Annotated Bibliography 1999-2007

Online Annotated Bibliography of Howells Criticism
From 1999-2007 Howells Society members provided annotations for recent publications in Howells criticism.

January 2007

American Literature 

Annotations by Terry Oggel

Kristin Boudreau, “Elegies for the Haymarket Anarchists,” AL77 (June 2005), 319-347.

The execution on 11 November 1887 of four of the eight men convicted for their parts in the Chicago Haymarket bombing the previous year led to a deluge of public responses. Though most of the first ones denounced the eight as “anarchists,” in the following months daily newspaper “swelled”with elegiac poems memorizing the men. Howells, no longer a poet but now a prominent novelist, did not contribute directly to this outpouring, but he lent his support for the poems that spoke to the masses on a topic of such important social concern, and he also used the newspaper on the day after the execution when he wrote in a letter to the editor of the New York Tribunethat the multiple execution was an “‘atrocious and irreparable wrong'” (342).

Claudia Stokes, “Copyrighting American History: International Copyright and the Periodization of the Nineteenth Century.” AL 77 (June 2005), 292-317.

Howells figures significantly in Stokes’ revisionist depiction of America’s late nineteenth-century as the period when “vitality” triumphed over effete tradition. Usually the energy for this new age is attributed to the new literary movement, realism, which was the effort at “periodization” that Howells himself pioneered and that since volume 3 of Vernon Louis Parrington’s Main Currents in American Thought (1930) has remained unchallenged. Stokes’ depiction, however, is that the vital energy of the period came instead from the copyright movement, as American writers sought to gain a level footing in the English language literary marketplace. This drive, Stokes concludes, is “the hidden history of the periodization of the nineteenth century” (312).

Emily Satterwhite, “Reading Craddock, Reading Murfree: Local Color, Authenticity, and Geographies of Reception.” AL78 (March 2006), 59-88.

Beginning in May 1878 when as editor of the Atlantic Monthlyhe published eight of her local color stories of Tennessee mountain folk which she had written under the pen name of Charles Egbert Craddock, Howells supported the writing of Mary Noailles Murfree. Later, in 1886, Howells wrote self-deprecatingly about his surprise at learning that he was a she, and he continued to praise Murfree’s work in “The Editor’s Study” in Harper’sthrough 1889, and elsewhere through 1912. Howells’ support helps prove that although Murfree came to be dismissed in the 20th century, her writing was “at the very heart of literary culture from 1878 until at least 1886” (78).

July 2006

Nineteenth-Century Literature
Annotations by Paul Petrie

Jarrett, Gene. “‘Entirely Black Verse from Him Would Succeed’: Minstrel Realism and William Dean Howells.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 59.4 (2005): 494-525.

Jarrett argues that Howells’ review of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Majors and Minors reveals the mechanisms by which white racialist culture came to understand black minstrelsy’s essentially romantic and sentimental caricaturing of African Americans as a racially authentic realism. The culturally pervasive practice of minstrelsy, especially in its later black-performed versions, sold its repackaging of white racialist stereotypes of blacks on the basis of its putative accuracy of representation of the reality of African-American life. An analogous phenomenon occurred in the transition from the plantation literature tradition to African American literary realism: recycled white racialist stereotypes became the primary markers of putative authenticity in African American writers’ literary self-representation. Howells acted upon and reinforced these assumptions in his responses to Dunbar’s poetry, which he reviewed for Harper’s Weekly in 1896, in a column that eventually became the preface to Dunbar’s Lyrics of Lowly Life. Reading the poems through the minstrel realism expectations set up for him by the earlier book’s frontispiece photo of Dunbar, Howells found that Dunbar was “least himself” in those poems—constituting seventy-five percent of the volume—written in traditional (white) Western verse forms and standard English. He reserved most of his praise for the dialect poems, which confirmed Howells’ cultural preconceptions about literary-racial authenticity: as Jarrett puts it, “Dunbar is most Dunbar when he is most Negro, Howells would have said.” Thus, “while characterizing Anglo-American literary realism as the eschewal of romance and sentiment, Howells in particular defined African American literary realism in these very terms,” derived from a “romantic racialist” understanding of the essential characteristics of African Americans.

Palmer, Stephanie C. “Realist Magic in the Fiction of William Dean Howells.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 57.2 (2002): 210-236.

Palmer focuses on the prevalence of accident as “the means by which effective meeting grounds are formed” between members of the upper and lower classes in three Howells novels of the 1880s and 90s. Howells’ uses of accident serve to “remind readers of the need for, and the difficulty of, maintaining cognitive and emotional connections in a heterogeneous society.” In The Undiscovered Country, a relatively hopeful Howells posits the “accidental entanglements” enabled by modern systems of social circulation (transportation, commerce, mass communication) as productive if imperfect modes of establishing social interaction between people of unlike class and community identities. Annie Kilburn and A Hazard of New Fortunesare considerably less optimistic about the possibility of achieving a new common ground via the mechanisms of chance, identifying accidental entanglement with bourgeois characters who are well-meaning but largely ineffectual. Nevertheless, while the novels endorse the “theoretical viability” of the social ideas of “activist-theorists” like Peck, Lindau, Conrad Dryfoos, and Margaret Vance, they find what hope there is to be found not in socialist theories of comprehensive social change but in the opportunities afforded by the chaos of modern life for cross-class interaction “on a personal level.” Howells’ “resolutely unradical nature,” Palmer concludes, has perhaps received too much condemnation by recent critics; his use of “realist accident” might be read “as the impulse toward conversation and concern in a nonviolent modern world.”

