From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Naturalism originated as a French movement in literature, the naturalistic writers being influenced by Darwinism and the ideas of Hippolyte Taine. They believed that one's heredity and social environment decide one's character. Whereas realism seeks only to describe subjects as they really are, naturalism also attempts to determine "scientifically" the underlying forces (i.e. the environment or heredity) influencing these subjects' actions. They are both opposed to romanticism, in which subjects may receive highly symbolic, idealistic, or even supernatural treatment.
Émile Zola wrote several texts considered today as the manifesto of naturalism. His works had a frankness about sexuality along with a pervasive pessimism which exposed the dark harshness of life, including poverty, racism, prejudice, disease, prostitution, filth, etc. They were often very pessimistic and frequently criticized for being too blunt.
In the United States, the genre is associated principally with writers such as Jack London, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, and Theodore Dreiser. The term naturalism operates primarily in counter distinction to realism, particularly the mode of realism codified in the 1870s and 1880s, and associated with William Dean Howells and Henry James.
In theatre, naturalism developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It refers to theatre that tries to create a perfect illusion of reality through detailed sets, an unpoetic literary style that reflects the way real people speak, and a style of acting that tries to recreate reality (often by seeking complete identification with the role, as advocated by Stanislavski).
- Naturalisme (Louis Legrand)
- Le Roman expérimental
- Naturalism (art)
- Naturalism in 19th century French literature