How might one define the literary movements in American literature of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries?
Some main “movements” in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American literature (and their typical traits) include the following:
- accurate depiction of life as it really is
- rejection of idealization and/or romanticism
- rejection of heavy emphasis on the imagination
- focus on the mundane, the ordinary
- unemotional depiction of everyday events
- rejection of artificiality
- focus on the lives of the lower and middle classes
- emphasis on objectivity rather than subjectivity
- emphasis on language and dialogue close to that of everyday speech
- WRITERS OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH REALISM: Ambrose Bierce, Hamlin Garland, Edith Wharton, et al.
- focus on external appearances of objects depicted
- even more detailed, less selective presentation of facts than in realism
- absence of moral evaluation of characters
- emphasis on the physical traits of characters as helping determine their fates
- emphasis on determination rather than free will
- emphasis on heredity, environment, instincts, and social and economic pressures
- emphasis on fairly simple, even simplistic characters
- WRITERS OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH NATURALISM: Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Jack London, et al.
- emphasis on the particular traits, of behavior and speech, of specific regions, such as the South, New England, or the Far West
- WRITERS OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH THE LOCAL COLOR MOVEMENT: Bret Harte, Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary Wilkins Freeman, George Washington Cable, Kate Chopin, et al.
- rejection of romanticism
- rejection of sentimentality
- emphasis on experimentation in style and form
- emphasis on individualism
- break with traditional and popular forms of literature
- disillusionment with traditional society and middle-class values
- WRITERS OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH MODERNISM: T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Hart Crane, et al.
for more information, see, for instance, Mirriam Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature