Naturalism in literature

The Naturalism is a literary movement that was born in France in the second half of ‘ nineteenth century as a direct application of the thought positivist and that aims to describe the reality of psychological and social with the same methods used in the natural sciences. It reflects in literature the influence of the general spread of scientific thought, which bases knowledge on observation, experimentation and verification.

Naturalism similar to literary realism in its rejection of Romanticism, but distinct in its embrace of determinism, detachment, scientific objectivism, and social commentary. The movement largely traces to the theories of French author Émile Zola.

The writer tries to express reality in the most objective and impersonal way possible, leaving to the things and facts themselves narrated, the description of the task of denouncing the state of the social situation, highlighting the degradation and injustices of society. Naturalist writers abandon the narrative choice of the omniscient narrator, who knows all about the characters and who tells the story in the third person, common in the realist novel, replacing it with a narrative voice that witnesses the phenomena described, as they happen.

Origin and definition
Naturalism is the logical continuation of realism: the latter intended to describe or portray reality in the most precise way possible, including in its immoral or vulgar aspects. Naturalism continues on this path, but adding a physiological context and showing that the environment in which the protagonist lives is one of the reasons for his behavior. Taking itself for a reflection of reality, naturalism is particularly interested in the disadvantaged social classes – peasants, workers or prostitutes.

The term is first used by the positivist criticism of the literary phenomena of Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve and Hippolyte Taine. Seeking to discover the laws that govern the literature Taine argues that race, the environment, social and political and the time in which is created a literary define its specific traits and evolution. In an important study on Balzac, first published in the form of an article in 1858, Taine described this novelist as a “naturalist” based on the fact that in his Foreword to The Human Comedy, Balzac announces that he wants to write the “natural history” of man. Taine describes the naturalist as interested in the description of any natural force, regardless of the beautiful or the ideal:

“He dissects the octopus as readily as the elephant; he will as readily break down the doorman as the minister. For him, there is no garbage (…) in his eyes a toad is worth a butterfly. (…) Trades are the naturalist’s own object. They are the species of society, like the species of nature. ”

Subsequently, naturalism is claimed by Émile Zola, who gives it its true literary meaning and makes it a romantic school aimed at bringing together the writers of his time. As he explains in the preface to the second edition of Thérèse Raquin (1868) and especially in The Experimental Roman, it is the duty of literature to become scientific:

“So I came to this point: the experimental novel is a consequence of the scientific evolution of the century; it continues and completes physiology, which itself is based on chemistry and physics; it replaces the study of abstract man, of metaphysical man, the study of natural man, subject to physico-chemical laws and determined by the influences of the environment; in a word, it is the literature of our scientific age, as classical and romantic literature corresponded to an age of scholasticism and theology. ”

For this, the literature must apply the method used in the natural sciences. Inspired by the Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, 1865 to Claude Bernard, Zola believes that “the novelist is that of an observer and experimenter”

“The observer and the experimenter are the only ones who work for the power and happiness of man, gradually making him the master of nature. There is no nobility, no dignity, no beauty, no morality, not to know, to lie, to pretend that one is all the greater the more one grows higher in error and in confusion. The only great and moral works are the works of truth. ”

The observer chooses his subject (alcoholism, for example) and makes a hypothesis (alcoholism is hereditary or is due to the influence of the environment). The experimental method is based on the fact that the novelist “intervenes in a direct way to place his character in conditions” which will reveal the mechanism of his passion and verify the initial hypothesis. “At the end, there is the knowledge of Man, scientific knowledge, in his individual and social action”.

To illustrate his naturalist theory, Zola will write the twenty novels of the Rougon-Macquart cycle or Natural and social history of a family under the second empire. Each novel features a character from this family, showing the expression of their characters, hereditary or from the environment in which they live. Various social conditions are described throughout the novels: that of miners in Germinal, soldiers in La Débâcle, peasants in La Terre, the world of railways in La Bête humaine. The volume most representative of the naturalist movement is probably L’Assommoir. In The Work, Zola explores the world of artists and puts himself on the stage under the transparent surname of Sandoz, the writer, exposing his convictions on modern art, and testifies to the difficulty he experiences in writing his novels.

Evoking the way of working of the naturalist school gathered around Zola, Léon Hennique says: “And we are at the table of Émile Zola, in Paris, Maupassant, Huysmans, Céard, Alexis and me, to change. We currency with broken sticks; we start talking about the war, the famous war of 70. Many of our people had been volunteers or dummies. ” Here ! Here ! Proposes Zola, why wouldn’t we do a volume on this, a volume of news? “Alexis:” Yes, why? – Do you have any subjects? – We will. – The title of the book? – Céard: Les Soirées de Médan ”.

