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


Page 246

X.   Reaction and Progress


I. Toward the Right: Rococo Romance

  DIVERSIFIED as were the types of fiction during the eighties, what actually prevailed then was a sort of official realism, expounded by Howells and James and practised by most of the novelists of the decade at least in style or structure if not always in materials. From this most refined and, on the whole, most artistic moment in the history of the American novel, there followed two reactions. Perhaps the movement toward a harsher realism, an avowed naturalism, should hardly be called a reaction, proceeding as it did not so much by a return to some earlier mode as by an advance to a new idiom of actuality; still it indicated a temperamental reaction from the gentilities of the established school. The rush of historical romance, however, which amounted to a deluge at about the time of the war with Spain, was clearly a reaction. As to form and doctrine, it proceeded largely from the example of Robert Louis Stevenson, who had taken issue with the realists in defense of his own eager preferences for the tradition of Scott, and who in England had led an active group of romancers to new if not classic triumphs. Having set themselves in opposition to the current habits of realism, these romancers naturally limited themselves as compared with Scott, who was



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