Savage Realism

David E. Shi

in Facing Facts

Published in print July 1996 | ISBN: 9780195106534
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854097 | DOI:
Savage Realism

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The new breed of realists, according to H. L. Mencken, offered not the old, flabby, kittenish realism of William Dean Howells's imitators but the sterner, more searching realism that got under the surface of human motivation. In exploring such subterranean truths, the “savage realists” developed a curious ambivalence toward Howells himself. Virginian Ellen Glasgow's choice was clear: “One must either encounter reality or accept the doctrine of evasive idealism.” To his credit, Howells encouraged most of the “savage realists” to surmount his own moral scruples and surpass his essentially spectatorial efforts to portray the rough edges of contemporary life. The “savage realists” shared a widespread concern at the turn of the century that the United States suffered from the malaise of “overcivilization” plaguing all of Western society.

Keywords: H. L. Mencken; realism; William Dean Howells; savage realists; evasive idealism; overcivilization; United States

Chapter.  5009 words. 

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