Among the writers representative of French naturalism: Guy de Maupassant with his novels Une vie, Pierre and Jean, Joris-Karl Huysmans in his first novels or even Alphonse Daudet, who, however, never fully joined the movement.

Already in the 18th century, the motto “Back to nature”, which was often wrongly attributed to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was called naturalism. The naturalism of the 18th century challenges the unsophisticated artist (“As a singer he is a naturalist”: he never enjoyed academic singing lessons), while the naturalism of the later 19th century requires the experts to observe nature. Common to both older and newer naturalism is the effort to give the unpolished, underprivileged, “ugly” a place in art.

At the end of the 19th century, major social changes shaped Europe: the industrial revolution, imperialism, urbanization, whereby poverty and misery had to be observed in a concentrated form. Naturalism emerged on this ground as a countermovement. Naturalistic artists claim to represent reality as precisely as possible and work with exact, as it were scientific methods. This scientific nature entitles and obliges them to depict what is ugly and repressed. Émile Zola oriented literary naturalism in his novel Le roman expérimental(1880) on experimental medicine. In his novels, he developed “documentary” narrative forms such as the second style or the meticulous description of spaces in order to characterize a social milieu. A major work of literary naturalism is Zola’s novel cycle Les Rougon-Macquart. When he was attacked for the thematic and linguistic drasticism in his novel Thérèse Raquin (1867; adultery, spousal murder, excessive distrust of the accomplice – increased to hatred and murder planning, and finally communal suicide), he defended himself in his preface to the second edition in April 1868 defiantly proud with the words «The group of naturalistic writers to whom I have the honor to belong is brave and active enough to create strong works that carry their own defenses »

The German authors of naturalism did not initially use the term naturalism to describe their own work. The term has been appended to them for a long period of time in a belittling way. The authors saw themselves as “the youngest Germany”, the main target of their criticism were the established idealistic epigones of the Wilhelminian era and an established salon culture of the bourgeois elite that followed the taste of the aristocracy. In 1882 the programmatic and provocative “critical arms” of the brothers Heinrich and Julius Hart appeared, in 1884 the poetry anthology “Modern Poet Characters” by Wilhelm Arentwith programmatic forewords by Hermann Conradi and Karl Henckell, 1885 the naturalistic literary magazine Die Gesellschaft.

The leading German dramatists of naturalism were Gerhart Hauptmann with the dramas Before Sunrise (1889) and Die Weber (original title “De Waber”, 1892), in which manufacturers, for example, appear as tragic figures, and the authors Arno Holz and Johannes Schlaf with the groundbreaking drama The Selicke Family (1890). Johannes Schlaf wrote the strictly naturalistic drama Meister Oelze (1892) in the Thuringian dialect.

In addition to the corresponding text, naturalism in the theater also includes the way the actors play and the furnishing and lighting of the stage. In Russia, under the influence of French and German naturalism, as well as the ” Meininger ” theater troupe, which tried to preserve historical theater performances, a naturalistic style of acting developed. Konstantin Stanislawski, who created exemplary productions of Chekhov’s dramas, is considered to be his founder.

Naturalism and modernism
Naturalism coined the term modernity in Germany. “Modern” was derived from the adjective “modern”, which already appears in Schlegel ‘s early romanticism. The substantiated form “the modern” was used as a contrast to “the ancient world” by the Germanist Eugen Wolff in 1886 during a lecture in the German naturalist club ” Durch! ” introduced.

It is not so easy to answer whether naturalism marks the beginning of literary modernism. On the one hand, it is groundbreaking for the thematic treatment of social problems in the modern city and also breaks with all the poetics according to which people are thought of as autonomous beings. On the other hand, naturalism is based on the idea of the recognizability of the world through the materialistic- positivistic sciences of its time, so it belongs to science.

But this supposed objectivity of the sciences came under fire from 1890: Sigmund Freud discovered the unconscious in the supposedly rational and emotionally determined individual, Albert Einstein referred to the subjectivity of time and space, Hofmannsthal formulated a virulent distrust in human expression (language crisis). In this respect it seems advisable to let the beginning of modernity only begin with this crisis determination, with the insight that there is no objectively realizable reality, but only subjectivity in the world view. In this episode, the many isms of the early 20th century can be regarded as attempts to express the individual’s – no longer general – expression.