Rosenthal, Debra J. “The White Blackbird: Miscegenation, Genre, and the Tragic Mulatta in Howells, Harper, and the ‘Babes of Romance.'” Nineteenth-Century Literature 56.4 (2002): 495-517.

Focusing primarily on competing representations of the stock romantic figure of the tragic mulatta, Rosenthal reads Howells’ An Imperative Duty and Harper’s Iola Leroy as parts of a “call-and-response literary conversation . . . about race, gender, and genre.” According to Rosenthal, Howells designed his novel as a realist corrective to the overly melodramatic representations of race and sexuality in two miscegenation novels he had reviewed four years earlier in Harper’s magazine: Margaret Holmes Bates’ The Chamber over the Gate and the Alice Morris Buckner-attributed Towards the Gulf: A Romance of Louisiana. Howells’s novel attempts to use the physician Olney’s realist, “scientific” racial discourse to ironize and “flatten romanticism’s stock storyline” but the presence in the text of the tragic mulatta figure, Rhoda Aldgate, “ruptures” the text’s realist intentions, causing the novel to revert to racial stereotyping and Olney to assume the role of white paternalist savior of the “tainted” Rhoda. Howells, against his own apparent intentions, “unwittingly reinscribes the tragic mulatta stereotype” by subjecting Rhoda to a symbolic suicide, as she ultimately rejects both “her American identity and her black ancestry.” By contrast, IolaLeroy responds to Howells by embracing its heroine’s “acceptance of black womanhood” along with the very sort of “too melodramatic” ending that Howells had condemned in Bates’ and Buckner’s novels.

December 2005

American Literary Realism
Annotations by George Fragopoulos

“‘I write Very Deliberately Indeed’: Four Uncollected Interviews with W.D. Howells,” by Matthew Teorey. ALR 37.2 (Winter 2005) : 159-179. Teorey’s article brings together four “previously uncollected” Howells interviews which span almost a decade, the first one taking place in September 1883 and the last in November of 1892. The interviews cover a wide range of topics, from Howells’ work habits—‘I work from 9 in the morning until 1 or 2 in the afternoon; after that the work does not seem to be in me’—to his opinions on writers such as Zola, Tolstoy, and Kipling. Howells addresses directly the question of wh at is means to be an American writer and his personal relation to the novel form: “American life is changing very much, as the American novel by which you know is changing, too. It is a mirror of our mighty world . . . for myself, I do not believe in what you term the ‘American’ novel. It has little or not prospect, and for this reason—we are too local. We shall go on writing novel of New York, of Boston, of Georgia, of California. Our very vastness forces us into provincialism of the narrowest kind.”

A Hazard of New Fortunes: Howells and the Trial of Pragmatism,” by Sarah B. Daugherty. ALR 36.2 (Winter 2004): 166-179 . Daugherty’s article not only examines Howells’ novel A Hazard of New Fortunes as a text intensely concerned with the social, economic, and historical landscape of post-Civil War America but also looks at the novel as a “a critique of authors whose precepts [Howells] found confining, including Tolstoy and Henry James.” Daugherty examines as the central conflict of the novel the tension between its pragmatic characters and its dreamers or idealists: “The novel establishes a tentative hierarchy of characters, with pragmatists favored over idealists.” This tension in the text mirrors Howells’ own ambivalent outlook on pragmatic thinking. Daugherty concludes, “Having tested the claims of pragmatism, Howells could not dispense with idealism.”

“The Next Best Thing: Business and Commercial Inspiration in A Hazard of New Fortunes,” by Gib Prettyman. ALR 35.2 (Winter 2003): 95-119. Prettyman begins his discussion of Howells’ A Hazard of New Fortunes by briefly describing the anxieties that Howells faced in late 1880’s America due to, among other things, “the trial and execution of the anarchist speakers accused of murder in the Haymarket bombing.” Prettyman goes on to illustrate how Hazard is “generally understood as Howells’ attempt to dramatize [the] increasingly profound disillusionment with industrializing America.” The rest of the article is spent examining the way Hazard dramatizes the ‘interaction of utopian and realist impulses at the heart of the novel,’ and points out that the majority of this theme is worked out by Howells through his representation of the magazine business, drawing on the parallel between the magazine that serializedHazard in reality, Harper’s, and the fictional magazine at the center of the novel, Every Other Week. Howells, a publishing insider, uses the magazine industry to explore and illustrate the anxieties and pressures of commercial life at the end of the nineteenth century.

