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Title:Howells' Dialogic Realism
Author(s):Morgan, Mary Alice
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Baym, Nina
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Literature, American
Abstract:This study traces the changes in Howells' narrative techniques as he confronted the paradox that novels create their own narrative logic and unity independent of (and often contrary to) the vision of reality depicted in the work. Howells' novels are characterized by competing or contradictory logics, one a creative embodiment of innovative nineteenth-century realist narrative techniques and the other, a reactive response to the artificiality of all narrative conventions, realist or otherwise. In this formalist re-evaluation of all thirty-six of Howells' novels written over his fifty-year career, the novels are approached as expressions of a working novelist and critic attempting to define and re-define realist narrative principles. Howells' reactions to this paradox takes several forms as he attempted to locate his aesthetic project formally, socially, and commercially within the period's changing literary marketplace.
Early in his career (1872-1880), Howells blended the genres of journalism, playwrighting, and fiction in an attempt to "escape" the "artifice" of fiction. From 1881-1889, he defined realism as anti-romanticism, using a satiric, anti-romantic logic to structure his works. From 1890-1898 Howells structured his novels around an anti-aesthetic logic that not only attacks fin de siecle mannerism but also questions the fundamental tools of his art. After this radical questioning, the late novels (1899-1920) appear to relax their interrogation of the authority of fiction, sometimes employing an anti-naturalistic logic but more often accepting their own fictionality as a given. Central to the examination of these phases within Howells' career are the subtle changes in his handling of narratorial discourse and the inscribed reader.
Study of these shifts reveals Howells as a more innovative and self-conscious artist than the doctrinaire realist or confused theoretician usually pictured in literary history. Locating individual novels within these distinct aesthetic phases also allows for more nuanced readings of issues spanning Howells' career, including the gendering of women characters, the depiction of artists, and the social construction of readers.
Issue Date:1992
Description:461 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1992.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9305625
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1992

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