Oliver Wendell Holmes and the genesis of naturalism
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The underlying purpose of the dissertation is to present Oliver Wendell Holmes as he really was, stripped of the layers of loose critical verbiage that have been swathed about his work and reputation. The central thesis demonstrates that Holmes was a philosophic naturalist, the author of the first naturalistic novel in America, and that he was one of the indigenous sources for the early and wide-spread dissemination of philosophic naturalism in America. The dissertation is basically an essay in the history of ideas, and is occupied primarily with the ideas of Oliver Wendell Holmes, especially as they have literary bearings and consequences. The central idea under study, naturalism, is in reality a complex of ideas, all complementing each other, and leading to a common goal. After defining the ideas under discussion, the major philosophical and literary trends of the nineteenth century are traced, so as to provide the proper background for an understanding of Holmes's ideas. This is followed by a discussion of Holmes's personal background, and a survey of the Holmes of tradition. The next step was to trace and define Holmes's dominant ideas as they appear in his writings. This is followed by an analysis of those ideas as Holmes applied them to his own literary work, and a final evaluation of Holmes as a man, writer and critic in the light of material presented in the dissertation.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University