American Realism Criticism: Social Issues - Essay

Edwin H. Cady (essay date 1971)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cady, Edwin H. “Howells and Crane: Violence, Decorum and Reality.” In The Light of Common Day: Realism in American Fiction, pp. 161-81. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1971.

[In the following excerpt, Cady examines representations of violence in the fiction of William Dean Howells and Stephen Crane.]

The currently popular assertion that violence is somehow distinctively or peculiarly American is easy to refute by historical, etiological reference. In the springtime of the Jamestown Colony, for instance, they punished one of the lads by escorting him out into the forest and nailing his hand with a dagger so firmly to a tree that whenever he should...

(The entire section is 6486 words.)

Kenneth W. Warren (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Warren, Kenneth W. “The Persistence of Uncle Tom and the Problem of Critical Distinction.” In Black and White Strangers: Race and American Literary Realism, pp. 71-108. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993.

[In the following essay, Warren examines the enduring influence of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin on realist representations of racial inequality.]


Central to understanding the troubles besetting the project of realistic critical definition is an awareness of the persistent influence of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin during these decades. From its publication in 1852 through the end...

(The entire section is 16986 words.)

David E. Shi (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Shi, David E. “Realism and the Social Question.” In Facing Facts: Realism in American Thought and Culture, 1850-1920, pp. 181-211. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, Shi discusses the treatment of social and economic issues in American Realist fiction.]

Signs of social strain pervaded the end of the nineteenth century. Popular theories of racial superiority and fears of foreign radicalism and social degeneration gave rise to a virulent strain of Anglo-Saxon nativism. In the South a vicious new tide of racism spilled over the region as states passed Jim Crow laws and white mobs lynched blacks in record numbers. Meanwhile, in New...

(The entire section is 15485 words.)

Donald Pizer (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Pizer, Donald. “‘True Art Speaks Plainly’: Theodore Dreiser and the Late Nineteenth-Century American Debate over Realism and Naturalism.” Nineteenth-Century Prose 23, no. 2 (fall 1996): 76-89.

[In the following essay, Pizer addresses ethical aspects in the nineteenth-century debate regarding realism and uses Dreiser's arguments to present realism as a means for social progress and change.]

Theodore Dreiser wrote little literary criticism, and what he did write is both little known and not highly rated. Throughout his career, Dreiser published book reviews and philosophical essays, but seldom exhibited in either form an interest in or capacity for...

(The entire section is 5686 words.)