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Resisting Regionalism
Gender And Naturalism In American Fiction, 1885-1915

By Donna Campbell

“This meticulously researched and annotated book traces numerous themes in the American novel and short story…. Highly recommended, this is a valuable resource for scholars and students at all levels.”

S. I. Bellman, Choice

"The origins of naturalism, in this author's extremely subtle, well-argued, and persuasive study, lie in cultural conflicts about gender that became inflected features of genre."

Marjorie Pryse, State University of New York at Albany

"A first-rate study…. Viewed in the context of the naturalists' desire to reimpose a number of 'masculine' themes on American writing, both the entire naturalist movement and its specific texts emerge in a new and clearer light."

Donald Pizer, Tulane University

When James Lane Allen defined the “Feminine Principle” and the “Masculine Principle” in American fiction for the Atlantic Monthly in 1897, he in effect described local color fiction and naturalism, two branches of realism often regarded as bearing little relationship to each other. In this award-winning study of both movements, Resisting Regionalism explores the effect the cultural dominance of women’s local color fiction in the 1890’s had on young male naturalist writers, who rebelled against the local colorists and their “teacup tragedies.”

An immensely popular genre, local color fiction reached its peak in the 1880s in such literary journals as Harper’s Monthly, Scribner’s, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Century. These short stories exhibited local “characters,” depicted marginal groups and vanishing folkways, and addressed issues of absence, loss, limitation, and the past. Despite such prickly themes, according to Donna Campbell, local color fiction “fulfilled some specific needs of the public – for nostalgia, for a retreat into mildly exotic locales, for a semblance of order preserved in ritual.”

By the turn of the century, however, local color fiction was fading from the scene, supplanted by writers of adventure fiction and historical romances, with whom local colorists increasingly merged, and opposed by the naturalists. In examining this historic shift, Resisting Regionalism shows that far from being distanced from local color fiction, nationalism emerged in part as a dissenting response to its popularity and to the era’s concerns about the dominance of feminine influence in American literature. The new generation of authors, including Crane, Norris, London, Frederic, Wharton, resisted the cultural myths and narrative strategies common to local colorists Sarah Orne Jewett, Rose Terry Cooke, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, and Constance Fenimore Woolson. Yet, as Campbell underscores in her analysis of Stephan Crane’s The Monster, the naturalists could, and did, integrate local color conventions with the grotesque and horrifying to powerful effect.

In clear, accessible prose, Resisting Regionalism provides fresh readings of naturalistic works in the context of the dispute between local color and naturalism. In the process, this book shows the debt naturalism owes to local color fiction and illuminates a neglected but significant literary era.

Donna Campbell is Assistant Professor of English at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. She has published articles on Alcott, Wharton, Norris, and Freeman.   More info →

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Hardcover
978-0-8214-1177-3
Retail price: $44.95, S.
Release date: June 1997
200 pages
Rights:  World

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