Nature in Naturalism

Bert Bender

in The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Naturalism

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780195368932
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Nature in Naturalism

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This article addresses the question of what naturalism has to do with nature. Darwinian evolution transformed the face of “nature,” shattering the idea that nature exists in a state of grand repose and projecting instead a reality of struggle, competition, and violent change—not only among plants and animals, but in human society and even within the individual chaotic mind. The idea of studying the human's place in nature—that is, to study human nature as a branch of Darwinian natural history—absolutely displaced the work of earlier writers such as Emerson or Thoreau, who believed that the soul transcends nature. But as the Darwinian revolution developed, affecting every field of thought, realist narratives began to shift from comic to more tragic presentations of people's place in nature.

Keywords: naturalism; nature; evolution; Darwin; realism

Article.  9214 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)

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