By Jason Puskar
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Among the Civil struggle and the 1st global battle, realism was once the main widespread kind of American fiction. Realist writers of the interval comprise a few of America's maximum, resembling Henry James, Edith Wharton and Mark Twain, but in addition many lesser-known writers whose paintings nonetheless speaks to us at the present time, for example Charles Chesnutt, Zitkala-Ša and Sarah Orne Jewett.
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Additional info for Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production of Chance
On the one hand, Hazard asks us to read it as a traditional realist attempt to render mimetically the complexity of the modern city’s social, material, and economic indeterminacy, especially the very real play of chance in modern urban and economic life. On the other, it exposes the artificiality of the realist assessment of chance and reveals the circumstances of chance production within literary narrative. Had Howells only described chance in the leveling way that Lukács condemned, he would have accomplished the first of those two missions more successfully.
By 1890, even the word “hazard” was a recognizable insurance term, used more often in that context than any other. The central character in Hazard, Basil March, had made a living in insurance for the previous eighteen years, and he was already working for an insurance company in Howells’s first book, Their Wedding Journey (1871). That book is a virtual travelogue of Howells’s own honeymoon, so, from the beginning, the career of the fictional insurer and the biography of the aspiring novelist were strangely superimposed.
Insurance became a valuable metaphor for Howellsian realism around 1890, because it asserted a set of communitarian credentials that did not threaten to deepen the class divisions increasingly troubling to post-Haymarket America. Imagining realism as a kind of insurance allowed writing, like underwriting, to participate fully and unashamedly in capitalism’s markets while still working to construct communities of interdependent risk and asset sharers. And because insurance has no pretension to reform society, merely to compensate for allegedly unpreventable losses, realism could surrender some of its own ambition to exert managerial control over society and instead embrace a looser policy of tending to, without necessarily alleviating, the injuries and losses at the heart of modern life.
Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production of Chance by Jason Puskar