Did Howells Give Up on Realism? – J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists – article

Did Howells Give Up on Realism?

Rafael Walker | J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists

2019-10-22

Near the turn of the twentieth century, William Dean Howells, the most fervent promoter of literary realism in America, serialized a romance trilogy, the Altrurian romances. Since they so conspicuously conflict with Howells’s other novels and his many programmatic statements about the value of literary realism, these anomalous tales have continued to pose a problem for critics. In contrast to past interpretations of the romances—which either try to explain away their differences or argue that Howells lost faith in realism—this essay contends that the romances constitute a strategic move on Howells’s part to support the cause of realism in the midst of “the romance revival” afoot in both the U.S. and England.

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