As there's confusion over basic procedural issues like how long a dissertation abstract should be (one single-spaced page, two single-spaced pages, five single-spaced pages), I figure there's no harm in asking a basic intellectual question:
What do you consider the dominant theory of naturalism?
If I'm to be redefining it, I ought to know what the majority of scholars think it is. I'm tempted to follow Lisa Long, who, in her review of three recent attempts at defining naturalism, threw up her hands in defeat:
In the end, naturalism turns back on itself, becomes the uncategorizable category, precisely because the taxonomic and evolutionary tendency of literary history is naturalist in and of itself—concerned in its own way with determining what nineteenth-century critic Hippolyte Taine theorized as the ubiquitous "race, moment, and milieu" that have produced literary naturalism and other generic categories. American literary genres emerge as living, breathing, and ever-changing entities in these texts and in critical history as a whole; much collective scholarly energy has been spent, like that of biological taxonomists, looking for similarities between genres/"species" of literature, and hierarchicalizing those groups based on evolutionary relationships.
She identifies the current attempt to define naturalism as one more lost battle in a long, unwinnable war ... which means the best I can accomplish in my introduction is another pointed setback in an unending campaign of failure. Of course, I could really surrender and claim, as one critic recently did, that naturalism is "less a movement than a jumble of proffered peculiarities." The mind rails against the brutal honesty of that definition, but I admire its bravado.
So which naturalism should I be redefining? The most current consensus? The most powerful?