Consolation, Affirmation, and Convention

Carol S. Loranger

in The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Naturalism

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Consolation, Affirmation, and Convention

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This article focuses on reader and critical reception of American naturalist texts. The works of early pioneers of American literary naturalism received a varied response by readers in proportion to their being in advance of the mores of the times, though a writer's willingness to affirm certain cultural truisms, the restraining hand of an editor, or the general resemblance of a work to popular genre fiction of the day often compensated for the author's adventurousness. Critical reception varied depending on the venue and critic. Early newspaper reviewers, for example, tended to be less enthusiastic in their regard for literary naturalism than reviewers in the major literary and social affairs magazines of the day. Having a champion among reviewers might not significantly affect an author's sales or reputation, but a positive review could have a psychological benefit, especially for a young writer. In general, each new naturalist text, even when it failed to find a receptive audience, pushed farther the boundaries of what the general reading public considered to be appropriate subject matter for fiction. American literary naturalists were very much in the business of educating American readers in how to respond to innovations in fiction.

Keywords: American naturalists; fiction; readers; critics

Article.  8178 words. 

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

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