Naturalism already lost its influence around 1890. With the abolition of the socialist laws, the naturalistic literary front came into a crisis and split up. The social question suddenly appeared as something stale, outdated. Large circles were convinced that the social question was on the way to a final solution. The social democratic author Paul Ernst confessed that he had perceived the danger as a special attraction in his lectures to workers, which had now disappeared. The avant-garde turned to new topics; she discovered the bohemian and impressionistic aesthetics, while the social issues that naturalism had just made socially acceptable were quickly suppressed.

However, the precision of the representation and the use of colloquial language to characterize social classes retained their importance in new forms. In his Berlin program from 1913 (To novelists and their critics), Alfred Döblin calls for a different naturalism, which in “cinema style” should describe “unseen reality” in “supreme urgency and precision”. It opposes a series of completely linguistic ideas that are intended to motivate the actions of the actors. In this respect he is the New Objectivitycloser than psychologizing naturalism. At the latest in the First World War, the hard-working – now war-necessary – worker is rediscovered.

In sum, the defining features of Naturalism are reduced to the following:

The existence of the human being is determined by natural forces that humanity cannot control.
It is based on the philosophy of Determinism, for which man is controlled by his instincts, his passions and his social and economic environment.
The objective of Naturalism is to reproduce reality with complete impartiality and truth in a rigorous, documented and scientific way. Literature is considered a social document.
The ethic of Naturalism, unlike that of Realism, incorporates an amoral attitude in the objective representation of life: it disregards bourgeois moral values to be more objective.
Naturalistic writers consider that instinct, emotion, or social or economic conditions govern human behavior.
In Naturalism the dependence of the human being on environmental conditions stands out.
The aesthetic of naturalism is contrary to the traditional one and proposes a revolutionary indifference between the “beautiful” and the “ugly” that does not judge one over the other if it really is true.
His novels seek to represent social layers that the novel of bourgeois realism had left aside: the lower classes, the petty bourgeoisie and the proletariat appear.
The language used is especially inclined towards slang and regional or popular speech, which are reflected without academicism and with rigor.
It should be noted that, although Realism and Naturalism are very similar in the sense of reflecting reality as it is (contrary to romantic idealism), the difference is that Realism is more descriptive and reflects the interests of a very defined social class The bourgeoisie, while Naturalism extends its description to the most disadvantaged classes, tries to explain in a materialistic and almost mechanistic way the root of social problems and manages to make a deep social criticism; furthermore, if bourgeois individualism is always free and optimistic in its liberal faith that it is possible to progress without counterbalance and to shape one’s destiny, naturalism is pessimistic andAtheist thanks to determinism, which affirms that it is impossible to escape from the social conditions that guide our path in life without doing anything to prevent it. On the other hand, Spanish naturalists use an omniscient narrator and move away from the impersonalism that the French master Émile Zola seeks; On the other hand, these novels do not achieve a continuous reproduction of reality, an objective that Émile Zola seeks, but rather excessively confuse the aspects they want to highlight, thus losing the documentary value that Zola seeks.

Naturalism is considered to be an evolution of Realism. In fact, most of the realistic authors evolved towards this materialistic current, although others oriented their description of reality towards the interior of the character, arriving at the psychological novel.

Naturalism, like Realism, refutes Romanticism by rejecting evasion and turning its gaze to the closest, material and daily reality, but, far from being satisfied with the description of the bourgeois mesocracy and its individualistic and materialistic mentality, it extends its look at the most disadvantaged classes of society and tries to explain the evils they suffer in a deterministic way.

Naturalism aimed to explain human behavior and its narrators tried to interpret life by describing the social environment to discover the laws that govern human behavior.

When the novelist initiators of this movement emerged in Paris, such as Zola and later Flaubert, they crudely and realistically describe mainly the social context of the capital of France and only later did they dare to describe other environments.

