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Downwardly Mobile : The Changing Fortunes of American Realism, Hardback Book


Downwardly Mobile explores the links between a growing sense of economic precariousness within the American middle class and the development of literary realism over the course of the nineteenth century by Rose Terry Cooke, Rebecca Harding Davis, William Dean Howells, Henry James, and Hamlin Garland.

The book argues that, in each of these writers, the opacity and abstraction of social relationships in an expanding market economy combined with a sense ofpervasive insecurity to produce a "hunger for the real" - a commitment to a mimetic literature capable of stabilizing the social world by capturing it with a new sharpness and accuracy.

The book relocates the origins of literary realism in the antebellum period and a structure of feeling based in the residualhousehold economy which prized the virtues of the local, the particular, and the concrete, against the alienating abstractions of the emerging market.

In a parallel line of argument, the book explores the ways in which sympathetic identification with lower-class figures served to locate American realist authors in a confused and shifting social space.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 208 pages, 4 illustrations
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900
  • ISBN: 9780199828050



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