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Published: 25 April 1996

416 Pages | 32 illus

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

ISBN: 9780195106534

Also Available In:

Bookseller Code (06)

Facing Facts

Realism in American Thought and Culture, 1850-1920

David E. Shi

"A true poem," Walt Whitman proclaimed in 1852, "is the daily newspaper"--and American culture was never the same again. Like a blast of cold air in a stuffy drawing room, Whitman's campaign to give artistic representation to gritty realities shocked the genteel artistic elite of the 1850s; but the brassy poet's efforts helped generate a revolution in American thought and the arts. Four decades later, Willa Cather could declare that the "public demands realism, and they will have it."
In Facing Facts, David Shi provides the most comprehensive history to date of the rise of realism in American culture. He vividly captures the character and sweep of this all-encompassing movement--ranging from Winslow Homer to the rise of the Ash Can school, from Horatio Greennough to Louis Sullivan, from Whitman to Henry James to Theodore Dreiser. He begins with a survey of the idealistic sensibility that preveiled during the antebellum years and proceeds through the nineteenth century, tracing the rise of realism in each major area of arts and letters. Along the way, he combines an astute analysis of the movement's essential themes with incisive portraits of its leading practitioners.
Nuanced, detailed, and comprehensive, Facing Facts provides the definitive account of the realist phenomenon, revealing why it played so great a role in American cultural history, and why it retains its perennial fascination.