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The Moderns . 1914-1939. Notable Works of Literature. Robert Frost (Poet) T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes his novel of the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby Langston Hughes (Poet) John Steinbeck publishes The Grapes of Wrath. Political and Social Milestones.

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the moderns

The Moderns


notable works of literature
Notable Works of Literature
  • Robert Frost (Poet)
  • T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes his novel of the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby
  • Langston Hughes (Poet)
  • John Steinbeck publishes The Grapes of Wrath
political and social milestones
Political and Social Milestones
  • The Great War 1914-1918 (WWI)
  • Women’s Suffrage (Women’s right to vote)
  • The Great Depression (1929)
the american dream pursuit of a promise
The American Dream: Pursuit of a Promise
  • America as a New Eden: a land of beauty, bounty, and unlimited promise. Such ideals are reflected in the novel, The Great Gatsby
  • A Belief in Progress: optimism is justified by the ever expanding opportunity and abundance that many people had come to will keep getting better and that we are always moving forward.
  • Triumph of the Individual: the independent, self-reliant person.

The Moderns

  • Life during the early part of the twentieth century was marked by tremendous change- political, social, psychological and spiritual. Each decade seemed to bring new upheaval, and each upheaval requires a new adjustment in attitude. These changes were reflected in a new period in American literature, called modernism.
tenets of the american dream
Tenets of the American Dream
  • America is a new Eden, a promised land of beauty, unlimited resources, and endless opportunities.
  • The American birthright is one of ever-expanding opportunity. Progress is a good thing, and we can optimistically expect life to keep getting better and better.
  • The independent, self-reliant individual will triumph. Everything is possible for the person who places trust in his or her own powers and potential.
elements of modernism
Elements of Modernism
  • Emphasis on bold experimentation in style and form, reflecting the fragmentation of society.
  • Rejection of traditional themes, subjects and forms.
  • Sense of disillusionment and loss of faith in the American dream.
elements of modernism8
Elements of Modernism
  • Rejection of sentimentality and artificiality
  • Rejection of the ideal of a hero as infallible in favor of a hero who is flawed and disillusioned but shows “grace under pressure”.
  • Interest in the inner workings of the human mind, some things expressed through new narrative techniques, such as stream of consciousness
  • Revolt against the spiritual debasement of the modern world.
political highlights
Political Highlights
  • In 1917, the United States enters WWI on the side of the Allied nations
  • Women win the right to vote when the Nineteenth Amendment is passed in 1920
  • The stock market crash of 1929 ushers in the Great Depression.
philosophical views
Philosophical Views
  • Marxism which embraced socialism as the desired social structure, takes hold in Russia and finds some support in the US
  • The science of psychoanalysis encourages exploration of the human subconscious and the meaning of dreams.
social influences
Social Influences
  • Speak-easies and jazz clubs spring up during Prohibition. The underground social scene becomes popular.
  • During the 1920’s many young women flout tradition and become more independent in thought, dress, and attitude.
popular entertainment radio
Popular Entertainment: RADIO
  • The most popular form of entertainment during the 1930s.
  • By 1933, two thirds of American households owned at least one radio.
  • People relied on radios for news, as was demonstrated in the War of the Worlds broadcast.
popular entertainment movies
Popular Entertainment: MOVIES
  • To get Americans’ minds off the hardships of the Depression, Hollywood produced slapstick comedies and romantic musicals.
  • The cost of going to the movie was relatively inexpensive and each week millions of Americans flocked to watch cartoons, newsreels, and romantic names.
writing assignment
Writing Assignment
  • In 1929, Gertude Stein, a leading modernist literary figure among the American refugee in Paris, declared, “Everything is the same and everything is different.” Apply her remark to the American dream of the early twentieth century, and then apply it to today and tomorrow. Note the ways in which the American dream remains in the same and ways in which it has changed.