By Professor Phillip Barrish
Targeting key works of late-nineteenth and early- twentieth-century American literary realism, Phillip Barrish lines the emergence of recent methods of gaining highbrow prestige—that is, new methods of gaining a point of cultural popularity. via prolonged readings of works through Henry James, William Dean Howells, Abraham Cahan, and Edith Wharton, Barrish emphasizes the variations among realist modes of cultural authority and people linked to the increase of the social sciences.
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Extra info for American Literary Realism, Critical Theory, and Intellectual Prestige, 1880-1995
Not having cultivated any disciplined mode of taking aesthetic satisfaction in the Laphams’ rawness, Bromfield is forced to recognize how close to the surface his own “core of real repugnance” is. “I find that, while my reason is . . acquiescent,” he tells Mrs. ” That Bromfield’s very nerves seem to rebel – to “kick” – even against his reason emphasizes Howells’s portrayal of taste as an embodied, and hence as a deeply characterizing, mode of relating to objects in the world. In the context of the novel, the inability of Bromfield’s nerves to tolerate contact with the Laphams tells us more about his own taste limitations than it does about Silas or Persis.
Later, March spends an afternoon wandering the streets not because he is drawn toward observing the “war” between the strikers and management but because he “interested himself in the apparent indifference of the mighty city” (p. ). 59 March’s having cultivated his attention to the frustrating negativities that American society presents comes in handy during small moments of implicit cultural competition such as, for example, when he and Isabel have to travel with the friendly but self-important Mr.
The committed socialist Matt Hilary in The Quality of Mercy comes from a wealthy family and has worn “good clothes” all his life. ”44 Howells’s letters and first-person essays of this period return again and again to the irony of this specific disjunction: “As yet I haven’t got to doing anything, myself,” he concludes yet another letter that passionately criticizes social and economic inequalities. ”45 One couldn’t quite say that Howells’s letters and first-person essays convey a “taste” for finding clashes between his own sincere convictions and his daily practices if “taste” were taken to mean that he finds such clashes directly pleasurable.
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