The advent of realism was much appreciated by writers everywhere for it was a response to the changing cultural needs. William Dean Howells, Mark Twain and Henry James are few of the pioneers of American realism. With time, Howells abandoned the idea of the past and worked solely in the representation of American life. Twain, however, was in a limbo between his bonds with the past and a promise to the present. At this time it was James, who reconciled the ties of history and with an intellectual commitment to the present.
James wrote The Art of Fiction in 1884 in a critical response to Walter Besant’s lecture on the same topic. James’s basic aim in this critique was to critically analyze Besant’s thoughts on fiction whilst putting forward what he believed the art and form of fiction to be. James contends that fictional writing is the representation of real life. In The Art of Fiction he claims that a novel “is a proof of life and curiosity” . At another point in this discourse he writes, “The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life” . This is synonymous with the definition of realism that I have stated above which claims that realism in literature is the representation of life.
In the essay, James highlights the basis, which he believes, are essential for a piece of fiction to become art. According to him, a piece of fiction should be informative and should not carry with it the load of moral judgments or analysis. The characters and their psychological process should...
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...r, Everett. "William Dean Howells' Theory of Critical Realism." ELH 16 (1949): 151-166.
• Crowley, John W. "The Portrait of a Lady and The Rise of Silas Lapham: The Company They Kept." (n.d.): 117-134.
• Dicovery of a Genius: William Dean Howells and Henry James. Ed. Albert Monrdell. New York: Twayne, 1961.
• James, Henry. "The Art of Fiction." Longman's Magazine (1884).
• James, Henry. What Maisie Knew. New York, 1909.
• Pizer, Donald. "Late Nineteenth-Century American Realism: An Essay in Definition." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 16 (1961): 263-269.
• Rouse, H. Blair. "Charles Dickens and Henry James: Two Approaches to the Art of Fiction." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 5 (1950): 151-157.
• Salomon, Roger B. "Realism as Disinheritance: Twain, Howells and
James." American Quarterly 16 (1964): 531-544.
• Weinberg, Bernard. French Realism: The Critical Reaction, 1830-1870. (Oxford, 1937) pp. 122-123.
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