Literary naturalism

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Introduction to Realism:  Revolt against Romanticism  Instead of Idealistic >Pessimistic  Portraits of REAL life with all its grit  Finding meaning in commonplace Class example: Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs Intro to Regionalism/Local Color:       Happy medium between Romanticism and Realism Captured the essence of life in various regions of the nation a way for people across the nation to reconnect after the Civil War concerned with the character of the region not the individual Stories may include lots of storytelling and revolve around the community and its rituals Use of dialect to establish credibility and authenticity of regional characters Class example: Kate Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby” Kate Chopin, 1851-1904    “one of the most powerful and controversial writers of her time” Focused on capturing the essence of life in Louisiana (Cajuns & Creoles) Common themes: nature of marriage, racial prejudice, female equality Introduction to Naturalism (1870’s to mid-1900’s) “A Man Said to the Universe” by Stephen Crane A man said to the universe, “Sir, I exist!” “However,” replied the universe, “The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation.” Naturalism Background    Naturalism is an extension and refinement of Realism, based on the theories of the French novelist, Emile Zola (1840 – 1902) Influenced by the scientific discoveries of the time, Naturalist saw humans as one of the pack… not individuals Emile Zola coined the term “human beasts” to demonstrate this Inspired by Charles Darwin & Thomas Huxley, Zola believed people’s actions and beliefs resulted not from freewill but from arbitrary, outside forces of heredity and environment What was going on in the world?  Western Expansion  “Manifest Destiny”  Gold rushes  Growth of cities  Industrialism Major Tenets of Naturalism  Writer must examine people and society objectively and, like a scientist, draw conclusions from what is observed  Reality: the inescapable working out of natural forces  Destiny is decided by heredity and environment, physical drives, and economic circumstances  Tended to be pessimistic  Direct opposite of Romanticism and Transcendentalism, which saw nature as holy or mystical  Despite their underlying powerlessness, characters generally conduct themselves with strength and dignity in the face of adversity, thereby affirming the significance of their existence Realism vs Naturalism: http://faculty.tamucommerce.edu/kroggenkamp/English519Naturalism htm  Most Popular American Naturalist Writers:  Stephen Crane  Jack London  Theodore Dreiser  Frank Norris Stephen Crane (1871-1900)     The Red Badge of Courage: An Episode of the American Civil War (1895) Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) “The Blue Hotel” (1898) “The Open Boat” (1898) Stephen Crane Biography     one of America's foremost realistic writers, and his works have been credited with marking the beginning of modern American Naturalism Influenced by William Dean Howells's theory of realism, Crane utilized his keen observations, as well as personal experiences, to achieve a narrative vividness and sense of immediacy matched by few American writers before him Critics suggest that [Maggie: A Girl of the Streets ] was a major development in American literary Naturalism and that it introduced Crane's vision of life as warfare: influenced by the Darwinism of the times, Crane viewed individuals as victims of purposeless forces and believed that they encountered only hostility in their relationships with other individuals, with society, with nature, and with God http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/stephen-crane Crane’s Naturalism, however, was tempered by his belief that in such an indifferent universe, people must stick together with acts of kindness and compassion to counter the terrible forces to which they are subjected In his writing, Crane asks questions rather than providing answers This encourages the reader to delve deeper into understanding mankind in the face of brutal natural forces “The Open Boat”  Many readers have used the term impressionist to describe Crane's vivid renderings of moments of visual beauty and uncertainty Even Crane's "discontinuous" rendering of action has been identified as impressionist Jack London (1876-1916)  The Call of the Wild (1903)  White Fang (1906)  “To Build a Fire” (1902) London wrote passionately and prolifically about the great questions of life and death, the struggle to survive with dignity and integrity, and he wove these elemental ideas into stories of high adventure based on his own firsthand experiences at sea, or in Alaska, or in the fields and factories of California As a result, his writing appealed not to the few, but to millions of people all around the world If man is at the mercy of nature…then what ’s the point? Right?  "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet The proper function of man is to live, not to exist I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them I shall use my time" Jack London (1876 - 1916) Key themes of Naturalism in literature  The "brute within" each individual, comprised of strong and often warring emotions: passions, such as lust, greed, or the desire for dominance or pleasure; and the fight for survival in an amoral, indifferent universe  The indifference of nature as man struggles to survive  The forces of heredity and environment as they affect—and afflict—individual lives  Determinism: the inability to express free will How Culture Influenced Literature and Led to Naturalism:     Darwin says it's natural selection, not a divine blueprint of some sort, that determines which organisms live and die in the world -it's mere "survival of the fittest." Marx says the masses are at the mercy of a capitalist economy, which more often than not brutally exploits them Freud says we're all at the mercy of dark internal drives and desires we can scarcely hope to control U.S population grew at a staggering rate Millions of people are settling into densely crowded urban areas where they seem to be living and working more and more like insects, basically there's not a whole lot of difference between humans, who we like to think are individualistic and have free will, and animals, who of course live in flocks, herds, and schools and have to run on instinct Expanding ideas of naturalism  Another side to nature controlling our destiny, is the nature inside of us such as the need for food, sex, shelter, social dominance, etc  Naturalism doesn’t just focus on nature’s influence It encompasses many environments, the man-made environment, or finance, industry, and the economy Something is always beating down and controlling the lives of lowly individual humans  Naturalist works are more likely to be political than traditional realist works A great many naturalists (like Upton Sinclair in The Jungle, which is about the plight of the working poor in Chicago's meatpacking industry) want to expose the cruelty of certain "larger forces," more often than not America's voracious capitalist economy In a nutshell  Donald Prizer states, "The naturalistic novelist is willing to concede that there are fundamental limitations to man's freedom, but he is unwilling to concede that man is thereby stripped of all value." [...]... the beginning of modern American Naturalism Influenced by William Dean Howells's theory of realism, Crane utilized his keen observations, as well as personal experiences, to achieve a narrative vividness and sense of immediacy matched by few American writers before him Critics suggest that [Maggie: A Girl of the Streets ] was a major development in American literary Naturalism and that it introduced... have free will, and animals, who of course live in flocks, herds, and schools and have to run on instinct Expanding ideas of naturalism  Another side to nature controlling our destiny, is the nature inside of us such as the need for food, sex, shelter, social dominance, etc  Naturalism doesn’t just focus on nature’s influence It encompasses many environments, the man-made environment, or finance,... than a sleepy and permanent planet The proper function of man is to live, not to exist I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them I shall use my time" Jack London (1876 - 1916) Key themes of Naturalism in literature  The "brute within" each individual, comprised of strong and often warring emotions: passions, such as lust, greed, or the desire for dominance or pleasure; and the fight for... struggles to survive  The forces of heredity and environment as they affect—and afflict—individual lives  Determinism: the inability to express free will How Culture Influenced Literature and Led to Naturalism:     Darwin says it's natural selection, not a divine blueprint of some sort, that determines which organisms live and die in the world -it's mere "survival of the fittest." Marx says the... forces and believed that they encountered only hostility in their relationships with other individuals, with society, with nature, and with God http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/stephen-crane Crane’s Naturalism, however, was tempered by his belief that in such an indifferent universe, people must stick together with acts of kindness and compassion to counter the terrible forces to which they are subjected
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