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Multiple Intelligence Theory

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Essay title: Multiple Intelligence Theory

Late Victorianism

The last decade of the nineteenth century saw the development of a number of movements which amounted to a rejection of the principles of Victorianism. Early Victorian writers, responding to the social changes due to the shift from an agricultural to an industrial society and the decline of traditional religious beliefs, adopted a moral aesthetic and maintained that literature should provide fresh values and an understanding of the newly emerging society. Novelists such as Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot examined complications of forming a personal identity in a world in which traditional social structures were breaking down. Social mores were their subject and realism their form of expression.

By the 1870s, opposing what by now was perceived as a repressive aesthetic, writers began to reject any obligation to produce moral art, as exemplified in the theoretical works of Walter Pater, such as Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873). In fiction, this impulse took various forms, among them a return to prose fantasy as displayed in the works of Robert Lewis Stevenson (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1886) and Lewis Carroll (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865). In his dystopian novel Erewhon, or, Over the Range (1872), Samuel Butler criticized the stringent morals of his time. The late Victorian period also saw a more searching realism, accompanied by the emergence of the so-called 'problem novel' in which the institution of marriage and traditional relations between the sexes were re-examined. In the words of the novelist George Gissing, it was an era of "sexual anarchy"; an era in which the laws governing sexual identity and behavior were no longer valid. The 'fallen woman' was replaced by the 'new woman.' Once the door closed behind Ibsen's Nora, social structures oppressing women became the theme of plays by Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, and novels by George Moore and Thomas Hardy.

One of the most widely read and respected English novelists, Hardy created an important artistic bridge between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The influence of Charles Darwin's recently published Origin of Species (1859) on his thought, and his subsequent loss of orthodox religious faith affected all of his writings. Although his novels were uneven in skill, when he stayed in the rural settings of his youth and focused on relations between the sexes, they took on a tragic power rarely equaled by other English novelists. He is credited with introducing fatalism into Victorian literature -- a pessimistic assessment of humanity's ability to cope with a changing social environment. In two of Hardy's final novels, Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1896), his bleak and open treatment of sexuality and marriage caused such an outrage among the puritanical Victorian public that he was deeply disillusioned. Hardy abandoned fiction, and for the rest of his life wrote only poetry.

At about the time Hardy was active as a novelist, the French writer Emile Zola formulated a branch of literary realism called naturalism, which reflected many of Hardy's concerns as a novelist. The terms naturalism and realism are often used almost interchangeably, but there is a significant distinction between them: while naturalists supported the realists' aim of careful observation and mimetic depiction of the outer world, their view of the human condition and specific method of writing was strongly indebted to advances in the natural sciences, specifically the impact of Darwin's theory of evolution. In their biologistic view, the human animal was a creature conditioned by influences beyond his or her control and therefore largely devoid of free will or moral choice; a creature shaped by external factors such as heredity, environment, and the pressure of immediate circumstances. In this respect, the premises of the naturalists have gained a reputation for pessimism. Their method was indebted to the natural and social sciences as well: according to Zola, the writer was to work as an objective 'experimenter' whose function was to observe and record the chain of cause and effect dispassionately and impersonally, without moral judgments. A further formative influence on naturalism can be found in the social consequences of the Industrial Revolution. The misery of the working classes in urban slums became one of the naturalists' favorite themes in analyzing the human condition.

A rebel Victorian novelist who was strongly influenced by naturalism was George Gissing. In New Grub Street (1891) and The Nether World (1889), Gissing portrays the grinding effects of poverty. The subjects of many of his twenty-two novels were the poor and the shabby genteel, a world earlier described by Dickens but treated more seriously

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