American Literature
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American Literature. Lecture Sixteen. The American Modernism (III) (1914 - 1945). William Faulkner (1897 - 1962). 3. The Prominent Representative of Northern Writers.

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American literature

American Literature

Lecture Sixteen

American literature

The American Modernism (III)

(1914 - 1945)

William faulkner 1897 1962

William Faulkner (1897 - 1962)

3. The Prominent Representative of Northern Writers

American literature

  • American novelist and short-story writer who was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel.

  • He wrote works of psychological drama and emotional depth, typically with long serpentine prose and high, meticulously-chosen diction,also using groundbreaking literary devices such as stream of consciousness, multiple narrations or points of view, and time-shifts within narrative.

  • The general ambience of the South. Mississippi marked his sense of humor, his sense of the tragic position of Blacks and Whites, his keen characterization of usual Southern characters and his timeless themes, one of them being that fiercely intelligent people dwelled behind the facade of good old boys and simpletons.

  • Faulkner was known rather infamously for his drinking problem as well, and throughout his life was known to be an alcoholic.

American literature

  • Faulkner's most celebrated novels include

  • The Sound and the Fury (1929)

  • As I Lay Dying (1930)

  • Light in August (1932)

  • The Unvanquished (1938)

  • Absalom, Absalom! (1936), usually considered his masterpiece.

  • His first short story collection, These 13 (1931), includes many of his most acclaimed (and most frequently anthologized) stories, including "A Rose for Emily," "Red Leaves," "That Evening Sun," and "Dry September."

  • During the 1930s, in an effort to make money, Faulkner crafted a sensationalist "pulp" novel entitled Sanctuary. Its themes of evil and corruption (bearing Southern Gothic tones), resonate to this day. A sequel to the book, Requiem for a Nun, is the only play that he has published. It involves an introduction that is actually one sentence that spans for a couple pages.

  • a National Book Award (posthumously) for his Collected Stories.

4 novels of social awareness

4. Novels of Social Awareness

  • Since the 1890s, an undercurrent of social protest had coursed through American literature, welling up in the naturalism of Stephen Crane and Theodore Dreiser and in the clear messages of the muckraking novelists.

  • Later socially engaged authors included Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, John Dos Passos, Richard Wright, and the dramatist Clifford Odets.

  • They were linked to the 1930s in their concern for the welfare of the common citizen and their focus on groups of people -- the professions, as in Sinclair Lewis's archetypal Arrowsmith (a physician) or Babbitt (a local businessman); families, as in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath; or urban masses, as Dos Passos accomplishes through his 11 major characters in his U.S.A. trilogy.

Sinclair lewis 1885 1951

Sinclair Lewis (1885 - 1951)

American literature

  • Sinclair Lewis, the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930 for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters, was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, in 1885.

  • Probably the greatest satirist of his era, Lewis wrote novels that present a devastating picture of middle-class American life in the 1920s. Although he ridiculed the values, the lifestyles, and even the speech of his characters, there is affection behind the irony.

  • He was the conscience of his generation and he could well serve as the conscience of our own. His analysis of the America of the 1920s holds true for the America of today. His prophecies have become our truths and his fears our most crucial problems."

  • Lewis began his career as a journalist, editor, and hack writer. With the publication of Main Street (1920), a merciless satire on life in a Midwestern small town, Lewis immediately became an important literary figure. His next novel, Babbitt (1922), considered by many critics to be his greatest work, is a scathing portrait of an average American businessman, a Republican and a Rotarian, whose individuality has been erased by conformist values.

American literature

  • Sinclair Lewis was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Main Street and Babbitt, and won the award for Arrowsmith (although he turned it down).

  • Arrowsmith (1925) satirizes the medical profession.

  • Elmer Gantry (1927) attacks hypocritical religious revivalism.

  • Dodsworth (1929), a more mellow work, is a sympathetic picture of a wealthy American businessman in Europe; it was successfully dramatized by Lewis and Sidney Howard in 1934.

  • During his lifetime he published 22 novels, and it is generally agreed that his later novels are far less successful than his early fiction. Among his later works are It Can’t Happen Here (1935), Cass Timberlane (1945), Kingsblood Royal (1947), and World So Wide (1951).

  • From 1928 to 1942 Lewis was married to Dorothy Thompson (1894–1961), a distinguished newspaperwoman and foreign correspondent. He died in Rome in 1951.

John dos passos 1896 1970

John Dos Passos (1896 - 1970)

American literature

  • John Dos Passos is one of the most overtly political authors in this unit. Involved in many radical political movements, Dos Passos saw the expansion of consumer capitalism in the first decades of the twentieth century as a dangerous threat to the health of the nation.

  • The son of unmarried Portuguese American parents, Dos Passos grew up in Chicago. He attended prestigious East Coast schools, first the Choate School and then Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard in 1916 and joined the war effort before the United States entered World War I, becoming a member of a volunteer ambulance corps and later serving in the American medical corps. Following the war he became a freelance journalist, while also working on fiction, poetry, essays, and plays.

  • Like Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos began as a left-wing radical but moved to the right as he aged. Dos Passos wrote realistically, in line with the doctrine of socialist realism. His best work achieves a scientific objectivism and almost documentary effect.

American literature

  • Dos Passos developed an experimental collage technique for his masterwork U.S.A., consisting of The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919 (1932), and The Big Money (1936). This sprawling collection covers the social history of the United States from 1900 to 1930 and exposes the moral corruption of materialistic American society through the lives of its characters.

