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Thursday, 06 December 2007


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Mike S

Scott, is it necessary that you arrive at some sort of pleasing-to-all-parties theory of naturalism? If Long can't put here finger on it, and if you consider her opinion timely and credible, couldn't you just *acknowledge* this lack of consensus, rather than reducing naturalism's "proffered peculiarities" to an always tenuous "dominant theory"?

I suppose the real issue here is how your chosen theory of naturalism speaks to, illuminates, and/or validates the central claims of your diss.


Scott, since much of your dissertation is devoted to overturning Hofstadter's account of social Darwinism, perhaps the way to go would be to look at how other Cold War intellectuals (i.e., Lionel Trilling, in "Reality in America," plus many many others) defined naturalism. I.e., you could argue that 1950s critics like Trilling established a concept of naturalism still broadly influential today, based upon a mistaken understanding of evolutionary thinking in the late nineteenth / early twentieth century.

Jonathan Dresner

My advisor once wrote that "At times history is so illogical that only tautologies are completely true." (Albert Craig, Choshu in the Meiji Restoration, p. 20, n. 4.)

I usually think of genre the same way: I've rarely found discussions of "is it or isn't it" or "how do you define..." to be terribly productive. I'm an unapologetic atheorist. Or just lazy, perhaps, but it works.


That's what the opening and closing panels of the ALA conference on Naturalism were designed to address. I still don't feel like I have a clear answer. I think I like a version of Robert Frost's answer when he was asked to define poetry: "Poetry is what poets write." Naturalism is what naturalists write. A version of Drezner's advice to stick to tautologies, perhaps.

Prefer not to.

As a longtime acephalous reader who on occasion toils in the (wheat)fields of naturalism, my idea would be a combination of Mike S and Stephen. It matters what you're arguing against, which is a longstanding cold war idea of the genre, but it also matters that, at present, rigid genre distinctions fall apart. The center doesn't hold, and your work provides another layer to our current understanding of "naturalisms."

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