Howells, William Dean. (1837 - 1920).
L i f e
- born in Ohio x but: lived in Boston (Massachusetts)
- his life resembles a Bildungsroman: a climber from a province makes his way upward to a social and professional acclaim <=> M. Twain
- apprenticed in a printing shop, worked for regional newsps
- became a campaign biographer for A. Lincoln >> an American consul in Venice during the Civil War
- acquainted with the Boston-Concord literary circle including O. W. Holmes, J. R. Lowell, R. W. Emerson, H. D. Thoreau, and N. Hawthorne
- befriended with M. Twain and H. James
- later in life converted to a socialist, anti-imperialist, and supporter of the suffragist movement
W o r k
- a novelist, playwright, poet, author of travel books, and the ‘arbiter’ of American letters
- the foremost American critic and editor from 1886 into early 20th century
- the chief editor of The Atlantic Monthly
- supported the naturalists F. Norris and S. Crane
- recognised and declared the central importance of M. Twain and H. James
- the ‘Dean’ of American realism:
(a) claims the novel the most important instrument of realism
(b) considers realism democratic, that is why potentially American
(c) demands the American realism optimistic and portraying the changing world
(d) rejects romanticised plots in favour of the details of everyday life of ordinary people
F i c t i o n :
- author of a number of realistic and moralistic novels
- records the details of everyday life with a photography-like fidelity
Their Wedding Journey (1878)
A Modern Instance (1882):
- the lawyer protagonist urges not to sneer at the common, ordinary, and everyday
The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885):
= the protagonist’s rise = his moral fall x his bankrupt = his moral victory
C r i t i c i s m :
Criticism and Fiction (1891)
My Literary Passions (1895)
My Mark Twain (1910)
(Source: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorWilliam Dean Howells. (1837 - 1920).
WorkCritic. Novelist. Advocate of Realism.
GenreRealism. Moralistic novel.
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Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.
"See how today's achievement is only tomorrow's confusion; / See how possession always cheapens the thing that was precious".
From "Pordenone" (1882).