Dani Green responds to John Plotz

Like myself, John Plotz is interested in Mullen’s attention to literary naturalism and introduces a possible term, “achronicity,” to think about the way that naturalist novels interact with and represent time—or don’t. I find this a compelling term, for, as Plotz points out, naturalism does not treat only individuals but insists on representing “the institutions that encompass and surround them.” Naturalism changes the scale at which the novel operates by treating the problems and plots of the nineteenth-century novel as “something other than,” perhaps more than, “human-sized” (to quote Plotz). Achronicity encapsulates what sometimes reads as naturalism’s non-specificity, something I have identified in my own work on naturalism when considering the way that it repurposes familiar narratives such as the fallen woman plot. It is a story that has been told over and over, often in the background of mid-century realist novels, and the naturalist treatment of it relies on the reader’s familiarity with “fallen women” while eschewing traditional modes of access to character psychology (e.g., free indirect discourse, interior monologue, long speeches). The rhythms and repetitions of the story, rather than the specific experience of the character, matter more for naturalist novels. To pay attention to these rhythms is to access a different understanding of narrative as something both upheld by institutions while also acting as an institutionalizing force as it repeats plots over time. An “achronistic” naturalism has the potential to render recognizable narratives uncanny such that traditional modes of thinking about figures like the fallen woman are jarred in the way it denies readers the specificity of interiority and encourages them to think about narrative in more-than-human-(or individual)-sized terms.

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