William Dean HowellsAmerican Literature Association meeting in San Diego, May 27-31, 1998.

    The recent American Literature Association meeting in San Diego featured two interesting and well-attended sessions on Howells, both chaired by Howells Society Vice-President Jesse Crisler. 

    In the first, "Howells as Humorist, Stylist, Moralist," Christine King's paper "Bartley has the Last Laugh in A Modern Instance" focused on the ways in which Howells uses humor--in the scene where Bartley is drunk, for example, and in the construction of Bartley as a kind of lovable rogue. 

    Cynthia J. Davis's "Howellsian Literary Realism: All Substance, No Style?" asked whether Howellsian realism is "a subject without a form" and, refuting Michael Davitt Bell's argument in The Problem of American Realism, drew on the theories of Kenneth Burke to propose some responses. 

    Elsa Nettels's "Should They Marry?" looked at the kinds of moral crises that occur in Howells when one character's desires conflict with another's, thus raising the conflicting aims of self-development and self-sacrifice, and also analyzed the ways in which Howells's contemporaries (James, Hardy, Wharton, and Dreiser) handled the same question. 

    In the second session, "Howells and the Romantic Tradition," Susan Stone's "Transcendental Realism: Howells, Higher Laws, and the Thoreauvian Presence in A Modern Instance" argued that the character of Kinney represents the ultimate Thoreauvian transcendentalist, the product of Howells's opinion later in life that Thoreau was "a genius before his time." 

    L. Terry Oggel's "Howells's 'Ideal Grasshopper': What Really 'Bugged' Howells about Tennyson" brought together Tennyson's "The Grasshopper" and the "Tears, Idle Tears" section from The Princess, showing how Howells drew from Tennyson as a "dark counterpart" in Indian Summer and The Rise of Silas Lapham during 1884-5 but did not do so in the novels before or after. Besides "The Grasshopper" (1827) and "Tears, Idle Tears," "Tithonus" (1860) was an important text for Howells, and, as was pointed out in the paper, the "ideal grasshopper" passage came from Howells's "Editor's Study" column of December 1887.

    In "Howells and the Writing of Billy Budd," Sanford Marovitz began by demonstrating that Melville had checked out library copies of A Hazard of New Fortunes and The Shadow of a Dream in 1890 and went on to provide a host of new evidence for the influence of Howells on Billy Budd

    Photo courtesy of Jim Zwick's Mark Twain site, which has many Howells texts and pictures.

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This page last modified on 22 June 1999.  If the panelists would like to have their abstracts on this page, please e-mail them to  campbell@gem.gonzaga.edu