American Regionalism, Realism, and Naturalism



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American Regionalism, Realism, and Naturalism

  • 1860-1920(ish)

What is Realism?

  • A faithful representation of reality in literature, also known as “verisimilitude.”
  • Emphasis on development of believable characters.
  • Written in natural vernacular, or dialect.
  • Prominent from 1860-1890.

Realist Writers

  • Mark Twain
  • William Dean Howells
  • Henry James
  • Edgar Lee Masters

Why did Realism develop?

What is Regionalism?

  • Often called “local color.”
  • Focuses on characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other features specific to a certain region (eg. the South)
  • Coincided with Realism and sharing many of the same traits.
  • Prominent from 1865-1895.

Regionalist Writers

  • Kate Chopin—South
  • Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman—New England
  • Mark Twain—West
  • Willa Cather—Midwest

Why did Regionalism develop?

  • Dual influence of Romanticism and Realism
  • The Civil War and the building of a national identity
  • An outgrowth of realism with more focus on a particular setting and its influence over characters

What is Naturalism?

  • Applied scientific principles of objectivity and detachment to the study of human beings.
  • Influenced by Darwinism (natural selection) and psychology (Freud)
  • Posited that me9999999999999999999999n were governed by heredity and environment.
  • Often depict man in conflict with nature, society, or himself.
  • Prominent from 1880-1920(ish)

Naturalist Writers

  • Stephen Crane
  • Ambrose Bierce
  • Jack London
  • Edwin Arlington Robinson
  • Katherine Anne Porter
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Edith Wharton

Why did Naturalism develop?

  • The swell of immigrants in the latter half of the 19th century, which led to a larger lower class and increased poverty in the cities
  • The prominence of psychology and the theories of Sigmund Freud
  • Pessimism in the wake of the Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species

Points to Remember…

  • Realism, Regionalism, and Naturalism are intertwined and connected.
  • Their influence has dominated most literature created since 1920, though the movement itself is dated to roughly that point.
  • They are truly American modes of writing.


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