“The ‘Enormous Effect’ of American Life: Divorce in W.D. Howells’ A Modern Instance,” by Kimberly Freeman. ALR 36.1(Fall 2003): 65-85. Freeman illustrates how Howells examines divorce in A Modern Instance as an attempt to portray postbellum America, in which divorce was an actual occurrence, in accord with Howells’ program of social realism. Divorce also allows Howells a space in which to explore gender roles, particularly “contrasting images of ‘American’ masculinity.” Freeman discusses Howells’ concerns with the “popular press’s invasion of privacy in the late-nineteenth century” and concludes with an examination of the novel’s somewhat ‘inconclusive’ ending and of its moral implications, which Freeman interprets as not entirely surprising in the context of the pattern of closure in Howells’ novels. In Freeman’s reading, the novel’s uneven ending suggests Howells’ own ambivalence on the moral valence of divorce in his time.

“‘A Good War Story’: The Civil War, Substitution, and the Labor Crisis in Howells’ A Hazard of New Fortunes,” by Andrew Rennick. ALR 35.3 (Spring 2003): 95-119 . Rennick’s essay examines the thematic use of the American Civil War by Howells in A Hazard of New Fortunes, arguing that the Civil War allows Howells to discuss and explore issues of class and labor during one of the most trying times in American history, participating: “in a contemporary discourse in which the meaning of the war was, in fact, not ignored but hotly contested: literature about labor.” Rennick illustrates this by examining Howells’ representation of certain characters in A Hazard, such as the magazine owner Dryfoos who represents a segment of the American population that had much to gain and little to lose from the war: “Oblivious to the wartime class strife, Dryfoos considers the war years ‘exciting times,’ and the death of union soldiers ‘worth it’ for ‘the country we’ve got now.’” Rennick concludes that the Civil War allowed Howells to examine both the “romantic conciliatory fantasies of battlefield heroics” that many Americans held and also allowed a space in which to examine “the history of American class relations.”

American Literature and The New Yorker
Annotations by Terry Oggel

American Literature 73.4 (December 2002):

Randall Knoper’s “American Literary Realism and Nervous ‘Reflexion'” (pp. 715-745) studies the connection between Howells’s (and Holmes’s and Twain’s) literary theorizing and practice on the one hand and contemporary neuroscience on the other, showing that not only did the literary theory of the period register conceptual change but fostered it.

American Literature 75.4 (December 2003):

Julie Cary Nerad, in “Slippery Language and False Dilemmas: The Passing Novels of Child, Howells, and Harper” (pp. 813-841), examines An Imperative Duty (1891), a flawed fictional attempt to “challenge the one-drop rule” (824) for which Harper’s Iola Leroy, published the next year, was perhaps a “corrective” ( 830).

American Literature 77.2 (June 2005):

a. Only one reference (minor) to Howells in the concluding paragraph of “Elegies for the Haymarket Anarchists” by Kristin Boudreau (pp. 319-343), a survey of mourning poems published in the popular press for the five men executed in Chicago in November 1887.

b. Claudia Stokes’s “Copyrighting American History: International Copyright and the Periodization of the Nineteenth Century” (pp. 291-317) maintains that the international copyright movement, more than Howells’s literary realism movement, gave public expression to the ideas that artists were laborers and that literature was not the realm of elite privileged intellectuals.

The New Yorker, vol. 81 and issue 17:
In his “Metropolitan: William Dean Howells and the novel of New York” (The New Yorker, June 13 & 20, 2005, pp. 166-173), a review-essay of Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson’s new biography, William Dean Howells: A Writer’s Life (Univ. of California,2005), Adam Gopnik focuses on Howells’s New York years and the “three exceptional novels” (169) he produced while living there: A Hazard of New Fortunes(1890), The World of Chance (1893) and Letters Home (1903).

Entries for April 2002

American Literary Realism

Marovitz, Sanford. “Melville Among the Realists: W. D. Howells and the
Writing of Billy Budd.” American Literary Realism 34.1 (Fall 2001): 29-46.

This remarkably clear and orderly essay identifies Billy Budd structurally
and thematically with realism rather than with antebellum romantic fiction.
Though not claiming direct influence of Howells on Melville, Marovitz notes
a number of “undeniable correspondences.” While composing Hazard of New
Fortunes, The Shadow of a Dream, and Billy Budd, both authors were aware of
and influenced by current events: the Haymarket riot and trial, renewed
interest in the Somers executions of 1842, and the realism war, with its
attendance discussion of the innateness of genius resonating through
Melville’ suggestions of Billy’s innate goodness and Claggart’s innate evil.
In addition, there were personal parallels, perhaps enabled by Arthur
Griffin Stedman (son of E. C. Stedman), who was close enough to both writers
to know that they shared a burden of parental guilt over the deaths of their
children (Winifred Howells and Malcolm and Stanwix Melville). Finally, in
the dramatic presentation of incidents and in narrative point of view, Billy
Budd is shaped by techniques characteristic of realistic fiction as
practiced by Howells and James. [Peg Wherry]

Sorrentino, Paul. “A Re-Examination of the Relationship Between Stephen
Crane and W. D. Howells.” American Literary Realism 34.1 (Fall 2001): 47-65.

