Walter Benn Michaels, The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism, 1987; • Lee Clark Mitchell, Determined Fictions: American Literary Naturalism, 1989; • Michael Davitt Bell, The Problem of American Realism, 1993

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