Regionalism Naturalism



welcome back to our exciting lecture series on the history of American literature today we are going to be looking at regionalism and the reason that you see a little umbrella here is because regionalism is actually still part of the realism era it's just a subset of it and we call it regionalism and naturalism because we have dual forces going on here we're going to look roughly at the time period of 1882 just across the century into 1910 the country is growing it's an exciting place to be and we start to see the massive diversity that our country can offer we start to see lifestyles differ depending upon part of the country that we live in and this really this diversity in this realization of it really started after the Civil War you see during the Civil War we had a lot of soldiers traveling all over to parts of the country that they would probably never have been to if it hadn't been for the war so we have gentleman from Wisconsin and Montana and even California and Nebraska headed down south or over to the eastern part of the country and fighting in the trenches next to boys from all over the country they started to talk about the kinds of food their mama's made and the kinds of ways that they would celebrate big events like weddings and Christmas and they started to look at the types of clothes that they would wear and talk about the climate differences and people started to really realize that we had a huge country that was very very much diverse now in a negative way the war certainly influenced the division in our country but in a very positive way the war helped us to start to celebrate our differences and to say wow we were able to overcome these differences and now let's embrace our diversity and join together to rebuild the nation that was really ripped apart during the Civil War now one of the ways that this but in one of the ways that we connected each other was through literature now with the Western expansion the growth of the United States regional types of writing helped to connect people from all different parts of the country you have Aunt Mabel who perhaps is over here in Maine and she gets on a wagon train and she travels across the country all the way over in California or Utah or Idaho and she starts to we start to realize that aunt Mabel's lifestyle in California or on the Nebraska Prairie is very different than what her life was like in Maine or Boston or wherever she was from and we probably don't have a really great way to communicate with that Mabel we can't pick up the phone or check the internet or any of those things to see hey I wonder what the weather's like in Nebraska or I wonder what people are doing right now there so what religious realism regionalism writers did was they helped to connect us by writing stories by writing newspaper articles that helped us to understand how very different we were but yet how we were still able to maintain a sense of unity across the country as regionalism writing group so also did our realization that we didn't always talk the same depending upon where we came from we had unique characteristics and one way that we did that was through our speech patterns we have specific dialects Mark Twain alone and Huckleberry Finn highlights something like 26 different dialects as these travels from Missouri all the way down the Mississippi towards the Gulf of Mexico and we start to see that the pending upon where you come from you might not only say different words use different words for things but your speech is going to sound different and people like Mark Twain really brought that out of course what it does for us today is make it a little bit difficult to read that kind of writing it's what makes pieces like Huck Finn so challenging because we have to sort of try to discern what that dialect is supposed to sound like so let's start with what we know and don't you know because that's the kind of speech patterns that we're going to hear up in our part of the country and you know we talked like this and we don't think we have an accent but we really do we can look at the people up in Maine and one of the speech patterns that you will see even today at the Maine is they might say something like yeah the crops are gonna grow nicely yeah yep and the Maine and the East Coasters would have their own the New Englanders would have their own unique speech patterns for instance if you're from bast and you might go down to haba we also have some different types of word usage you probably if you're from one part of Wisconsin as opposed to another part of was constant Wisconsin you might see soda instead of Pop if you're like me and you come from a little bit farther south we called everything coke when I moved up here from Missouri as a child I would go to the store or to a McDonald's and I'd say I'd like an orange coke and they would look at me like I was crazy because that didn't really make sense but we were used everything that was soda or everything that was pop we simply called coke so we noticed that some weird differences going on here and then of course there's the very famous southern y'all come back now you hear and we have that southern dialect down there people talking so fast and so fun and we don't often understand along with the different dialects we also have recognizable character types and there was one particular author who were gonna point out in a minute by the name of Bret Hart who really created almost all of these in in such a way that they were caricatures really from the moment that he created them but we have some starting to see some very recognizable character types in literature we have the Western Western mind or the prospector that's out in California trying to strike it rich we have the cowboy in the saloon girl the saloon girl oftentimes has a heart of gold she might be a prostitute she might be a you know rough livin gal but she sure does have a heart of gold we have the New England found my yep up there milking the cows and we have the southern country bumpkin who don't know a lot about nothing we find a lot of these character types and a lot of these speech patterns and something we call local color writing and some authors during this time period would focus some of their stories make them very specific not only would it be set in the south but it would be set in the Louisiana south as opposed to the Floridian south and the Louisiana south is going to have very distinct speech patterns and customs we have a lot of French influence and a lot of Cajun influence that's going to be very different than the area of Florida and what kinds of things people did there so local color writing is even more specialized than regional writing and it focuses even more specifically magnifies speech patterns dialects customs and character types and it is supposed to be as again we're talking about realism here under that umbrella of realism it's supposed to be a realistic portrayal this is how people really talked this is what they really did we began to become very interested in the diversity as I said before our country now one of the things we see with local color writing which isn't necessarily representative of that whole realism portray things the way that they are sometimes local colorist as you might become when you're talking about home after you've moved away from it you might become a little sentimental and local color writers sometimes can be a little bit sentiment a little bit schwartzy and we do see that in local color writing which is sort of a contradiction to realism but definitely shows love of place we have some key regionalism writers and we've already met Mark Twain so we're going to start with somebody who mentored Mark Twain Bret Hart he doesn't he look like every western character in every story probably that you've ever read or every Western you've watched