Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism in Literature
Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism are some of the most eminent movements on literary and artistic fronts that have greatly helped in broadening the scope of topics covered by each of the aforementioned realms. Romanticism refers to the individualistic and idealized view of things; it does not always conform to societal demands and rules, and primarily focuses on the individual himself. The movement of romanticism underscores an individual’s emotions and personal experience, implying that all human beings are intrinsically good but are tarnished by one’s circumstances and social factors. Some of the renowned romanticists include Lord Byron, William Blake, John Keats and Walt Whitman.
Following the Romantic era, the 19th century saw an emergence in a movement called Realism, which was characterized by realistic and factual depiction of events. It negated the idealistic ideology of the romanticists and instead, focused on baring all the facts down. They portrayed the world as it was, instead of labeling the world as either black or white; they focused on the many gray areas of society and life, in general. Realism promoted a realistic depiction that involved putting the audience face to face with the subject. They did not support sugar-coating or sensationalizing, and thus gave emphasized on the morality of incorporating reality in the literature to keep the audiences well-informed. (Scheidenhelm, 2007)
In literature, realism underlined the psychological component of the plot and although, the events were slow-moving but it gradually unfurled the various aspects of the characters and every single part of the plot contained a deep meaning. Realism was devoid of any prejudices and focused on interpreting and portraying the various realities of life. Contemporary literature is greatly influenced by this movement and authors have tried to depict real life situations in their works time after time. Some of the eminent proponents of this movement include Henry James, Mark Twain, George Eliot and Guy de Maupassant and many others, who have made substantial contributions to the movement.
Following realism, another artistic movement quickly emerged which came to be known as naturalism. Naturalism was a relatively modern way of thinking that involved including scientific research and theories in literary and artistic work to juxtapose human realm with that of science. The ideology was heavily influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution, which thereby reiterated the core belief of the movement that underscored the superiority of human beings over their surroundings. The main conflict portrayed in naturalist literature and art involves a man’s struggle either with nature or himself (Scheidenhelm, 2007). They do not take emotions into account when it comes to the actual decision making process and is based on rigid logic only.
Naturalist theories are considered to be very deterministic and base their ideology on the fact that a man is defined by his hereditary; they believe that in the end, it is an individual’s genes that determine his or her competency in the long-run. Naturalist literature is vastly pessimistic and isolates the human race, objectifying them. Naturalists earned great criticism over the years, vastly because of the fact that the concept was full of criticism and contradiction, and at some points it clashed with the religious beliefs of certain factions.
Yet, there are many naturalist authors in the classic and contemporary literary sphere and some of them are Jack London, Frank Norris, Emile Zola and Stephane Mallarme. Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism were a set of ideology that was conceived a long time ago, but their elements have now transcended in to the contemporary literature. All three of these concepts have known to influence writers in all era; the movements now co-exist in the contemporary sphere but have been given clear demarcations to help audiences distinguish between them.
Scheidenhelm, Carol. American Literary History: Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism. Chicago: Loyola University. 2007. Web. < http://www.luc.edu/faculty/cschei1/teach/rrn.html>
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