Nonfiction > Carl Van Doren > The American Novel > Subject Index > Page 125

Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.

Page 125

VI.   Howells and Realism

1. New Frontiers and Old Settlements

  AFTER the weeping fifties came the Civil War, which broke the pattern, though at the time it contributed little to the mode of fiction except new materials for the incessant popular romancers who turned their pens from the past to the present without any change as regards sensationalism. What the wicked Tory or the fierce Indian had been, the crafty Confederate or the cruel Federal—it depended upon the section to which the novelist was native—now became. The cloudy atmosphere and turgid style of the old romance wrapped themselves promptly around the new events and assisted in the process which, while the wounds of the struggle were still raw, began to transform it into an epic memory. That memory, however, had to wait a generation before it achieved any considerable maturity. Meanwhile, another tendency in fiction dispossessed the sentimentalism which had dispossessed the school of Cooper.
  After the Revolution there had sounded from many literary throats the cry that the new nation ought to have an epic, as Greece and Rome and medieval Catholicism and English Puritanism had had; and although nothing great had been forthcoming the demand persisted until the middle


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