This essay challenges the view that Crane, after being encouraged by Howells
at the beginning of his career, eventually outgrew his mentor and criticized
his work. Sorrentino corrects a number of dates and facts of the
Howells-Crane relationship (particularly some found in Thomas Beer’s book on
Crane). He also discusses in detail the two writers’ mutual influence in
Crane’s “An Experiment in Misery” and “An Experiment in Luxury” as paired
with Howells’ “Letters of an Altrurian Traveller”and again in the way Maggie
influenced Howells’ “An East-Side Ramble” and “The Midnight Platoon,” the
latter also closely related to Crane’s “The Men in the Storm.” Finally,
Sorrentino reads Crane’s 1900 piece on the American Academy of Arts and
Letters as a satire on the idea of any kind of academy, rather than as a
straightforward criticism of Howells or Twain. [Peg Wherry]

Daugherty, Sarah B. “‘The Home-Towners’: Howells the Critic vs.Howells the
Novelist.” American Literary Realism 34.1 (Fall 2001): 66-72.

“The Home-Towners” is a chapter fragment of a novel set in St.Augustine, FL,
that Howells began in 1915. Daugherty finds in this fragment (published in
1998) anxieties of race and gender and criticism of the “bad art” of popular
film that are “signs of our own times.” Shealso describes Howells’ fruitless
stabs at the marriage plot and thefate of the literary artist in his effort
to develop a plot, and notes the ironic outcome of Howells’ criticism: his
campaign on behalf of local color has led to a “sectional patriotism” that
renders tedious theAmericans he encounters in Florida. [Peg Wherry]

American Quarterly. No articles were published on Howells during this
period. [Claudia Stokes]

Studies in American Fiction

Paul R. Petrie theorizes as to why Chesnutt’s strategy of covert
aggressiveness in his conjure stories failed. In “Charles W. Chesnutt, The
Conjure Woman, and the Racial Limits of Literary Mediation” (SAF 27, ii:
183-204), Petrie observes that Chesnutt’s effort to use literature to
ameliorate white readers’ attitudes about African Americans made use of a
fictional formula already familiar to them. He refined the conventions of
the frame story by replacing the usual character types with individualized
figures–a contemporary white business couple from Ohio and a black
freedman–who paralleled and instructed the interaction between postwar
American blacks and his white readers. Chesnutt’s plan failed, largely
because its success ultimately lay on the shoulders of those readers.
Petrie’s conclusion: unable to understand the tales subliminally, the
readers did not overcome the blindness of their own racial prejudice. [Terry
Oggel, from AmLS 1999–p. 264]

Susan M. Stone’s “Transcendental Realism: The Thoreauvian Presence in
Howells’s A Modern Instance” (SAF 27, ii: 149-157) approaches Howells from
an ecofeminist perspective. The proposition might have potential, but in
this application it doesn’t succeed. For Stone, Transcendentalism is
watered down to where it is little more than pop-culture idealism. The
representative Transcendentalist for her study, Thoreau, is sentimentalized
and made to seem merely quirky, necessarily so in order for Stone to see him
as “symbolized” by the garrulous logging-camp cook Kinney. Kinney’s
quaintness is set opposite Bartley Hubbard’s deceitfulness as part of the
novel’s critique of late-century capitalism. But such a simplistic dualism
ill befits this complex, ambiguous novel with its famous “I don’t know”
ending. The limited extent to which the peripheral character Kinney
resembles Thoreau seems better understood satirically. With his
ill-digested idealism, Kinney is amusing and pathetic for Howells’s equally
strong critique of the period’s nostalgia for a return to a simpler time.
Howells deserves more credit. [Terry Oggel, from AmLS 1999-p. 282]

Books and Book Sections

Crowley, John W. The Dean of American Letters : The Late Career of William
Dean Howells.
 Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1999. John W. Crowley’s
affectionate but honest The Dean of American Letters (Mass.) completes his
trilogy on Howells begun in 1985 with The Black Heart’s Truth and sustained
in 1989 with The Mask of Fiction. The Dean is a study of the period’s
processes of canonization, de-canonization, and shifting literary taste as
much as it is a biography of Howells. In a slender volume it treats the
public side of Howells’s late career, a three-decade period beginning with A
Hazard of New Fortunes that is usually neglected by biographers focusing on
his literary production; it is, however, of considerable interest in today’s
critical climate. Crowley details the development of Howells’s “deanship,”
established during these years at the same time that a new attitude toward
the business of authorship gained power so that, paradoxically, as Howells
declined creatively he came to be exalted as a cultural icon. For 30 years,
his Victorianism, including his genuine humility and graciousness, served
him well. Better than anyone else in his time, he negotiated the minefield
of literary politics and personalities and defined the life of a
professional writer. It’s true that his decline came when these virtues
failed him in the new century when shrewder self-promotional strategies were
needed to manage the “strange new creature of modern publicity,” but this
explanation seems limited, as though Howells was too pure for the dirty new
century. It was more than that, and Crowley, might have dealt more fully
with Howells’s literary misjudgments (besides his undervaluing of Theodore
Dreiser and Edith Wharton, his slighting of Charles W. Chesnutt and
Charlotte Perkins Gilman stand out). Ultimately, though Howells targeted
audiences and marketed his writings, he had difficulty getting published.
He was a marked man, and the deanship was a curse. Five years before he
died in 1920, he himself acknowledged that he was a “dead cult.” He had
been killed by a generation of younger writers who, by making him their sole
target, unintentionally certified the impact that the Age of Howells had had
on them. Van Wyck Brooks singled out Howells as the most prominent member
in a “cultural hegemony” that could speak confidently of “the smiling
aspects of life.” Although Howells was resurrected around mid-century, he
is being eclipsed again today. The surprising contemporaneity of Brooks’s
term recommends a measure of Howellsian modesty. The present always
defines, and (to use Crowley’s final words) the past always obliges. [Terry
Oggel, AmLS 1999–282-3]

