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Playing the RacesEthnic Caricature and American Literary Realism$
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Henry B. Wonham

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195161946

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195161946.001.0001

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William Dean Howells and the Touch of Exaggeration That Typifies

William Dean Howells and the Touch of Exaggeration That Typifies

(p.41) I William Dean Howells and the Touch of Exaggeration That Typifies
Playing the Races

Henry B. Wonham (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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.

Keywords:   realism, caricature, typification, character, Harper's Monthly, stereotype

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