American Literary Naturalism and Sexuality

Linda Kornasky

in The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Naturalism

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

American Literary Naturalism and Sexuality

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  • Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)



This article examines the relationship between American literary naturalism and sexuality. By the close of the 1890s, American literary naturalism had established itself decisively as the first American genre committed to the direct representation of heterosexuality and its discontent. Defying conventions governing the depiction of sexuality in public discourse, naturalist writers emphasized the power of sexual desire to shape human experience. The complexity of naturalism's engagement with sexual issues during the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century period derives from the heated debate over the social meanings of sexuality between feminist and masculinist factions taking place then in the American progressive movement. Entering this polemical fray, naturalist writers produced works of fiction emphatically inflected toward either masculinist or feminist sexual politics and thereby created a genre divided along its authors' gender lines.

Keywords: naturalist writers; fiction writers; heterosexuality; sexual politics; sexual desire; progressive movement

Article.  7562 words. 

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

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