CAS WP 1/2013
The Aesthetics of Mastery.
American Literary Naturalism and the Cultural Foundations of Bureaucracy
This paper aims to examine the cultural foundations of the modern bureaucratic order around the turn of the twentieth century in the United States. In response to both the breakup of Victorian norms and the social crisis precipitated by the rapid expansion of free market industrial capitalism at the end of the nineteenth century, American naturalist writers experimented with new ways to represent and make sense of the social and cultural turmoil of their times. Rejecting a normative order based on Victorian morality as unable to address the problems of economic inequality and exploitation, this paper will explore how their art promoted a vision of rational management that ultimately helped to reorientate their culture toward the dawning bureaucratic ethos of the Progressive Era.