American literary realism by Phillip Barrish

By Phillip Barrish

Concentrating on key works of late-nineteenth and early- twentieth-century American literary realism, Phillip Barrish strains the emergence of recent methods of gaining highbrow prestige--that is, new methods of gaining some extent of cultural acceptance. via prolonged readings of works via Henry James, William Dean Howells, Abraham Cahan, and Edith Wharton, Barrish emphasizes the diversities among realist modes of cultural authority and people linked to the increase of the social sciences.

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Second, Pen distinguishes her own appreciative enjoyment of that linguistic mode from both her father’s and her sister’s lack of free, aware choice toward it: “It’s the way father always does talk. You never noticed it so much, that’s all” (my emphasis). Implicit is that Irene still has such an intimate relation to her father’s linguistic mode that she would not have registered it as a mode except for the extreme social pressure induced by Tom Corey’s presence. When Irene does notice that her father even has a characteristic “way” of talking, her panic derives from her humiliating fear of being too closely aligned with it.

Howells writes that all three of the men “laughed, Sewell ruefully” (p. ). I will return in a moment to the specific importance that rueful laughs and wry smiles have for the realist posture of Howells’s later protagonists, but will here point out that adding the adverbial tag “ruefully” to differentiate Sewell’s laugh from that of the other two men already suggests that Sewell has a richer “take,” or at least one requiring more descriptive refinement, than they do on their now jointly acknowledged inability to enter fully into Lemuel’s experiences.

When asked what he himself would do, March laughs: “Do? Nothing. ” (pp. ‒). Later, March spends an afternoon wandering the streets not because he is drawn toward observing the “war” between the strikers and management but because he “interested himself in the apparent indifference of the mighty city” (p. ). 59 March’s having cultivated his attention to the frustrating negativities that American society presents comes in handy during small moments of implicit cultural competition such as, for example, when he and Isabel have to travel with the friendly but self-important Mr.

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