The Literary Realism of William Dean Howells

The Literary Realism of William Dean Howells

The Literary Realism of William Dean Howells

The Literary Realism of William Dean Howells

Excerpt

My purpose in this study of twelve of William Dean Howells' novels, from the early A Foregone Conclusion (1875) to The Vacation of the Kelwyns (1920), published in the year of the novelist's death, is to offer readings of them. What the readings reveal, I find, is a similarity of conceptual pattern which defines a basic attitude of the writer toward life. This basic attitude, I suggest, and as was first suggested to me by Professor George Arms, has remarkably much in common with the pragmatism of William James, who was contemporary with Howells.

If my thesis then is that Howells' literary realism closely resembles James's pragmatism, I, nonetheless, would like to think that the readings of the novels are valuable in themselves for what they show as readings. Taken as a whole, the readings may seem repetitious. Yet, it is interesting to see how the individual novels establish their different subjects within a unity of pattern. At the same time the book may be read in its parts, for each reading of a novel is complete in itself.

My reading of the novels has convinced me that Howells was a much more self-aware and skillful novelist than is generally assumed, and to recognize the resemblance between his realism and James's pragmatism is not only to sharpen one's sense of the dimen-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.