Fabi, M. Giulia. “Reconstructing Literary Genealogies: Frances E. W.
Harper’s and William Dean Howells’s Race Novels.” Soft Canons: American
Women Writers and Masculine Tradition.
 Ed. Karen Kilcup. Iowa City:
University of Iowa Press, 1999. 48-66. M. Giulia Fabi examines Howells’s An
Imperative Duty (1891) and Frances Harper’s newly rediscovered Minnie’s
Sacrifice (1869) and her better-known Iola Leroy (1892) in “Reconstructing
Literary Genealogies: Frances E. W. Harper’s and William Dean Howells’s Race
Novels” (pp. 48-66). There seems to be a stretching for effect here, for
the “connections” are loose if they exist in substance at all. Harper and
Howells both treat the tragic mulatta, but Fabi concludes that an
ideological split about race and gender causes these two novels, though
similarly themed and directed, to take radically different positions.
Where’s the surprise? [Terry Oggel, from AmLS 1999–p. 268]

Entries for December 2000

American Literary History
American Literary Realism

Thompson, Graham.  “‘And that paint is a thing that will bear looking into’: The Business of Sexuality in The Rise of Silas Lapham.”  American Literary Realism 33 (1), Fall 2000, 1-20.

Graham Thompson starts with Elizabeth Prioleau’s argument that the themes of sex and business are “intimately bound together” in the novel and moves it into the context of men’s relations with other men ; he constitutes the relationship between Silas Lapham and Tom Corey as a love story.  Tom, fresh from his experiences in Texas, is attracted to Lapham’s “muscular masculinity,” which is associated with business, and Thompson points out that Tom is seeking to move into Lapham’s world just as deliberately as Silas wants to enter the Corey’s social milieu.  The social differences between the two men come into stark contrast through the dinner party and its aftermath, which is also when the heterosexual love plot involving Tom and Penelope takes off.  Thompson argues that after his “initial shock and disgust” at Lapham’s abasement the day after the party, Tom “actually attempts to commit himself to Lapham” and proposes to Pen when she is the only Lapham at home.  Claiming that “there is nothing in the text which in any way positions Tom’s desires in relation to [Pen],” Thompson sees analyses like John Seelye’s discussion of the “hole” in the novel as a “retrospective reading . . . which not only assumes but actually produces _as it assumes_ the naturalness and predictability of the heterosexual romance” (emphasis in original). [Peg Wherry]

American Literature
American Quarterly

In the three volumes of American Quarterly issued thus far in 2000, there was only one significant treatment of Howells.

Carrie Tirado Bramen, “The Urban Picturesque and the Spectacle of Americanization,” American Quarterly 52 (September 2000): 444-477. 
As an investigation into the ways in which the aesthetic category of the picturesque underwrote popular representations of the city during the turn of the century, Bramen’s article appoints Howells’s novel A Hazard of New Fortunes as a vital example of this interpretive framework.  She also briefly discusses Howells’s An Imperative Duty in a footnote devoted to the striking refusal of turn-of-the-century writers and critics to deploy the urban picturesque when discussing African Americans. [Claudia Stokes]

American Studies
Arizona Quarterly
Henry James Review

Journal of Narrative Technique: Gary Totten
No articles on Howells in the following issues: 29.2 (1999), 29.3 (1999), 30.1 (2000)

Mark Twain Journal

Modern Fiction Studies
No articles on Howells in the following issues: 45.4 (1999), 46.1 (2000), 46.2 (2000), 46.3 (2000) [Gary Totten]

New England Quarterly
Nineteenth-Century Literature

Novel: A Forum on Fiction — May have ceased publication?  I can find no
reference to any issue after 32.3 (Summer 1999) [Paul Petrie]

Papers on Language and Literature — No Howells articles 36.3 (Summer 2000) [Paul Petrie]

Resources for American Literary Studies
South Atlantic Review
South Atlantic Quarterly

Studies in American Fiction
No articles on Howells in 28.1 (2000)

Stone, Susan M., “Transcendental Realism: The Thoreauvian Presence in Howells’ A Modern Instance,” Studies in American Fiction 27.2 (Autumn 1999): 149-57.