  • Dos Passos's new techniques included "newsreel" sections taken from contemporary headlines, popular songs, and advertisements, as well as "biographies" briefly setting forth the lives of important Americans of the period, such as inventor Thomas Edison, labor organizer Eugene Debs, film star Rudolph Valentino, financier J.P. Morgan, and sociologist Thorstein Veblen. Both the newsreels and biographies lend Dos Passos's novels a documentary value; a third technique, the "camera eye," consists of stream of consciousness prose poems that offer a subjective response to the events described in the books.

John steinbeck 1902 1968

John Steinbeck (1902 - 1968)

American literature

  • General Introduction:

  • John Steinbeck was born in Sainas, California on 27th February, 1902. He studied marine biology at Stanford University and worked as a agricultural labourer while writing novels and in 1929 published Cup of Gold. This was followed by a collection of short stories portraying the people in a farm community, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and a novel about a farmer, To a God Unknown (1933).

  • Tortilla Flat (1935), a novel about Monterey, brought him national recognition and this was followed by In Dubious Battle (1935), Of Mice and Men (1937), The Long Valley (1938) and his best-known novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), a novel in defense of the poor as against the rich. This novel of a family fleeing from the dust bowl of Oklahoma won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1940.

  • During the Second World War Steinbeck went to Europe where he reported the war for the New York Tribune. He also published The Moon is Down (1942), a novel about the resistance in Norway to the Nazi occupation.

American literature

  • Other books by Steinbeck include Cannery Row (1945), The Pearl (1947), A Russian Journal (1948), Burning Bright (1950), East of Eden (1952), Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV (1957) and a selection of his writings as a war correspondent, Once There Was a War (1958) and Winter of our Discount (1961).

  • East of Eden is probably Steinbeck's most substantial work. In it Steinbeck stops looking towards social injustice as the source of evil, and instead explores the roots of evil in human psychology.

  • Steinbeck received the Nobel prize for literature in 1962 for his “realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.” He died in New York in 1966.

American literature

  • His Masterpiece: The Grapes of Wrath

  • In stark and moving detail, John Steinbeck depicts the lives of ordinary people striving to preserve their humanity in the face of social and economic desperation. When the Joads lose their tenant farm in Oklahoma, they join thousands of others, traveling the narrow concrete highways toward California and the dream of a piece of land to call their own. Each night on the road, they and their fellow migrants recreate society: leaders are chosen, unspoken codes of privacy and generosity evolve, and lust, violence, and murderous rage erupt.

  • A portrait of the bitter conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man's fierce reaction to injustice, and of a woman's quiet, stoical strength, The Grapes of Wrath is a landmark of American literature, one that captures the horrors of the Great Depression as it probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America.

The harlem renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance

American literature

  • The Harlem Renaissance (HR) was a flowering of the arts in the 1920’s and 30’s. African Americans used writing, music, and art to demonstrate strong beliefs. Many of these beliefs were grounded in the works of W.E.B. Du Bois who emphasized the necessity of black liberation, retaining black cultural pride, and not giving into white standards. Especially the notion of "twoness" shows a divided awareness of the black's identity.

  • Feelings were strong, however there was little violence involved and many white accepted it. New ideas and beliefs were expressed in innovative, non- conventional ways. For example, the music style of jazz flourished and improvisation was embraced. Harlem, N. Y. C. became the biggest hot spot in American for any aspiring African American artist. The city came alive at night as bars and clubs burst with music and dancing.

American literature

  • Responding to the heady intellectual atmosphere of the time and place, writers and artists, many of whom lived in Harlem, began to produce a wide variety of fine and highly original works dealing with African-American life. These works attracted many black readers. New to the wider culture, they also attracted commercial publishers and a large white readership.

  • Writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance include Arna Bontemps, Langston Hughes, Claude Mckay, Countee Cullen, James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jean Toomer.

  • HR was more than just a literary movement: it included racial consciousness, "the back to Africa" movement led by Marcus Garvey, racial integration, the explosion of music particularly jazz, spirituals and blues, painting, dramatic revues, and others. It was a huge leap for black liberation and culture.

  • The Great Depression caused the Harlem group of writers to scatter; many were forced to leave New York or to take other jobs to tide them over the hard times.

The main representatives

The Main Representatives

American literature

  • James Weldon Johnson was one of the leading figures of the period, author of the pioneering novel Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man (1912), and perhaps best known for God’s Trombones (1927), a collection of seven sermons in free verse, expressing the characteristic style and themes of the black preacher in pure and eloquent English. Johnson also acted as mentor to many of the young black writers who formed the core of the Harlem group.

  • Claude Mckay, an immigrant from Jamaica, produced an impressive volume of verse, Harlem Shadows (1922), and a best-selling novel, Home to Harlem (1928), about a young Negro's return from World War I.

  • Countee Cullen was another important black poet. Cullen helped bring more Harlem poets to public notice by editing Caroling Dusk: An Anthology of Verse by Negro Poets in 1927.

American literature

  • Langston Hughes published his first collection of verse, The Weary Blues, in 1926, and his novel Not Without Laughter appeared in 1930.

  • Zora Neale Hurston published her masterpiece Their Eyes Are Watching God in 1937. It carried a message about the misery of black life in America. Their eyes evolved around a black woman in search of happiness. Zora admits to putting all the tenderness of her passion she felt for a man of West Indian descent into the book, and that the character Tea Cake possessed the good looks, physical strength and capacity to love, like the man she loved. Zora also revealed through Jamie, the female character in the book, the jealousy and love she felt for her true love.

  • Jean Toomer wrote short stories like "Bona and Paul" and "Withered Skin of Berries," the plays "Natalie Mann" (1922) and "Balo" (1922), and many poems such as "Five Vignettes," "Skyline," "Poem in C," "Gum," "Banking Coal," and "The First American."

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