William Dean Howells and the Touch of Exaggeration That Typifies
This chapter examines William Dean Howells' theoretical defence of realism as a representational mode suited to America's democratic sensibilities. Working with this understanding of realism's social commitments, this chapter attempts to account for Howells's frequent and seemingly contradictory use of ethnic caricatures in his fiction. The discussion focuses on two novels, A Hazard of New Fortunes and An Imperative Duty, as well as Howells' collection of critical essays, Criticism and Fiction, and his Suburban Sketches. It is argued that the democratic politics associated with Howells' realist aesthetic coexist with nativist anxieties that inspire his use of ethnic caricature.
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