William Dean Howells's ‘Altrurian’ Aesthetic in the Modern Marketplace

Frank Christianson

in Philanthropy in British and American Fiction

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780748625086
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652068 | DOI:
William Dean Howells's ‘Altrurian’ Aesthetic in the Modern Marketplace

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies


Show Summary Details


This chapter addresses William Dean Howells's attempts to negotiate the tension between the increasingly contradictory strands of liberal thought in his novels A Hazard of New Fortunes, Annie Kilburn and A Traveller from Altruria. At the same time, Howells is working out his own aesthetic programme within and against the values he attributes to Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne and George Eliot. The arc of his career suggests that the limits of altruism as a social ethic mark the limits of American realism as a mode of literary representation. Howells's vision of cooperative capitalism challenges Andrew Carnegie's paradigm on several grounds. A Traveller from Altruria offers a version of community that literally does synthesise sympathies. Howells offers a narrative of natural progression from the primitive self-interest that governs commercial capitalism to the altruism of a cooperative economy.

Keywords: altruism; William Dean Howells; New Fortunes; Annie Kilburn; Traveller from Altruria; cooperative capitalism; cooperative economy

Chapter.  9227 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.