American Realism Criticism: Overviews And General Studies - Essay

William Dean Howells (essay date 1891)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Howells, William Dean. “Realism and the American Novel (1892).” In American Critical Essays: XIXth and XXth Centuries, edited by Norman Foerster, pp. 137-54. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930.

[In the following essay, originally published in Criticism and Fiction in 1891, Howells discusses the merits of realism and praises English and American novelists for omitting the details of love and eroticism included by many European Romantic authors.]

‘As for those called critics,’ the author [Burke] says, ‘they have generally sought the rule of the arts in the wrong place; they have sought among poems, pictures, engravings, statues, and buildings;...

(The entire section is 5111 words.)

Warner Berthoff (essay date 1965)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Berthoff, Warner. “American Realism: A Grammar of Motives.” In The Ferment of Realism: American Literature, 1884-1919, pp. 1-47. New York: The Free Press, 1965.

[In the following essay, Berthoff discusses the establishment of realism as the dominant mode of literary expression of the 1880s and 1890s and attempts to categorize the elements that comprise a realist work.]


The great collective event in American letters during the 1880s and 1890s was the securing of “realism” as the dominant standard of value. But, as the postulations preceding this chapter suggest, it was a peculiarly indefinite...

(The entire section is 14820 words.)