THE REIGN OF DIALECT
The 'eighties in the history of the American short story were ruled by the "local colorists." It was the period of dialect stories, of small peculiar groups isolated and analyzed, of unique local "characters" presented primarily for exhibition. The shortstory writer now thought first of materials, often only of materials. Reviewers now spoke much of "realism," a comparatively new term in American criticism. After Howells had reviewed James in the Century Magazine ( 1882), the words "romanticism" and "realism" became shibboleths of opposing camps, with realism in the lead. Maurice Thompson, himself a romanticist, wrote, in October, 1884, "No matter how much the theorists differ at other points, they all agree that towards realism is the strongest trend of to-day's fiction literature." "Realism" in the 'eighties meant selected bits of nature pictorially presented, native stuff unidealized, ordinary folks--never extraordinarily ideal or extraordinarily repulsive--in the ordinary sequences of life; no elaborate plots, no heroes, no heroines, no inflated diction. The age was turning more and more to the concrete and the practical. As a result of the enormous activities and the material expansion that had followed the war, pragmatism was beginning to displace the old idealism. But the reading masses were conservative; the generality of them clung to the romantic; the two forces were in conflict. Even Howells was not strictly a realist in the 'seventies and early 'eighties; he chose with fastidious care the social areas he depicted; there was much in the world about him that he never permitted himself to see at all. So with James, so with Miss Woolson, so with Miss Jewett: they sentimentalized life, they looked only for the good in humanity and idealized it. It was a compromise: it satisfied fully neither side. Then had come the discovery that it was possible to produce all the effects of realism, to appear to be working scientifically in the actual ma
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Publication information: Book title: The Development of the American Short Story:An Historical Survey. Contributors: Fred Lewis Pattee - Author. Publisher: Harper & Brothers Publishers. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1923. Page number: 268.