Stone argues that Howells’s A Modern Instance invokes Thoreau and transcendentalism in order to explore whether “there can be a return to individualism and to nature that is utterly realistic, rather than sadly reflective or blindly utopian” (151-52).  Stone discusses Thoreau’s influence on Howells, including an early meeting between the two, during which Thoreau shared his “unromantic views about the responsibilities of an author with social vision,” and effectually “burst young Howells’ bubble about the supposed beauty of suffering” (149-50).  Stone argues that this conversation opened Howells’ eyes to the dangers, for authors and individuals, of “romancing a mass-market economy and mentality” (150).  Stone identifies various allusions in Howells’ novel to Thoreau’s life and work, not least of which is the character Kinney’s resemblance to Thoreau.  According to Stone, Howells uses Kinney and Hubbard (the novel’s self-promoting capitalist) to address the “moral dilemma” of late nineteenth-century American society (156): the cultural tension between “rural simplicity” (150) and the growth of capitalism and the city.  Stone concludes that while Howells acknowledges the advent of the modern age, his romanticization of a Transcendental past conveys nostalgia and a sense of loss for the “radical departure from the old” (156).

Foote, Stephanie, “The Value of Regional Identity: Labor, Representation, and Authorship in Hamlin Garland,” Studies in American Fiction 27.2 (Autumn 1999): 159-82).

Although not an article about Howells specifically, Foote refers to Howells’ ideas about regional writing in her conclusion.  Foote contends that Garland’s fiction highlights the “debates about the status of local authorship and experience, and national identity and value,” characteristic of the “most successful, genteel regionalist writing” (159, 178).  Garland problematizes the regionalist project by arguing for the “national necessity” of local color while at the same time worrying about whether or not a market exists for such writing (177-78).  Foote suggests that Garland’s “trafficking” in the “two tangled economies” of markets and aesthetics can also be seen as an “amplification of the fantasy of a coherent realist subject” (178).  If, Foote argues, regional writing is, as Howells believed, “the fiction of democracy” which would allow people to recognize that they were “more alike than unlike,” then it would have to depend on the assumption that local and national identity coincide.  Foote concludes that the focus on local culture in regionalist fiction ultimately “conceals the vastly different values of national and local economies and covers over the problems in political and economic dependence between the local and the national (178-79).

Petrie, Paul R., “Charles W. Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman, and the Racial Limits of Literary Mediation,” Studies in American Fiction 27.2 (Autumn 1999): 183-204).

In an endnote regarding Chesnutt’s commitment to social reform in his fiction, Petrie makes reference to Howells.  In his article, Petrie explores how Chesnutt manipulates “generically expected relationships among narrator, narrated, and audience” in The Conjure Woman to “further an antiracist social agenda” and explore “the limits of a white readership’s ability to overcome its own racial acculturation” (184).  While discussing how Chesnutt subtly interjects African-American experience into white aesthetic form, Petrie notes that Howells’ “Editor’s Study” columns beginning in 1886 advocated a new purposely ethical fiction, thus affirming Chesnutt’s project.  Petrie also notes that while Howells and Chesnutt maintained a “lifelong mutual respect,” eventually, Howells became uncomfortable with Chesnutt’s “increasing polemicism,” and Chesnutt became uncomfortable with Howells’ “underestimation of white readers’ resistance to literature by and about African Americans” (n. 201).

[Gary Totten]

Studies in the Literary Imagination — No Howells articles 33.1 (Spring 2000) [Paul Petrie]

Studies in the Novel:

No articles on Howells [Greg Stratman]

Studies in Short Fiction

Western American Literature

No articles on Howells [Greg Stratman]

Entries for January 2000
American Literature: Terry Oggel
No Howells entries for 1999.

American Quarterly: Claudia Stokes
Lynn Wardley, “American Realism ‘After’ the New Historicism,” _American Quarterly_ 51 (September 1999): 726-737.

Although not an essay examining Howells per se, this essay reviews two recent contributions to American literary realist scholarship–Nancy
Glazener’s _Reading for Realism: The History of a U.S. Literary Institution (1850-1910)_ and Brook Thomas’s _American Literary Realism and
the Failed Promise of Contract_.  In her consideration of these two works, Wardley pays particular attention to their respective positions toward New Historicism, positions she observes in their decrying the  totalizing, “monologic” treatment of realism that they separately attribute to this methodology.  This methodological concern, Wardley notes, results in their respective interests in reconstituting both literary realism and New Historicism through a more nuanced and institutionally specific analysis of the social engagement of this literary movement.  This essay is useful to anyone working on Howells in that it not only assesses two significant reevaluations of the literary aesthetic Howells both theorized and propounded but also tracks the shifting methological terrain of literary realist scholarship.

American Studies: Terry Oggel
No articles on Howells for 1999.

Journal of Narrative Technique (Now the Journal of Narrative Theory): Gary Totten

Burns, Karin Garlepp. “The Paradox of Objectivity in the Realist Fiction of Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin.” Journal of Narrative Theory 29.1 (Winter 1999): 27-61.

Burns reads Wharton’s The Custom of the Country and Chopin’s The Awakening against the realist ideal of objectivity in fiction, as revered and promulgated by Howells.  Burns notes that Howells characterizes the realist as both scientist and moralist, problematizing the idea of objectivity as an inherently neutral perspective.  Howells’ definition of realism also ignores the problem of the subjective artist as the medium for transmitting “truthful” reality.  According to Burns, the presumption that reality is phenomenal and objectifiable, together with realism’s moral imperative, creates a paradox for women realists.  For women writers to be absolutely objective was to risk being morally ambiguous; the only acceptable way to depict such immoral scenarios was to present them as negative examples (an effect which, according to Howells, diminishes the literary value of naturalist novels).  Burns believes that we see the former effect operating in Chopin, and the latter in Wharton.

