Realism and naturalism are disputed terms in literary studies, in the American context being alternately used as a label for the literary period between the Civil War and World War I and to describe a particular mode of writing that is concerned with the authentic portrayal of ordinary, everyday life. In this seminar we will explore both aspects of the terms, charting the development of American literature in the second half of the 19th century and asking what strategies literature develops to give the impression of reality. To this end we will read novels and short stories by authors like William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, Henry James, Sarah Orne Jewett, Kate Chopin, Henry James, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, and others.