American Literary Naturalism

American Literary Naturalism

Late Essays

By Donald Pizer

Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series

The book collects Pizer’s late career essays on various writers and subjects related to American naturalism.

Hardback, 164 Pages


October 2020

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

The four initial essays in the “Specific Writers and Works” section display Pizer’s critical style in its characteristic varied and incisive form. The initial essay, an exercise in cross-discipline analysis, discusses the ways specific works by Crane, Dreiser, and Steinbeck reveal their author’s response to specific contemporary visual art works and reportage. The seconds offers a novel way of interpreting the naturalism of London’ archetypal story “To Light a Fire” by pointing out the weaknesses in Lee Clark Mitchell’s reading. The third centers on the usefulness of Norman Mailer’s essay on American Naturalism not only in its refutation of Lionel Trilling’s attack on the movement but in sharing with Trilling and others a misunderstanding of the central thrust of Theodore Dreiser’s work. And the fourth is a close reading of Dos Passos over the course of three works of his experience of the 1931 Harland Coal Strike to clarify his thinking of the best means for the artist both to represent and participate in the struggle for social justice in America.


Donald Pizer has been the premier scholar in the field of American literary naturalism for the past half century or more. This compilation of his essays on the topic belongs on the shelf of every research library and every Americanist who specializes in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century literature.” — Gary Scharnhorst, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English, University of New Mexico

Beginning with his early work in the 1960s, Donald Pizer has redefined the field of American literary naturalism. In these late essays, Pizer provides an essential primer on what naturalism is and does; reveals the evolution of his thinking on twentieth-century naturalist writers such as Dos Passos, Dreiser, and Mailer; and demonstrates how to read—and, he argues, how not to read—Jack London's classic short story "To Build a Fire." In interviews and in his account of his career as a scholar of naturalism, Pizer speaks more forcefully about his ideas on naturalism than is possible in academic criticism, making this volume an indispensable companion to the study of naturalism. — Donna M. Campbell, Lewis E. and Stella G. Buchanan Distinguished Professor, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Washington State University

American Literary Naturalism: Late Essays is the latest of Donald Pizer’s gatherings of his uncollected essays. This fine collection of essays—cogent, lucidly written, compelling in insight—reminds us of why Donald Pizer is the preeminent scholar of American literary naturalism. —Keith Newlin, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Author Information

Pizer is one of the leading critics and historians of the significant late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literary movement known as American naturalism.


Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series

Table of Contents

Preface; Acknowledgments; Part I. General Essays; 1. American Naturalism: A Primer; 2. Critical Conceptions of American Realism and Naturalism, 1870–1970; Part II. Specific Writers and Works; 3. Naturalism and the Visual Arts: Dreiser, Crane, and Steinbeck; 4. Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”: How Not to Read Naturalist Fiction; 5. Norman Mailer, Theodore Dreiser, and the Politics of American Literary History; 6. John Dos Passos and Harlan: Three Variations on a Theme; 7. Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy and 1920s; Flapper Culture; 8. Dreiser’s Relationships with Women; Part III. Donald Pizer and the Study of American Naturalism; 9. The Study of American Naturalism: A Personal Retrospective; 10. Stephen C. Brennan: Interview with Donald Pizer; Index.


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