Shumway, David R. “Romance in the Romance: Love and Marriage in Turn-of-the-Century Best Sellers.” Journal of Narrative Theory 29.1
(Winter 1999): 110-34.

Although reference to Howells is slight in the article, Shumway mentions Howells’ criticism of romantic fiction in order to establish that although
the ideal may have seemed unreal to Howells, it did not to many others. Shumway reads Howells’ negative attitude toward the historical romance as an
exception to popular sentiment, not only among readers, but many critics as well.  Shumway notes that Howells saw himself as attacking an
outmoded literary form even as this form was appearing as a new kind of product in a rapidly changing literary market.

Mark Twain Journal: Terry Oggel
No articles on Howells

Modern Fiction Studies: Gary Totten
No articles on Howells in Modern Fiction Studies 45.3 (Fall 1999)-special
issue on Don Delillo.

Novel: A Forum on Fiction:  Paul Petrie
No Howells articles Spring 1999 (latest issue received).

Papers on Language and Literature: Paul Petrie
Dooley, Patrick K.  “Ethical Exegesis in William Dean Howells’s The Rise of Silas Lapham.”  Papers on Language and Literature 35 (4) Fall 1999: 363-390.

Finding The Rise of Silas Lapham “a remarkable resource for ethical exegesis,” Dooley “reaffirms the traditional reading” of the novel against recent critical assertions deconstructing its ethical claims.  The essay treats three major loci for characters’ and readers’ ethical decision-making:  Lapham’s buy-out of Rogers’ interests in his paint business, his final temptation to accept a major outside investment without disclosing all the details of the firm’s precarious financial situation, and Rogers’ scheme, in concert with British business agents, to buy some mills from Lapham at what is likely to be a highly inflated price.  Focusing primarily on the last instance, Dooley exhaustively details the multiple moral complications that Howells builds into the narrative, highlighting borderlines and ambiguities between and among acceptable business practices, legality, personal and corporate ethics, and-most importantly-the moral and the supererogatory (actions “above and beyond the call of moral duty”). Dooley then evaluates Lapham’s actions in the Rogers / British agents affair according to “four distinct ethical assessments,” each of which, he argues, Howells leaves open to readers in order to “[lay] open the systemic ambiguity that moral agents confront.” Lapham’s ethical choices may be seen as supererogatory and therefore morally heroic.  They may be merely moral, a return to the simple virtues of truth-telling and refusal of moral complicity in wrongdoing.  Reading
through the lens of the novel’s courtship plot and the doctrine of the “economy of pain,” however, opens the possibility that Lapham’s actions represent an immoral, “pseudo-heroic act of self-sacrifice.”  Lastly, Dooley raises the possibility that Lapham’s actions may be amoral, based on Lapham’s  arithmetical realization of his powerlessness to avoid financial ruin-regardless of his decision on the Rogers deal-rather than on a positive decision to forego financial salvation for the sake of others’ wellbeing.

South Atlantic Review: Terry Oggel
No Howells entries for this period.

Studies in American Fiction: Gary Totten
No articles on Howells in Studies in American Fiction 27.1 (Spring 1999).

Studies in the Literary Imagination: Paul Petrie
No Howells articles Spring 1999 (latest issue received).

Entries for April and July 1999: Contributors reported no additional articles on Howells in these journals, so the next full update will appear at the end of October.
Entries for January 1999
American Literary History: Augusta Rohrbach
No articles on Howells appeared in 1998.

American Literature: Terry Oggel
No articles on Howells were published in American Literature in 1998.

American Quarterly: Claudia Stokes

Elliott, Michael A.  “Ethnography, Reform, and the Problem of the Real: James Mooney’s Ghost-Dance Religion.”  American Quarterly 50 (June
1998): 201-33.

Although this essay contains merely a passing reference to the “economy of pain” that Mr. Sewell describes to the distraught Laphams in the 1885 novel  The Rise of Silas Lapham, Prof. Elliott’s essay is of tantamount important to Howells scholars, especially those interested in
historicist research.  In this essay, Elliott traces how the climate of the late nineteenth century that resulted in the literary realist movement also seeped into programs ostensibly intended to aid Native Americans. Examining the late nineteenth-century interest in the “real,” Elliott traces how both ethnography and the assimilationist “Friends of the Indian” reformers relied upon the ideology that also resulted in Howells’s fiction.  More suggestively, Elliott considers how narrative itself becomes implicated within this ideology of the real and thereupon evolves into a tool of Indian reform.

Arizona Quarterly: Jay Williams

Jennifer Gillan, “The Hazards of Osage Fortunes: Gender and the Rhetoric of Compensation in Federal Policy and American Indian Fiction,” Arizona Quarterly 54 (Autumn 1998): 1-25.

