FIVE NOVELISTS OF THE PROGRESSIVE ERA by Robert W. Schneider

FIVE NOVELISTS OF THE PROGRESSIVE ERA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It is Professor Schneider's contention that the Progressive era did not constitute a ""decisive intellectual revolution in American thinking"" (though when, frankly, did anything so dramatic ever happen here?), and that the evolutionary theories and relativistic positions sponsored during 1890-1917 never overturned traditional attitudes. Social realists attacked the Gospel of Wealth and unbridled individualism; they did not forego the old libertarian value system, being in actuality an uneasy mixture of skepticism and millenial dream-weaving. Against this background then, five novelists are discussed: Howells, a mirror of pre-industrial sentiment and concern; Churchill, the age's Herman Wouk, romantically cheering man on to reform and reasonableness; Norris, naturalist and determinist, violently exposing the mid-Western market; finally, Dreiser and Crane, the two giants, misunderstood, somberly pushing beyond the melioristic simplicities, ultimately offering the truest picture of their day. An illuminating, if gracelessly written, study, less a literary than an historical critique of the period's complex social and cultural forces.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1965
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press