“An impressive collection that … highlights the ways short story authors of the period grappled with complex responses to an increasingly complicated nation. The anthology reminds readers of the contributions these authors made to the short story form and, more broadly, to American fiction. This valuable collection contains thoughtful annotations and comprehensive apparatus useful to instructors and students alike…. One of the finest anthologies of American Realist short story fiction available.”
Sterling Lecater Bland, Jr., professor of English, African American studies, and American studies, Rutgers University-Newark
“An innovative and exciting selection of lesser-known but provocative texts by established writers as well as by authors not usually gathered into anthologies. The contents have been selected to challenge and expand the definition of ‘realism’—especially works that include sentimental and romantic elements and therefore more accurately reflect what readers encountered in the pages of periodicals … The result is a refreshing and intriguing anthology of more diverse subjects, offering a more accurate representation of the progressive and conservative views readers originally encountered.”
Keith Newlin, editor of the Oxford Handbook of American Literary Realism and Studies in American Naturalism
This innovative collection reinvents the standard American short fiction anthology and offers readers an invigorated, inclusive, and nuanced understanding of American literary history and culture from the Civil War to the end of World War I.
Beginning with one of Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches, originally published in 1863, this anthology offers a refreshing perspective on American literature from the latter half of the nineteenth century through the first decades of the twentieth. Based on Alcott’s brief stint as a Civil War nurse, Hospital Sketches stands in contrast to the sentimentality of her better-known Little Women and illustrates a blending of romanticism and realism. Furthermore, its thematic focus on the tension between idealized notions of noble, patriotic duty and the horrific reality of war exemplifies a dominant American cultural mindset at the time.
Following this model of complicating accepted ideas about realism and of particular authors, Reimagining Realism brings together dozens of texts that engage with the immense changes and upheavals that characterized American culture over the next six decades: war, abolition, voting rights, westward expansion, immigration, racism and ethnocentrism, industrial production, labor reforms, transportation, urban growth, journalism, mass media, education, and economic disparity.
Reimagining Realism presents a collection of works much more diverse than what is typically found in other anthologies of short fiction from this era. Some selections are lesser-known works by familiar authors that enable readers to see dimensions of these authors that are rarely considered but deserve further study. The book also features authors from many previously underrepresented groups and includes some outstanding works by authors whose names are almost completely unknown to today’s readers—but which deserve greater attention.
The volume’s editors, in their intent to spur readers to further reimagine realism, to represent the spectrum of viewpoints prevalent during this era, and to spark critical thinking and productive discussion, have been careful not to apply any type of political litmus test to the included works. They have also refrained from categorizing works according to convention, so as not to predispose readers to restrictive interpretations, and have provided only brief, highly readable headnotes and annotations that will help readers better understand the texts.
Charles A. Johanningsmeier is a professor of English and Isaacson Chair at the University of Nebraska Omaha. As a print historian, his chief research interests have involved assessing how readers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries interacted with fiction texts published in various periodicals by authors such as Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, Sui Sin Far, Sarah Orne Jewett, Charles Chesnutt, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Henry James, and Willa Cather. More info →
Jessica E. McCarthy is a lecturer at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She has published on Edith Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, and American literary naturalism. More info →
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