Although naturalism shares some features with realism and others with modernism, it has properties that contrast with the realist and modernist prioritization of felt individual experience as the evidentiary matrix on which their accounts of the world are based. Naturalist fiction is committed to microscopic description, below the level of experiential subjectivity, and to macroscopic abstraction. Some of the odder fictional experiments of the era are best understood with reference to the morphology of naturalism, including what might be called the speculative naturalism of Richard Jefferies, Mark Twain, and others. Jefferies’s 1885 After London, an early and critically neglected work of British speculative fiction, is a bellwether of the widely distributed naturalist impulses among novelists responding to the era of scientific naturalism marked by the appearance of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) and Descent of Man (1871).
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John Plotz; Speculative Naturalism and the Problem of Scale: Richard Jefferies’s After London, After Darwin. Modern Language Quarterly 1 March 2015; 76 (1): 31–56. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-2827538
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