Realism and/or Naturalism with perspective of literary criticism For Charlott Perlins Gil

As you read and study American literature produced from 1865-1914, you are introduced to important major trends and styles practiced by the writers of this period. Chief among them are Realism and Naturalism, often practiced by writers in a regional setting as the United States pushed westward towards the frontier. In this way, the development of the American literary voice worked in tandem with historical events and was driven by issues created by the arrival and migration of new and native born citizens, Emancipation, confrontations with Native Americans, as well as the important social and cultural problems of the era, both new and old.

In rejecting older literary styles and philosophical conclusions, writers cultivated realistic techniques, which they judged to be more appropriate for the experiences of their readers. With Realism, there is a preoccupation with the ordinary details of people’s lives, which makes characters feel more realistic than previous works because common people can relate more directly to their defining characteristics: their actions and choices, speech and dialect, as well as middle class economic and social status. In this sense for example, the audiences for fiction feel like they already know the characters, especially as they navigate important moral, religious, and cultural choices which were a product of the ‘new America.’ In poetry, classical themes, form, and diction are gradually abandoned in favor of those that reflect a realistic American voice.

Naturalism as a style is a version of Realism, sometimes an alternative to it. Naturalistic writers wrote about human beings shaped by forces they could not control, sometimes introducing characters from the fringes of society, as opposed to the middle class. Darwinian ideas, both social and natural, are embraced, and writers, therefore, view their work as more scientifically and naturally accurate. Characters are products of their environmental destinies rather than creators of their lives. However, despite the uncontrollable influence of the natural world, naturalists do not give up on the idea that human life has meaning.

Both Realism and Naturalism often confront difficult issues: individual liberties, racism and ethnocentricity, political corruption, use of natural resources, economic inequities, corruption in business, and religion. Writers addressed these issues in the many newspapers and magazines of the day through realistic depiction of them. These venues for publication become analogous to the ‘town square’ once used for public debate, and a review of the common subject matter suggests that writers were more aware of social problems than in previous times; the democratic system and widening distribution of liberty allowed them to feel more comfortable confronting issues directly in public venues, creating what is referred to as a ‘Literature of Argument.’


For your first paper assignment, you should:

Adopt a particular perspective of literary criticism as part of your inquiry into your selected literary work (see the list below).

Explicate the literary work and its meaning in terms of its major themes and literary techniques, which identify them as products of Realism and/or Naturalism. Though you must place the work in historical context, you may also consider the relevance of the work and its themes to the present era in which we live.

To do well on this assignment, your paper should:

Be organized as a college-level essay with an introduction and thesis, developed body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Avoid merely summarizing the literary work.

Supplement your research with 3-5 scholarly sources, NOT common internet sites. Please use NC LIVE, which can be accessed here:

Quote directly from the literary works themselves to illustrate your ideas.

‘”the yellow wallpaper'”

Employ proper MLA format and documentation, using signal phrases and parenthetical references for in-text citations, with correctly formatted works cited page.

Use correct English grammar and a formal tone befitting a college-level essay.

Be 5-6 pages in length, not counting the works cited page. Papers that do not meet the minimum length requirement will see severe grade reductions.

Literary Criticism

In the study of Literature, scholars often enter the work through a particularly critical point of view as a means of probing the work’s themes and meanings. To this end, your research focus for this paper should employ one of the following perspectives:

Historical Criticism: Historical critics examine a literary text by investigating the social, cultural, and intellectual context that produced the work; the author’s biographical details may be part of this perspective. The concern is with what the text meant in its own time, rather than the present, and involves an exploration of how a work’s meaning changes over time.


Cultural Studies Criticism: This critical school of thought relies heavily on Marxist-Feminist theory and is concerned with investigating the complex relationship between history, politics, and literature. Cultural critics believe that literature cannot exist independent of ethical and political forces and that understanding the nature of social power, as reflected in literary texts, is important in addressing inequality in areas of gender, race, and other historical areas

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