and that's because Bret Hart created almost all of those characters if you'd like to watch westerns if your family likes to watch westerns old ones new ones you can think this guy for creating just about every stereotype and stereotypical Western character he was a journalist out east and went out west to kind of see what that whole new lifestyle was like he became very very famous wrote up until the day he died for the Atlantic Monthly and many other magazines and publications has numerous stories he was a journalist as I said before a local color writer he popularized those Western characters and as we so much seen in regionalism writers the strongest regionalism writers were either in the south or the west or both now we did have northern regional writers we did have eastern regional writers but the most prominent the ones who still survive today were writing about the south or the west and that's probably because because there were the most colorful characters in those areas well then along comes little Mark Twain who's probably just defected from the Civil War and he meets up with Bret Hart and they become buddies and Bret Hart mentors him even though these pictures make them look big Mark Twain with older Bret Hart was actually much older than Mark Twain and when they met and he really got Mark Twain started in the field of journalism he was as we talked about last time a political and social humorist he also focused sometimes his writing on local color writing he wrote novels and short stories the most famous of which that we still talk about today is Huckleberry Finn but he wrote quite a few others as well novels and short stories and again he focused his writing on the south and on the west but now ladies we have a woman entering the scene we have it now it's becoming more acceptable for women to be noticed in literature and we have hit Chopin who was no surprise a women's rights activist she also was a local color writer she was born in Missouri but when she got married she traveled down to Louisiana with her husband and after her husband died she actually had to maintain the family support her family with her writing and support her children and her mother and she did a famous job of it she wrote many novels and short stories the most famous that we still talk about today is called The Awakening about a woman who has to determine whether or not the roles that society has provided for her are roles that she's willing to accept and you'd have to read the novel to find out how that turns out she focused most of her local color riding in the south all right once we get out of regionalism we go to a much darker place we focus on something another type of writing during this time period was called naturalism and we're not so much focusing on the wonderful diversity as of our country as we are focusing on the terrible powerlessness of mankind there's quite a difference and this time period shares both of those very different perspectives it's also a pretty minor representation of the types of writers that we had in America during that time naturalism as as a philosophy as an approach to writing with a much more famous and usable philosophy in Europe it was not widespread here and there's a really good reason for that it was just too doggone depressing and too doggone pessimistic and we're Americans we can do anything we can rise above anything we can overcome and so not too many American writers embrace the naturalist perspective but the ones who did we're going to look at naturalism was really a response to the growing scientific world science was exploding we were learning so much more about nature so much more about psychology so much more about sociology and so in relation to that whole realism umbrella naturalism took a really facts only approach to life let's let's look at the facts only look at life under microscope examine it and see what we can determine now a gentleman by the name of Charles Darwin had some great influence in this area he influenced a lot of economic scuse me a lot of evolutionary biological and social theories during this time period and he was pre stern guider he advocated he along with many other to advocate is some sense of social reform because they saw that society was maybe going in a way it shouldn't be going with the naturalism kind of the ketha lhasa fees for naturalism include the concept that human nature is controlled by instinct human nature is controlled by emotion and or human nature is controlled by social economic conditions the key word there is controlled by keywords excuse me is controlled by that means that mankind is up against some pretty insurmountable odds and if we sometimes are up against our instincts they're gonna win out if we are sometimes up against social and economic conditions that are out of our control we might fail you can see where that would be a little bit depressing the concept also in play is that the human animal is really unable to have ultimate control over its environment that ultimately we are powerless in the face of society in the face of nature in the safe sake of economics and I guess you can roll it all into one big philosophy that would be good for you to make sure you understand it's the philosophy of determinism that being that how you were born where you were born and the environment into which you were born influence your success or failure and shape your character really more than anything else so basically you can see where that really didn't have a huge appeal in America because we're all about overcoming those difficulties we're all about hey it doesn't matter where you're born it doesn't matter where you're from doesn't matter where you come from you can make it no matter what just pull yourself up by your bootstraps naturalism didn't see life that way in fact naturalism said you know what if you just because you think you have doesn't mean you really do it's all just an illusion and there are bigger things in the world that control us the natural world the scientific world and so on the key naturalism writers include a gentleman by the name of Upton Sinclair he wrote a little book called the jungle about the meatpacking industry in Chicago he was a grand political activist and in fact he enacted social change he's the a lot of these writers are great representation of how literature can affect history and history can affect literature it's a symbiotic relationship he focused on the poor working dish of conditions in the meatpacking industry in Chicago and also the poor treatment of immigrants who came over to this country he focuses his big theme as big conflicts or man versus society that that and his main character the protagonist in the jungle is ultimately powerless against what society throws at him similarly Frank Norris wrote a novel called the octopus now the octopus was not really about an octopus it was about the railroad industry and he wrote about its corruption again another man versus Society theme and finally this is a gentleman you might have heard of Jack London he wrote a book that you might be familiar with called call of the wild and many many others he focused more on stories that put not necessarily man against society but man against nature that that man is powerless you know ultimately when when he gets out into nature or she gets out in women gets in out into nature that there are just things that are being under control and no matter what you do you might die if you're stranded out with cold and you're not able to build a fire all right that's the end of this lecture a little bit shorter than the other ones I hope that you are excited for the next one because we are moving on to the 20th century and the Jazz Age and the age of flappers and parties so stay tuned and we'll catch you again a little bit




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