Summer 1947 • Vol. IX No. 3 NonfictionJuly 1, 1947 |

“Not Men”: A Natural History of American Naturalism

There have been too many unfruitful arguments over Naturalism in American fiction. Now that the movement has flourished for half a century, we can forget to attack or defend it, and instead can look back in an objective or Naturalistic spirit at the work of the many authors it inspired. We can note that their iine extends from Norris and the early Dreiser through Farrell and Steinbeck. We can describe their principles, note how these were modified in practice, and finally try to reach some judgment of their literary remains. Naturalism has been defined in two words as pessimistic determinism, and the definition is true so far as it goes. The Naturalistic writers were all determinists in that they believed in the omnipotence of abstract forces. They were pessimists so far as they believed that men and women were absolutely incapable of shaping their own destinies. They regarded the individual as "a pawn on a chessboard"; the phrase recurs time and again in their novels. They felt

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The Sense of Guilt

By Malcolm Cowley

There have been too many unfruitful arguments over Naturalism in American fiction. Now that the movement has flourished for half a century, we can forget to attack or defend it, […]

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