Naturalism is a pan-European literary movement of the last decades of the 19th century. Impulses for the German authors come from the psychological novels of Ivan Turgenews, Lew Tolstois and Fjodor Dostojewskis, from Zola’s social “experimental novels ” and the socially critical dramas Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg.
Naturalism sees itself as a literary revolution because it breaks with the traditional and overcomes (poetic) realism, because it renounces its glorifying tendencies as well as the interpretation of reality by the poet.
The scientifically exact design of empirical reality is considered an ideal. The world is examined and reproduced true to nature, scientifically exact. The art is the rationality, causality, the determinism and objectivity committed while it is important to dispense with subjectivity and individuality of the poet.
The character and fate of man are determined by the historical time in which he lives, the psychological heritage and the milieu (see Karl Marx, Auguste Comte, Hippolyte Taine and Charles Darwin).
The social issue, the depiction of social hardship, is expressed less as a socio-political struggle with party-political ties, but rather as a kind of social compassion using the example of social outsiders in the network of big cities (anonymity, de-individualization, prostitution) or modern technology. The artistic bohemian is often transfigured.
The social drama places characters in the foreground in their conditionality through milieu and inheritance, whereby the few acting characters are guided by detailed scenic remarks and directions.
The “Revolution in Poetry” (Arno Holz) turns against all conventions of verse and stanza, against tradition and epigonism in subject matter and in form, and instead focuses on a prose analysis that obeys a natural rhythm.
Particularly consistent naturalism can be found in the so-called ” seconds style “. It is important to record every banal detail down to the record, to get as close as possible to natural speaking (stuttering, stammering, dialect, exclamations, incomplete sentences, breathing pauses, background noises…), in order to show and convey more of the milieu than through room descriptions.
The art movements replacing naturalism (impressionism, symbolism, expressionism) use more differentiated, alienating means of expression instead of the limited access of the mere representation of reality.
Art = nature – x (defined by Arno Holz), where x is the artistic means of reproduction and its handling by the artist and should be kept as minimal as possible in order to keep the difference between art and nature small. However, since the x can never disappear, art “has a tendency to be nature again. It will be according to their respective reproductive conditions and their handling. ”
Use of the “phonographic method”, which uses the following means to reproduce natural speech:
Dialect (geographical expression)
Sociolect (class-specific expression)
Psycholect (situation-related expression)
Idiolect (individual expression)
Papa Hamlet shows that naturalism can be understood as an ” ironic form of literature”.

Naturalism as an increase of realism
While in realism the negative is aesthetically removed and excluded in favor of a higher, ideal idea, naturalism aims to include precisely this negative and reproduce it in detail. Because naturalism sees its justification for existence from the positivist belief in science, the social inheritance of humans in the milieu and from this its “predictability” as a mass object, the idealistic element of bourgeois realism is banished from the literature. Realism shows an ideal anthropological picture of objective autonomy, on the other hand, naturalism is based on the milieu belonging to every human being and the recognizability / predictability of human behavior by means of science. Poetry: phonographic accuracy and second style.

The naturalist poetry
The poetic nature comes from the deterministic view of life and of man, and the novel is but a small part of life analyzed with the method of science is natural that sociological.

The principles of the experimental novel theory were however fixed by Émile Zola in two fundamental points according to which the writer:

it must observe reality, not invent it, and then reproduce it objectively;
must use a script that turns out to be an objective document from which no subjective intervention by the author must transpire.
The themes of the narrative naturalist
The favorite themes of the naturalist narrative were anti- idealistic and anti- romantic, so that the narrative brought with it a strong charge of social denunciation that had to result from the scientific and objective description of the facts.

Among the main themes there were therefore:

daily life with its banality, its meanness and its hypocrisy;
the morbid passions that had to border on the limits of psychiatric pathology, such as madness and crime;
the living conditions of the subordinate classes, especially of the urban proletariat which, with its misery (prostitution, alcoholism, juvenile delinquency) could give a clear example of social pathology.

Naturalism in Europe
In France, apart from the leader of this aesthetic Émile Zola, and the “natural and social history” of his cycle of novels Les Rougon-Macquart, there are naturalists Guy de Maupassant (Bel ami, Tales), Alphonse Daudet, Gustave Flaubert and others lesser authors (brothers Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, for example). In Portugal, the great figure of naturalism was Eça de Queiroz, but Júlio Lourenço Pinto and Abel Botelho also had their importance. In RussiaThe movement was spread by the great literary critic Belinski and followed in some of his works by important authors, in a way Gogol serving as a forerunner: Dostoevsky, Goncharov, Chekhov, Maxim Gorky of the early period, and others. In Germany Naturalism stood out above all in the theater; It was introduced by Arno Holz and Johannes Schlaf, but the brothers Carl Hauptmann (1858 – 1921) and especially Gerhart Hauptmann (1862 – 1946) stand out, as well asHermann Sudermann and Max Halbe. In Italy Naturalism was called Verismo and has its main author in Giovanni Verga (1840 – 1922), and his masterpiece in this author’s novel called Los Malavoglia (Los Malasangre); This aesthetic was also followed by Luigi Capuana (1839 – 1915) and Matilde Serao (1856 – 1927), as well as a series of minor authors of regionalist novels such as Girolamo Rovetta, Grazzia Deledda and Renato Fucini. In Great Britain the great novelist and poet and narrator of naturalism was Thomas Hardy; it was also used by Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) and David H. Lawrence, and in the dramatic field some influence of the naturalistic postulates in George Bernard Shaw can be recognized through the assimilation made by this aesthetic by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen; This trend was also followed by the early Swedish playwright August Strindberg, before turning to symbolism and expressionism.

