Terms in this set (25)

Although its origins were European, naturalism was an important movement in American literature from the 1890s until the 1920s. While it is strongly associated with realism, in the shared emphasis on depicting surface reality, naturalism is more than a literary technique, involving as it does the philosophy of determinism. Naturalism is antiromantic in emphasizing the limited ability of humans to impose will upon their own destiny, and also in devaluing the imagination's embellishment of reality. For the naturalist, it is the duty of the writer to present to the reader reality without illusion, to offer a scientific, detached view of it rather than to adorn or mislead or simply please the reader. The writer is also seen to have a diagnostic function, scrutinizing the ills of society, and the scientific element of naturalism has its origins in the theories of Darwin and, after Marx, in the development of the social sciences during the nineteenth century. American naturalism developed broadly in two directions, one examining the social and political dynamics of American urban life and the other examining the biological aspects of deterministic thought. The influence of Marx is frequently evident in the former branch and that of Darwin in the second.

Frank Norris, Jack London, Stephen Crane


naturalist writing is closely linked to American social change during a period of dramatic capitalist growth and the rise of big business. Social Darwinism forms an important part of naturalism at the end of the 19th century