Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Mary Papke

Committee Members

Dawn Coleman, Michael Keene


Changes in the literary evaluation/reception of American Naturalism are related to changes in both literary criticism and American publishing. Naturalism responded to vigorous cultural issues of the time, but its chief focus was on the role of biology, class, and environment in the development of the individual. As a result, the response to Naturalism by American criticism was as much a response to these issues as it was to the literature itself, and the tenor of the responses near the turn of the century often reflected the differing values of criticism originating either in New York or Boston. By looking at the changing response of the American literary establishment over the course of the years 1885 through 1925, I believe that it should be possible to come to some conclusions about the motivations, goals, prejudices, and judgments of the professional critics of the time, and put this within the narrative of the shift from genteel Bostonian values to those of New York, America’s new cultural and industrial powerhouse. Others have looked at Naturalist works and authors as part of a new literary movement and philosophy of fiction, but I believe that no one has offered a close look at what the reaction to this movement (and its implicit values) was and how these shifts reflect geographical changes in the world of publishing and of America’s cultural elites.

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