Borrowing from Howells’s A Hazard of New Fortunes for her own title, Gillan begins her essay on American Indian fiction by using briefly Howells’s novel to help develop the multifaceted meanings of the word hazard. This word, Gillan argues, is key to understanding two novels –Linda Hogan’s
Mean Spirit (1990) and John Joseph Matthews’s Sundown (1934)–about the Allotment period in American Indian history (1887-1934). Howells’s own treatment of the effects of sudden wealth on the individual provides a useful foundational narrative for seeing how the Osages dealt with the replacement (and memory) of wealth obtained  and maintained communally by a wealth  granted to individuals by the US government as the latter sought to gain control of oil rights by means of compensating Osage individuals with other forms of riches. By focusing on women’s roles within the Osage community, Gillan is not  only able to track anxieties about consumer culture (another point of similarity among these American Indian novels and Howells and other realist writers) but also to critique the notion that individual (as opposed to communal) wealth provides the the individual a more meaningful freedom and identity as national citizens. Gillan returns  to Howells in her concluding paragraph to compare and contrast Howells’s A Traveller to Altruria to the question of how utopian an answer to the ravages (hazards) of materialism are current notions of tribalism.

ELH: Jay Williams

Joseph M. Thomas, “Late Emerson: Selected Poems and the `Emerson Factory,'” ELH 65 (Winter 1998): 971-94.

Although Emerson’s mental (and especially his authorial) faculties declined progressively in his later years, Thomas argues that, since Emerson regarded himself principally as a poet, he conserved and retained his vigor in relation to his preferred genre of work. Thus Selected Poems should have more impact than it does now in our conception of Emerson as a writer, especially given the fact that he was more involved in the construction of the volume than earlier biographers and critics have led us to believe. In discussing Emerson’s revisions of poems to be included in Selected Poems, Thomas quotes from Howell’s unsigned Atlantic Monthly 1867 review of  May-Day and Other Poems to show how critics had reacted to its (flawed)structure. Emerson, agreeing with
Howells and other critics, sought to rework it in the mid-1870s; Thomas notes that “one line that particularly offended Howells is dropped” (p. 985). Ultimately, Emerson gave up his work on the poem; the revisions were taken up by the “Emerson factory”; and with Emerson’s approval the reworked poem was included in the new volume.

American Studies: Terry Oggel

Anne E. Boyd.  “‘What! Has she got into the ‘Atlantic‘?’: Women Writers, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Formation of the American Canon,” American Studies 39:3 (Fall 1998) 5-36.

During WDH’s years as editor of the Atlantic Monthly (1871-81), the number of women contributing fiction to the magazine rose to 70% from
less than 30% in the late 1860s.  WDH supported “many of the women local colorists, some of them the first American women writers to view themselves as serious artists and to be acknowledged as such by a portion of the literary establishment…” (20).  At the same time, however, his emphasis on realism led to a decrease in the number of contributions by some women writers who treated domestic subjects and other topics that were considered of lesser importance.

Journal of Narrative Technique: Gary Totten
No articles on Howells were published in 1998.

Mark Twain Journal: Terry Oggel

No articles on Howells for the most recent available volume of The Mark
Twain Journal available (Vol. 34 [1996], nos. 1&2)

Modern Fiction Studies: Gary Totten
No articles on Howells appeared in 1998

New England Quarterly: Dwan Henderson

No articles on Howells were published in The New England Quarterly in 1998,
but John Crowley’s review of Michael Anesko’s Letters, Fictions, Lives:
Henry James and William Dean Howells was published.

Nineteenth-Century Literature: Dwan Henderson
No articles on Howells were published in 1998.

South Atlantic Quarterly: Jay Williams

Nothing on Howells in volume 97 numbers 1 and 2.
Number 3 apparently was not published, and number 4  is listed on the
DUP website as a special issue on Bakhtin.

South Atlantic Review: Terry Oggel
No articles on Howells for 1998.

Studies in American Fiction: Gary Totten
No articles on Howells appeared in 1998.

Studies in the Novel: Greg Stratman
No articles on Howells were published in Studies in the Novel  in 1998.

Western American Literature: Greg Stratman
No articles on Howells appeared in 1998.

Western Humanities Review: Greg Stratman
No articles on Howells in 1998.

Thanks to all of those who have volunteered to contribute to this effort and to Terry Oggel for suggesting this project.

List of Contributors

List of Contributors

American Literary History: Augusta Rohrbach
American Literary Realism: Peg Wherry
American Literature: Terry Oggel
American Quarterly: Claudia Stokes
American Studies: Terry Oggel
Arizona Quarterly: Jay Williams
ELH: Jay Williams
Henry James Review: Paul Abeln
Journal of Narrative Technique: Gary Totten
Mark Twain Journal: Terry Oggel
Modern Fiction Studies: Gary Totten
New England Quarterly: Dwan Henderson
Nineteenth-Century Literature: Dwan Henderson
Novel: A Forum on Fiction:  Paul Petrie
Papers on Language and Literature: Paul Petrie
PMLA: Stan Solomon
Resources for American Literary Studies
South Atlantic Review: Terry Oggel
South Atlantic Quarterly: Jay Williams
Studies in American Fiction: Gary Totten
Studies in the Literary Imagination: Paul Petrie
Studies in the Novel: Greg Stratman
Studies in Short Fiction
Western American Literature: Greg Stratman

Last Modified 08/11/2008 14:20:39 Comments to campbelld at wsu dot edu.


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