Abstract (Summary)
This study investigates how realist fiction of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries negotiates the trichotomy of rule, hegemony, and reform. It isolates the historical issues of women in labor movements, socialism and the literary establishment, race and the post-Reconstruction color line, and utopian thought. It examines a broad range of texts, beginning with the novels of William Dean Howells, Edward Bellamy, Albion Tourgée, Charles Chesnutt, Thomas Dixon, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Rebecca Harding Davis. In order to effectively analyze the phenomenon of fiction’s social consequence, this study places these writers within the periods in which they wrote through a variety of non-fictional sources, such as newspaper and periodical articles, personal correspondence, and other historical data, in order to delineate the dimensions of the cultural web of social reform and to clarify the issues at stake in the discussion. Chapter One examines the designation, “social fiction” in some detail and outlines the theoretical underpinnings of the study. Chapter Two analyzes Davis’s “Life in the Iron-Mills and Margret Howth, concluding that Davis feels labor unsexes women, removes them from the home, and stifles their spiritual lives. Chapter Three looks at the novels that Howells published in the 1880s and 1890s and asserts that they tend to undermine and contain their radical figures within safely delineated constraints, rendering them illustrative of Howells’s own political indecision and more appropriate for mainstream consumption. Chapter Four claims that Bellamy’s Looking Backward co-opts three visions of late-nineteenth century culture that the professional and leisure classes found irresistible in order to recruit them into Nationalism, the political movement spawned by the novel. Chapter Four finds that the fiction of Tourgée, Chesnutt, and Du Bois engages the hegemony of southern holy honor and the violence that supported it after Reconstruction. Ultimately, the dissertation concludes that fiction is unique among cultural texts because it has the ability to distill issues with which it is concerned into archetypes in ways that are more compelling than other cultural forms.
Bibliographical Information:


School:University of Cincinnati

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:american literature social novel realism new historicism cultural theory


Date of Publication:01/01/2002

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