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Reimagining Realism: A New Anthology of Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century American Short Fiction
edited by Charles A. Johanningsmeier and Jessica E. McCarthy
Ohio University Press, 2022
Paper: 978-0-8040-1237-9 | eISBN: 978-0-8040-4121-8
Library of Congress Classification PS648.S5
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.0108


This innovative collection reinvents the standard American short fiction anthology and offers readers an invigorated, inclusive, and nuanced understanding of American literary history and culture from the Civil War to the end of World War I.

Beginning with one of Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches, originally published in 1863, this anthology offers a refreshing perspective on American literature from the latter half of the nineteenth century through the first decades of the twentieth. Based on Alcott’s brief stint as a Civil War nurse, Hospital Sketches stands in contrast to the sentimentality of her better-known Little Women and illustrates a blending of romanticism and realism. Furthermore, its thematic focus on the tension between idealized notions of noble, patriotic duty and the horrific reality of war exemplifies a dominant American cultural mindset at the time.

Following this model of complicating accepted ideas about realism and of particular authors, Reimagining Realism brings together dozens of texts that engage with the immense changes and upheavals that characterized American culture over the next six decades: war, abolition, voting rights, westward expansion, immigration, racism and ethnocentrism, industrial production, labor reforms, transportation, urban growth, journalism, mass media, education, and economic disparity.

Reimagining Realism presents a collection of works much more diverse than what is typically found in other anthologies of short fiction from this era. Some selections are lesser-known works by familiar authors that enable readers to see dimensions of these authors that are rarely considered but deserve further study. The book also features authors from many previously underrepresented groups and includes some outstanding works by authors whose names are almost completely unknown to today’s readers—but which deserve greater attention.

The volume’s editors, in their intent to spur readers to further reimagine realism, to represent the spectrum of viewpoints prevalent during this era, and to spark critical thinking and productive discussion, have been careful not to apply any type of political litmus test to the included works. They have also refrained from categorizing works according to convention, so as not to predispose readers to restrictive interpretations, and have provided only brief, highly readable headnotes and annotations that will help readers better understand the texts.

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