Background (what happened between the 1860s and the 1900s? • End of Civil War • American Expansion (US getting big and powerful) • Rise of the youth culture • World War I • Increasing dominance of technology
Characteristics – the up side • Pursuit of the “American Dream” • Optimism (America is the land of Eden) • Importance of the Individual • A breaking away from patterns and predictability (forms of writing, style, etc.) • Experimentation – break tradition!
A New Idea STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS • Style of writing that flows like thought • Creates the impression that the reader is eavesdropping on the flow of conscious experience in the character’s mind.
Example of “Stream-of-consciousness” “She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.” – Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway
Characteristics – the down side • Industrial Age – a new era of machines, buildings, and technology. • Creates a pessimistic view of humankind. • Poor conditions of city workers, women, etc. • Alienation(which leads to awareness about one’s inner life
Genre & Style • Novels, Plays, Poetry (resurgence after deaths of Whitman and Dickenson) • Highly experimental, as authors seek a unique style • Use of interior monologue and stream of consciousness
Examples • Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby • Poetry of e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Carl Sandburg, Ezra Pound • Rand's Anthem • Short stories and novels of Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Faulkner • Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun
"... the greatest single fact about our modern American writing is our writers' absorption in every last detail of their American world together with their deep and subtle alienation from it." - Alfred Kazin, On Native Grounds, 1942
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961 • Used a detached point of view and a vocabulary/sentence structure that was deceptively simple. • Wrote about failure, moral bankruptcy, death, and deception in the post-World War I society. • Among many, he wrote: • A Farewell to Arms, 1929 • For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1940 • The Old Man and the Sea,1952
William Faulkner (1897-1962) • Deals with themes of "the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself.” • Sometimes difficult to read, Faulkner experimented in the use of stream-of-consciousness technique and in the dislocation of narrative time. • Among many, he wrote: • The Sound and the Fury, 1929 • As I Lay Dying, 1930
John Steinbeck (1902-1968) • Considered the foremost novelist of the American Depression of the 1930s • Studied the struggles of the migrant workers; shows the downtrodden overcoming adversity through courage, dignity, and through their compassion for fellow sufferers. • Among many, he wrote: • Of Mice and Men, 1937 • The Grapes of Wrath, 1939 • The Pearl, 1945
Poetry • Open form, Free verse • No rhyme scheme • No traditional metre • Any line length • Importance given to sound to convey “the music of ideas” • Juxtaposition of ideas rather than chronological thought
T.S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock • Let us go then, you and I,When the evening is spread out against the skyLike a patient etherised upon a table;Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,The muttering retreatsOf restless nights in one-night cheap hotelsAnd sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:Streets that follow like a tedious argumentOf insidious intentTo lead you to an overwhelming question...Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"Let us go and make our visit.
e.e. cummings i have found what you are like the rain (Who feathers frightened fields with the superior dust-of-sleep. wields easily the pale club of the wind and swirled justly souls of flower strike the air in utterable coolness deeds of gren thrilling light with thinned newfragile yellows lurch and.press
--in the woods which stutter and sing And the coolness of your smile is stirringofbirds between my arms;but ishould rather than anything have(almost when hugeness will shut quietly)almost, your kiss
Music • Stravinsky, Schoenberg • Dissonance/distorted music effects • Rejection of rules of harmony and composition