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Social problem fiction


  • Fiction that features a specific social ill, or contemporary political issue, to draw attention to it.
  • URI(s)

  • Instance Of

  • Scheme Membership(s)

  • Collection Membership(s)

  • Form

    • Social problem fiction
  • Variants

    • us: Industrial fiction
    • us: Problem fiction
    • us: Propaganda fiction
    • us: Romans à thèse
    • us: Social fiction (Social problem fiction)
    • us: Social protest fiction
    • us: Sociological fiction
    • us: Thesis fiction
  • Broader Terms

  • Sources

    • found: Work cat.: Kobbé, Montague. On the way back, 2016: p. 4 of cover (Kobbé's hilarious social novel)
    • found: Britannica online, Feb. 27, 2017: Social problem novel (Social problem novel, also called problem novel or social novel, work of fiction in which a prevailing social problem, such as gender, race, or class prejudice, is dramatized through its effect on the characters of a novel. The type emerged in Great Britain and the United States in the mid-19th century. An early example is Elizabeth Gaskell's Ruth (1853), which portrays a humane alternative to the "fallen woman's" usual progress to social ostracism and prostitution during the period. If the work is strongly weighted to convert the reader to the author's stand on a social question, as is the case with Harriet Beecher Stowe's antislavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), it is sometimes called a propaganda novel. Usually a social problem novel limits itself to exposure of a problem. A personal solution may be arrived at by the novel's characters, but the author does not insist that it can be applied universally or that it is the only one. Most social problem novels derive their chief interest from their novelty or timeliness. For example, in 1947 Laura Z. Hobson's Gentleman's Agreement, revealing the unwritten code of anti-Semitism upheld in American middle-class circles, created a stir among a public freshly shocked by the Holocaust)
    • found: Carney, B. Social-problem novel, 2015, via Oxford bibliographies Victorian literature website, Feb. 27, 2017 ("Social-problem novels" (also known as "industrial," "social," or "condition-of-England" novels) are a group of mid-19th-century fictions concerned with the condition of the working classes in the new industrial age. Largely written by middle-class writers, the novels highlight poverty, dirt, disease, and industrial abuses such as sweated labor, child workers, and factory accidents but also exhibit anxiety about working-class irreligion and a fear of (potentially violent) collective action such as Chartism and trade unionism. The genre roughly spans the period between the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867, and the backdrop includes the "Hungry Forties," debates over the franchise, Chartist demonstrations, the exponential growth of the new cities, and campaigns around sanitation and factory conditions)
    • found: Cuddon, J.A. A dictionary of literary terms and literary theory, 1998 (propaganda novel See thesis novel; sociological novel See thesis novel; thesis novel: One which treats of a social, political or religious problem with a didactic and, perhaps, radical purpose. It certainly sets out to call people's attention to the shortcomings of a society)
    • found: Harmon, W. A handbook to literature, 2009: Problem Novel (A narrative that derives its chief interest from working out some central problem. The term is sometimes applied to those novels written for a deliberate purpose or thesis, which are better called Propaganda Novels) Propaganda Novel (A novel dealing with a special social, political, economic, or moral issue or problem and possibly advocating a doctrinaire solution. If the propagandistic purpose dominates the work so as to dwarf or eclipse all other elements, such as plot and character, then the novel belongs to the realm of the didactic and probably cannot be understood or appreciated for its own sake as a work of art. It may be good propaganda and bad literature at the same time. See Problem Novel) Sociological Novel (A form of the Problem Novel that concentrates on the nature, function, and effect of the society in which characters live. Usually, the sociological novel presents a thesis as a resolution to a social problem, but it is by no means always a Propaganda Novel. The serious examination of social issues grew important with the Industrial Revolution and scrutinized the condition of laborers and their families. The result was such novels as Dickens's Hard Times, Kingsley's Yeast, and Gaskell's Mary Barton ... Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin ... the novels of Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. The Muckrakers at the turn of the century produced a number of sociological novels, the most successful being Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. John Steinbeck, John Dos Passos, Erskine Caldwell, and James T. Farrell all wrote novels whose central issues were sociological.) Thesis Novel (A novel that deals with some problems so as to suggest a thesis, usually in the form of a solution to the problem. Among the types of novels that are called thesis novels are sociological novels, political novels, problem novels, and propaganda novels. The French "roman à thèse" is sometimes used instead of "thesis novel.")
  • General Notes

    • Fiction that features a specific social ill, or contemporary political issue, to draw attention to it.
  • Change Notes

    • 2017-02-27: new
    • 2017-05-15: revised
  • Alternate Formats

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