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The World of Jack London

Introductory Remarks About
London's Literary Naturalism

Earl J. Wilcox

Earl J. Wilcox The brief analysis of Jack London's literary naturalism which appear here are excerpted from my 1966 Ph.D. dissertation: “Jack London and American Literary Naturalism.” At the time of my research and writing, I did not have access to a great majority of primary source materials now available, in particular the collection at the Huntington Library and elsewhere. Having since read several of the letters and documents there and in other collections, I can say that my analysis of London's fiction would probably not have changed significantly. Certainly I would have used whatever materials shed light on London's reading and hence his thought as manifested in the fiction. (David M. Hamilton's The Tools of My Trade: Annotated Books in Jack London's Library [Seattle, U of Washing P, 1986] would have been immensely helpful to me) At the time of my research in the early 60s, only a small handful of dissertations had been written, and the immense body of criticism generated in the past 40 years could hardly have been predicted. The excerpts printed here also reflect a rubric established in the early chapters of the dissertation in which a history of American Literary Naturalism was established and discussed relative to writers such as Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, and Stephen Crane, three of the widely accepted Naturalists. Further, the backgrounds for American Naturalists—in particular the works of Darwin and Spencer—were examined as primary sources for London's Naturalism insofar as I could establish his acquaintance with those writers. Prior to my study of London's Naturalism, so far as I can recall, only C. C. Walcutt's seminal book, and some largely unreliable biographies such as Irving Stone's provided materials which I approached with caution. Not even Earle Labor's first important Twayne book was available at the time of my research!

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