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Reading the American Novel 1865-1914

ISBN: 978-0-631-23406-7
462 pages
October 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Reading the American Novel 1865-1914 (0631234063) cover image
An indispensable tool for teachers and students of American literature, Reading the American Novel 1865-1914 provides a comprehensive introduction to the American novel in the post-civil war period.
  • Locates American novels and stories within a specific historical and literary context
  • Offers fresh analyses of key selected literary works
  • Addresses a wide audience of academics and non-academics in clear, accessible prose
  • Demonstrates the changing mentality of 19th-century America entering the 20th century
  • Explores the relationship between the intellectual and artistic output of the time and the turbulent socio-political context
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Preface ix

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

1 Toward the “Great American Novel”: Romance and Romanticism in the Age of Realism 9

2 Of Realism and Reality: Definitions and Contexts 25

3 Dramas of the Broken Teacup: American “Quiet” Realism 41

4 The Nature of Naturalism: Definitions and Backgrounds 55

5 Implacable Nature, Household Tragedy, and Epic Romance 73

6 Frank Norris: The Beast Within 91

7 The Rocking Horse Winners: Theodore Dreiser and Urban Naturalism 109

8 Subjective Realism: Stephen Crane’s Impressionist Fictions 125

9 Impressions of War: The Interior Battlefield 141

10 Sense and Sensibility: Sentimental Domesticity and “New Woman’s Fiction” 157

11 Domestic Feminism: The Problematic Louisa May Alcott 179

12 “All the Happy Endings”: Marriage, Insanity, and Suicide 195

13 Vulgarians at the Gate: Edith Wharton and the Collapse of Gentility 215

14 Tea-Table as Jungle: Henry James and “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life” 235

15 Economies of Pain: W. D. Howells 261

16 The “Gilded Age”: Genteel Critics and Militant Muckrakers 283

17 What Is An American? Regionalism and Race 299

18 The Territory Ahead: Emerging African American Voices 323

19 The “Dream of a Republic”: War, Reconstruction, and Future History 343

20 At the Modernist Margin: Mark Twain 367

Bibliographical Resources 387

Index 421

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G. R. Thompson is Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Purdue University. He has written widely on the topic of American fiction and romanticism, including books and articles on the relation of the romance to the realist tradition, the gothic fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, the short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the travel narratives of Herman Melville. He is the editor of various editions, including the Norton Critical Edition of The Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe. He is the former editor of Poe Studies and ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance.
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• Locates American novels and stories within a specific historical and literary context
• Offers fresh analyses of key selected literary works
• Addresses a wide audience of academics and non-academics in clear, accessible prose
See More
 

"Written as a guide to the American novel, 1865-1914, this absorbing volume sums up a lifetime of reading, thinking, and teaching by a formidable scholar-critic. Incisive readings of individual works and illuminating commentary on intellectual and social history make this an indispensable resource, not just for students but for readers of all sorts--including those (like myself) who thought they knew this field fairly well already. The sheer amount of knowledge that G. R. Thompson brings to bear on his subject is prodigious, and his insights into the persistence of romanticism and the romance genre in an era associated with realism, naturalism, and early modernism seemed especially provocative."
J. Gerald Kennedy, Louisiana State University

"With extraordinary skill and exemplary clarity, G. R. Thompson deftly unravels the complex definitional tangles of late 19th-century American fiction to reveal how the dynamic double helix of realism and romance fostered an artistically rich array of hybrid literary forms resistant to simplistic labeling."
William J. Scheick, University of Texas at Austin

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