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Faculty Course Description

ENG334W: American Realism and Naturalism
Dr. Christina Bucher
Associate Professor
Office: Evans 225A
Office phone: 233-4076
e-mail: cbucher@berry.edu
 

The period from 1865 to the early 1900s in American literature reveals a series of interrelated trends or “isms.” Following the Civil War and accompanying the post-war economic/industrial boom, readers were hungry for stories about different “pockets” of America, in the South, the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West. These stories, full of details and descriptions of such places and often touched with a nostalgic yearning for a way of life rapidly passing, came to be regarded as local color and/or regional fiction (we’ll spend a good bit of time discussing the distinction between the two terms or whether there is one). This local color(ism) and regionalism might be seen as part of a larger trend in American literature of the time – the move away from Romanticism and romanticism writing (more on this distinction later, too) to realism, which focused on verisimilitude, especially in terms of human relationships. Following the publication and widespread discussion of the work of Charles Darwin and other scientists, some American writers sought to apply these new scientific principles to their work; naturalism was the name given to their work. We’ll spend the semester discussing how and why these trends developed, how they are identifiable in the texts, what the cultural implications of these trends were, and what relevance they continue to hold for American literature today. This era is very heavy on fiction, so most of our reading will be focused in this genre.

Assignments may include short informal writings, a creative writing project, a presentation, critical essays, and a final exam.

Tentative texts:
The Portable American Realism Reader, James Nagle and Tom Quirk, eds. (Penguin)
Daisy Miller, Henry James. (Dover)
The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton (Bantam)
Tales of Conjure and the Color Line, Charles W. Chesnutt. (Dover)
Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett. (Dover)
McTeague, Frank Norris. (Bantam)
Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters. (Dover)

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