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Realism and Naturalism Background

To complete this assignment, do some surfing on the internet to research Realism and Naturalism in literature. Study the summary of characteristics of Realism and Naturalism  provided as prep for the test. Make a list of characteristics of the periods from your Internet sources and the summary and document where you found each characteristic.

Lesson 11:  Summary of Realism and Naturalism

  1. Next to the 20th century, the 19th century is the century of greatest change.
  2. Liberty, science, progress, and evolution are the major concepts that define the mental atmosphere of the 19th century.
  3. Great political and social changes took place during this time, including the Industrial Revolution, rapid urbanization, widespread wealth and prosperity, speed and availability of transportation, diminished barriers between social classes, and the loss of power among the aristocracy.
  4. The new industrial middle-class society of the 19th century was attacked by many artists and thinkers who were unhappy in the ugly, commerical, and Philistine society of the age.
  5. Literature was the most representative and the most widely influential art of the 19th century.
  6. Realists wanted a truthful representation in literature–that is, of contemporary life and manners. They thought of their method as inductive, observational, and hence, objective. The personality of the author was to be supressed, or was at least to recede into the background, since reality was to be seen as it is.   The plots of realistic fiction tend to be made up on the trivial incidents of life.   The subjects of realistic fiction tend to be contemporary, ordinary, and middle class.  The “ordinary man” of the realists was the urban worker, rather than the rural laborer.
  7. Naturalism, an outgrowth of Realism, considered the procedure of the novelist as that of an experimental scientist. The philosophical consequences of heridity and determinism are clearly drawn by naturalists.   Naturalism dominated during the 1870’s and 1880’s.   Naturalistic literature presents characters as prisoners of their biological inheritance and social environment.  Naturalists abandoned middle-class drawing rooms of the realists for the “lower depths”–working class settings where the impact of environment was especially clear, and for violent, animalistic characters whose drives, especially hunger and sex, are particularly vivid.
  8. The greatest realistic writers of the 19th century were Flaubert in France, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in Russia, Dickens in England, Henry James in America, and Ibsen in Norway.
  9. The contemporary novel is usually considered naturalistic and judged by the standards of nature and truth.
  10. The slogans realism and naturalism were new to the 19th century, but the practice of realism was not new at all. Realistic scenes occur in literature throughout the ages.
  11. The systematic description of contemporary society, with a serious purpose, often even with a tragic tone as well, and with sympathy for heroes drawn from the middle and lower classes, was a real innovation of the 19th century.
  12. While 19th century literature reflects the triumph of the middle class,the great realistic writers were not spokesmen for the society they described. In fact, many were critical or hostile toward the middle class and its values.
  13. To a far greater degree than in earlier times, artists, including writers, felt their isolation from society.
  14. While realistic art includes the sordid, low, disgusting and evil side of life, it is not totally objective. Works of art are written by human beings and inevitably express their personalities and points of view.
  15. Realism was a reaction against the themes and methods of Romanticism–a condemnation of the fantastic, historical, remote, theidyllic. Realism presents us with a “slice of life.”
  16. Many of the great Realists make us “realize” their world, but their achievements are due to their imagination and art, requisites of good writing that realistic theory minimizes.
  17. All the great realists were at bottom romanticists. Flaubert, the most consistent advocate of absolute objectivity, was in half his work a writer of romantic fantasies and blood and bold, flesh and jewels. Tolstoy was autobiographical in his writings and preached his own personal religion.


Last Updated on January 30, 2018

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