Like all the terms relating to literary movements, the term is loose and somewhat equivocal. American Realism began as a reaction to and a rejection of Romanticism, with its emphasis on emotion, imagination, and the individual. The movement began as early as the 1830's but reached prominence and held sway from the end of the Civil War to around the end of the nineteenth century. The movement was centered in fiction, particularly the novel. It attempted fidelity to real life, or "actuality," in its representation. The realist concerns himself with the here and now, centering his work in his own time, dealing with common-place everyday events and people, and with the socio-political climate of his day .
Samuel Clemens' (Mark Twain) "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses"
William Dean Howell's Criticism and Fiction (1891)
Henry James "The Art of Fiction"
Harris, George Washington, 1814-1869, sketches Sut Lovingood: Yarns Spun
Longstreet, Augustus Baldwin, 1790-1870 Georgia Scenes
Thorpe, Thomas Bangs, 1815-1878 The Hive of the Bee Hunter
Name & Genres
Samuel Clemens, fiction The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi
"Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses",
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Bret Harte, short fiction Selected Stories of Bret Harte "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" "The Luck
of Roaring Camp"
Ambrose Bierce, fiction Tales of Soldiers and Civilian (1891)
William Dean Howells, fiction, essays A Modern Instance (1882), The Rise of Silas Lapham, A Hazard of New
Henry James, fiction "Daisy Miller," Portrait of A Lady, The American, The Turn of the Screw
Edith Wharton, fiction The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence
Kate Chopin, fiction The Awakening
George Washington Cable, fiction The Grandissimes , Old Creole Days
Joel Chandler Harris, fiction Uncle Remus stories
Charles Chestnutt, fiction The Conjure Woman (1899), The House Behind the Cedars (1900)
"The Goophered Grapevine," "The Passing of Grandison"
Paul Lawrence Dunbar, poet
Hamlin Garland, fiction "Under the Lion's Paw"
Sarah Orne Jewett, fiction A White Heron (1886), "A White Heron,"
The Country of the Pointed Firs
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, fiction A Humble Romance, A New England Nun and
Other Stories A New England Nun
The Revolt of Mother
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, fiction "The Yellow Wallpaper"
Jane Addams, autobiography Twenty Years At Hull House
Rebecca Harding Davis, fiction Life in the Iron-Mills
W.E.B. DuBois, essays The Souls of Black Folks
Booker T. Washington, autobiography Up From Slavery: An Autobiography
literature of the common-place
attempts to represent real life
ordinary people--poor and middle class
ordinary speech in dialect--use of vernacular
recent or contemporary life
subject matter presented in an unidealized, unsentimentalized way
democratic function of literature
social criticism--effect on audience is key
presents indigenous American life
importance of place--regionalism, "local color"
sociology and psychology
The Atlantic Monthly archives
Cady, Edwin H. The Light of Common Day: Realism in American Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana U P, 1971.
Chase, Richard. The American Novel and Its Tradition. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1957.
Geismar, Maxwell. Rebels and Ancestors: The American Novel, 1890-1915. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1953.
Harper's Weekly Archive
Harper's Weekly Online
Library of Southern Literature
Literature of Slavery and Freedom
New York Spirit of the Times
Spirit of the Times Database
Spirit of the Times Webpage
North American Review
The North American Review Archives
The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women's Writings
Pizer, Donald, ed. The Cambridge Companion to American Realism and Naturalism: Howells to London. New York: Cambridge U P, 1995.
Sundquist, Eric, ed. and introd. American Realism: New Essays. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1982.
Trachtenberg, Alan. The Incorporation of America: Culture and
Society in the Gilded Age. New York: Hill and Wang,
Ziff, Larzer. The American 1890s: Life and Times of a Lost Generation. New York: Viking, 1966.
While realism in Western art was nothing new, as accurate presentation, nearly photographic, had been practiced as early as the Renaissance, the "new" realism eschewed any alteration from reality insisting instead on precise imitation. Subject matter was limited to the modern world and modern life. As in literature, works centered on the commonplace--lower class peasants and the urban working class, common people. Winslow Homer once said of his method, "I paint it exactly as it appears." French Realist Gustave Courbet may have said it better, "Everything that does not appear on the retina is outside the the domain of painting." Among the major practioners of American Realism in painting were: Homer, Thomas Eakins, William Michael Harnett, John Singer Sargent, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
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The Agnew Clinic
The Gross Clinic
Max Schmitt in a Single Scull
Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)
The Coming Storm
The Army of the Potomac - A Sharp-Shooter on Picket Duty
John Singer Sargent
Mrs. Joshua Montgomery Sears
Mr. and Mrs. L.N. Phelps
James Abbott McNeill Whister
Arrangement in Gray and Black No.1
Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander
Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket
Symphony in Grey and Green: The Ocean
Take a quiz on some of the major characters of American Literary Realism.
Practice for the Major Field Assessment Test.