What Is Literary Impressionism?

Sarah Cole at Public Books:

The eminent art historian Michael Fried has set out, in his own energetic and independent style, to answer this question—what was literary impressionism?—and to do so unencumbered by the general principles that have so far cohered around the term in the work of literary critics and art historians. This may bother some readers who expect a more direct engagement with the critical history of the term. Fried’s approach is to start the inquiry afresh, using detailed readings of passages in individual works to derive his own answer to his title’s question. “If my specific readings and my overall argument cumulatively gain traction on their own terms,” he writes, “I shall consider this book a success.”

Included in Fried’s analyses, in addition to books by the novelists listed above, are works by W. H. Hudson, Rudyard Kipling, Frank Norris, H. G. Wells, R. B. Cunninghame Graham, Jack London, Erskine Childers, and Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of the Tarzan books), among others. His list, made up both of well-studied writers and those almost never discussed by literary critics, is refreshing, cutting across categories of canonicity and style.

more here.

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