The American Novel

The American Novel

The American Novel

The American Novel

Excerpt

This book is meant to serve as a chapter in the history of the American imagination. Consequently it undertakes to do more than to recount and criticize the work of eminent novelists, or of novelists whether eminent or mediocre; so far as space permits, it is a record of the national imagination as exhibited in the progress of native fiction. In Fenimore Cooper's generation the expanding mood of the new republic, heretofore represented in almost no fiction whatever, was met by an energetic school of romancers. Their fashion passed about the middle of the nineteenth century, and there followed a relaxed interregnum of sentimentalism, during which, however, Hawthorne sounded his clear, profound, original note. After the Civil War the process which knit together all the sections of the country as they had not before been knit, encouraged the dominant mode of local color, which prevailed until about 1900. While the novel tended in this period to leave the field to the short story, it was nevertheless the period of Mark Twain, easily chief among those who have worked with native materials in native ways; of Henry James, the spokesman par excellence of those Americans whose imagination turns to Europe for its most affectionate exercise; and of William Dean Howells, mediator between the two extremes and principal American exponent of the doctrines of realism. At the end of the century . . .

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