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


Page 126

of the next century. Then it had gradually given way before the idea that, as Simms pointed out, prose fiction is the modern epic form. Criticism came therefore to demand “The Great American Novel,” not so much to enshrine the national past as to reflect the national present on a scale commensurate with the new consciousness. Although this expectation, too, was disappointed, it undoubtedly had something to do with the rapid rise of the fashion of local color, which may be thought of as initiated by Bret Harte’s story, The Luck of Roaring Camp, in 1868, and which for some thirty years gave a dominant type to imaginative writing in the United States. The war had stirred the surface of various provincialisms which now discovered themselves and one another. In 1869 Mrs. Stowe in Oldtown Folks celebrated the manners of village New England; two years later Richard Malcolm Johnston did the same for Georgia with his Dukesborough Tales and Edward Eggleston for the Indiana frontier with The Hoosier School-Master. These pioneers were shortly followed in almost every quarter of the country: by George Washington Cable in New Orleans, by Constance Fenimore Woolson in the Great Lakes region, by Sarah Orne Jewett in New England, by Joel Chandler Harris among the negroes, by Mary Noailles Murfree (“Charles Egbert Craddock”) in the Tennessee mountains, by Thomas Nelson Page in Virginia; and thereafter by an increasing multitude who strove, apparently, to furnish the country with an ordnance survey of all its riches of local custom. In the North, where the idea of “The Great American Novel” had been strongest, a good many writers and readers gave themselves to the new vogue in a romantic



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