In Spain, men committed to positions close to Krausism or the left, such as Galdós (La desheredada), Clarín and Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, participated in this movement. From the conservative perspective, one can also speak of a Christian Naturalism not rigorously pessimistic or deterministic in which authors such as Emilia Pardo Bazán, Luis Coloma, José María de Pereda (who approached naturalism in his novel La Puchera), the Marquis of Figueroa, José de Siles,Francisco Tusquets, Ángel Salcedo y Ruiz and Alfonso Pérez Gómez Nieva. Another third group would be made up of the men from Gente Nueva magazine, later expanded into another magazine, Germinal, with a more extreme ideology and that would be made up of the writers of the so-called Radical Naturalism: Eduardo López Bago, José Zahonero, Remigio Vega Armentero, Enrique Sánchez Señal, Joaquín de Arévalo, José María Matheu Aybar, Manuel Martínez Barrionuevo, Eugenio Antonio Flores,Silverio Lanza, Emilio Bobadilla, Alejandro Sawa, Joaquín Dicenta (perhaps the most important poet and dramatist of naturalism in Spanish), Félix González Llana, José Francos Rodríguez, José Ortega Munilla, Jacinto Octavio Picón, Ernesto Bark, Ricardo Macías Picavea, José López Pinillos and some others. In the Catalan language, Narcís Oller stands out. Epigones of naturalism are to a certain extent Felipe Trigo and Augusto Martínez Olmedilla.

However, and with the exception of some serious essays, such as Galdós’ La desheredada, what is practiced in Spain is not an authentic Zolesque naturalism, but a conciliatory formula that extracts some formal resources from Zola without following its ideological doctrine (atheism, positivism, determinism). This syncretism is practiced by Pardo Bazán or the Marquis of Figueroa.

American Naturalism
Naturalism in American literature traces to Frank Norris, whose theories were markedly different from Zola’s, particularly to the status of naturalism within the loci of realism and Romanticism; Norris thought of naturalism as being Romantic, and thought Zola as being “a realist of realists”. To Link, while American naturalism had trends, its definition had no unified critical consensus. Link’s examples include Stephen Crane, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, and Frank Norris, with William Dean Howells and Henry James being clear markers on the other side of the naturalist/realist divide.

The center of Crane’s naturalism is recognized as The Open Boat, which portrayed a naturalistic view of man with his depiction of a group of survivors adrift in a boat. The humans with their creation confronted the sea and the world of nature. In the experiences of these men, Crane articulated the illusion of gods and the realization of the universe’s indifference.

William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily, a story about a woman who killed her lover, is considered an example of a narrative within the naturalism category. This story, which also used Gothic elements, presented a tale that highlighted the extraordinary and excessive features in human nature and the social environment that influences them. The protagonist, Miss Emily, was forced to lead an isolated life, and that – combined with her mental illness – made insanity her inevitable fate. The environment in the forms of a class structure based on slavery and social change, together with heredity, represented the forces beyond her control.

Naturalism in Latin America
In America, linked to the so-called Indigenismo, Naturalism is represented by the Puerto Ricans Matías González García and Manuel Zeno Gandía (La charca, 1894), the Chilean Augusto d’Halmar and the Peruvian Clorinda Matto de Turner who achieved great success with her novel Aves sin nest. Another outstanding figure of Peruvian naturalism was Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera whose novel Blanca Sol was highly controversial. The Argentine Eugenio Cambaceres is important for highlighting the decline of the privileged classes with novels such as Sentimental Music andAimlessly. In Mexico, Federico Gamboa stood outwith his famous novel Santa; Ángel del Campo, who used the pseudonym “Micrós”, and Vicente Riva Palacio. In Venezuela, Naturalism or Realism was practiced by Rómulo Gallegos in many of his novels (Canaima…) and stories. In Cuba, Carlos Loveira stands out, accompanied by Miguel de Carrión and Jesús Castellanos. In Central America, Enrique Martínez-Sobral practiced naturalism in the novel “Alcohol”.