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Dicke, Robert J. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLIV (1955)

Clark, Harry Hayden
The influence of science on American literary criticism, 1860-1910, including the vogue of Taine,   pp. 109-164 PDF (22.6 MB)


Page 109

 109THE INFLUENCE ' OF SCIENCE ON AMERICAN 
LITERARY CRITICISM, 1860-1910, INCLUDING 
THE VOGUE OF TAINE* 
HARRY HAYDEN CLARK 
I 
 If American critical thought from 1860—1910 represents, broadly
speaking,
a revolt against the artificial and "feudalistic" romance of Scott
and his
followers as well as a revolt against the kind of semi-Coleridgean idealism
associated with Emerson and Poe and their major contemporaries, the new trend
toward what is roughly called realism (what is habitual and average in human
conduct) and naturalism (stressing man's kinship with nature and animals)
is complex and is to be explained only by the interplay of many diverse influences.
Among these are the growing demand for greater democracy, especially in economic
opportunity; the growing need for adjustment ' to the physical environment
of America; the attempts of an expanding journalism to meet the demands of
an ever growing public, including immigrants, increasingly alive to the actual
realities of their work-a-day world; and the vogue and influence of European
thinkers. More important than generally realized, however, in helping us
to understand the new trend and the ways in which the influences just mentioned
were rationalized, is science. For scientific inventions and industrialism,
applied to exploiting frontier resources, brought to a focus many of the
problems of our professed ideal of democratic equality and the welfare of
all; scientific advances in printing and in transportation implemented an
expanding journalism which increasingly reached the masses; and the European
thinkers themselves (such as Zola) were mostly greatly influenced by science.
But at least equally important were the philosophical and sociological implications
of evolution, which gradually led people to see the ideas with which literature
was concerned in a new frame of reference and to try to explain literary
art and creativeness in terms of the physiological-psychological study of
the individual considered as determined by both heredity and environment,
by time, place, and race. At the risk of over-simplifying a complex pattern
of thought, we 
 * Grateful acknowledgement is made to The Graduate School of the University
of Wisconsin for a grant which enabled me to complete this research. 


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