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American Naturalism by Harold Bloom

By Harold Bloom

Determinism and self-reliance have been some of the features American authors sought to painting within the novels of this literary interval, reflecting a extra reasonable view of the rustic with the increase of industrialism within the past due nineteenth century. This name, American Naturalism, a part of Chelsea residence Publishers' Bloom's interval experiences sequence, includes a collection of severe essays interpreting the writers and works that outlined this era. as well as a chronology of vital cultural, literary, and politcal occasions, this article contains an advent and editor's notice written by way of Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the arts, Yale collage.

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Sinclair Lewis was never a novelist in the proper sense that Zola and Dreiser are novelists, and, given his gift for exhaustive reporting, naturalism did him more good than harm by providing him with a ready literary technique. In Farrell’s chronicles there is an underlying moral code which, despite his explicit rejection of the Church, seems to me indisputably orthodox and Catholic; and his Studs Lonigan—a product of those unsightly urban neighborhoods where youth prowls and fights to live up to the folk-ideal of the “regular guy”—is no mere character but an archetype, an eponymous hero of the street-myths that prevail in our big cities.

The fact is that Hawthorne was dealing beautifully with realities, with substantial things. The man who could raise those brilliant and serious doubts about the nature and possibility of moral perfection, the man who could keep himself aloof from the “Yankee reality” and who could dissent from the orthodoxies of dissent and tell us so much about the nature of moral zeal, is of course dealing exactly with reality. Parrington’s characteristic weakness as a historian is suggested by the title of his famous book, for the culture of a nation is not truly figured in the image of the current.

Matthiessen be thought of as a follower of Parrington—indeed, in the preface to American Renaissance he has framed one of the sharpest and most cogent criticisms of Parrington’s method. Yet Mr. Matthiessen, writing in the New York Times Book Review about Dreiser’s posthumous novel, The Bulwark, accepts the liberal cliché which opposes crude experience to mind and establishes Dreiser’s value by implying that the mind which Dreiser’s crude experience is presumed to confront and refute is the mind of gentility.

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