Realism & Regionalism Time Period: from the Civil War to the turn of the century (1865-1900) Thank you, Mrs. Harmaning! Realism a reaction against the romantic celebration of the ability of the human will to triumph over adversity. "the faithful representation of reality" or "verisimilitude“ Man with a Hoe [the appearance or by Jean-Francois Millet semblance of (1862) What realists believe humanity’s freedom of choice is limited by the power of outside forces. (a branch of realism called naturalism takes this idea to an extreme) class is important: focus is on the insurgent middle class in scientific principles, pragmatism, and objectivity that the purpose of writing is to instruct and to entertain Reasons for Realism Industrial revolution: less reliance on rural opportunities and more focus on factory production Urbanization: immigrants crowded into tenements with horrific living and working conditions Post-war American life: a time of upheaval Characteristics (continued) Emphasis on verisimilitude (events are plausible and reasonable, not extraordinary or amazing; focus on everyday experiences) Emphasis on objectivity Character is more important than plot Characters appear in their real complexity of temperament and motive Characteristics of Realism May deal with unpleasant and even offensive subject matter Concern with social problems, hardships and struggles of lower middle class and poor people Emphasis on morality Use of symbolism is controlled and limited; more dependence on imagery and details Realistic Prose “Our way took us sorrowfully past hospitals and prisons and barracks …on a sand-bar near the shore we saw three gendarmes standing with a group of civilians. Between their fixed and absolutely motionless figures lay the body of a drowned man on the sand, poorly clothed in a workman’s dress, and with his poor, dead clay- white hands stretched out from him on the sand, and his gray face showing to the sky.” from Familiar Spanish Travels, chapter 4 by William Dean Howells, “the father of realism” Regionalism Focuses on the characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other features particular to a specific region Another term for it is “the local color movement” Huck Finn Reasons for the rise of regionalism An attempt to preserve regional traditions and culture during a period of change Reaction against the economic impact of modernization New technologies after the Civil War evoked a sense of disconnection and loss of rural lifestyle Reflects the desire to hold onto the past What is behind regionalism? Question: Is it a type of realism or is it a branch of romanticism? Answer: It is often a blend of realism with nostalgic sentiment Regionalism / Local Color “The outcome of the Civil War signified the victory of nationalism over regional interests. With the increasing move toward urbanization and industrialization following the war and the concurrent diminishing of regional differences, it is not surprising that there was a developing nostalgia for remaining regional differences. Local color writing, which was regionally, and often rurally, based and usually took the form of short stories intended for mass consumption, met a need for stories about simpler times and faraway places.” Wilson, Charles Reagan, and William Ferris, eds., Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. Characteristics Characters exemplify traditions, dialects, and common personality quirks typical of a particular locale (often stereotypical or quaint) Detailed descriptions of nature / environmental settings Seeks to preserve earlier simpler and innocent ways of living; often a nostalgic memoir of the past Characteristics (continued) Shows conflict between old rural values and new urban ways (the intrusion of an interloper is a common motif) A predominance of Southern writers who focus on the traditions of the Old South The narrator is usually an educated observer who preserves a sometimes sympathetic, sometimes ironic distance from the characters Celebration of community and its rituals Storytelling style In the Tennessee Mountains “Before it takes that desperate plunge into the unexplored caverns of the mountain, Lost Creek lends its aid to divers jobs of very prosaic work. Further up the valley it turns a mill wheel and on Mondays it is wont to assist in the family wash…The garments, laid across a bench and beater white with a wooden paddle, would flutter hilariously in the In The Tennessee Mountains This iterative sound used to pulse like a lyric in Cynthia’s heart. But her mother, one day, took up her testimony against it. “I do declar’, it sets me plumb catawampus ter hev ter listen ter them blacksmiths, up yander ter thar shop, at thar everlastin’ chink-chank an’ chink- chank, considerin’ the tales I hearn ‘bout ‘me, when I war down ter the quiltin’ at Maria’s house in the Cove” (Murfree 2- 3).