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THE MODERNIST NOVEL IN THE USA. Francis Scott Fitzgerald Ernest Hemingway Djuna Barnes. Characteristics of the Modernist Novel. Experimental and innovatory in form Concerned with consciousness: introspection, analysis, reflection, reverie

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the modernist novel in the usa


Francis Scott Fitzgerald

Ernest Hemingway

Djuna Barnes

characteristics of the modernist novel
Characteristics of the Modernist Novel
  • Experimental and innovatory in form
  • Concerned with consciousness: introspection, analysis, reflection, reverie
  • Weakening of narrative structure: no real beginning, stream of experience, open ending
  • No omniscient, reliable narrator, limited point of view
  • Mythical archetypes
american modernist novelists

The modernist novelists in the USA unlike the novelists from the mid-nineteenth century inherited the rich legacy of writers such as N. Hawthorne, M. Twain and Henry James. Due to the firmly established position of literature as an occupation which was socially valued as any other kind of business and the emergence of the writer out of the “solitude” of a life hidden from the public denouncing the life of a “recluse”, images established in the popular imagination both by N. Hawthorne and Emily Dickinson, the writers from the 1920s broke onto a cultural scene much changed by possibilities that seemed infinite. Moreover, the writers from the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s had the example and the support of such prominent figures from the beginning of the century as GertrudeStein. Thus they were able to continue the development of certain specific writing techniques which would create a new type of a novel, the modernist one. Together with their European counterparts, both the expatriate American writers and the ones who chose to remain in America laid down the foundations of a modernist prose writing, which would rely on the power of the use of different “points of view”, of different centers of consciousness. They would explore to the full the possibilities for achieving multiple levels of representation, of endowing the plots and the characters with symbolic meanings that could open new ways of interpretation.

American Modernist Novelists
  • Inherited the tradition of 19th-century writers
  • Lived and worked during the 1920s
  • The Lost Generation
  • Expatriates
  • The Jazz Age
ernest hemingway 1899 19615
Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961)
  • The ideal American boyhood
  • Born in the family of a prosperous physician in the pleasant suburb of Oak Park, Chicago, in 1899
  • At the age of 18 he became a reporter on the Kansas City Star.
hemingway s life
Hemingway’s Life
  • In 1918 he was in Italy as an ambulance driver and became the first American to be wounded in the WWI
  • The next year he was back home in Chicago, then on the Toronto Star
  • In 1921 he was married and on his way to Paris preceded by a letter of introduction to Gertrude Stein from Sherwood Anderson
hemingway s books

In this novel he managed also to re-work the many literary models he had absorbed in writing that was both technically and thematically revolutionary. It was on a minor scale one of those literary works that reveals an age to itself, that has a visionary quality, that becomes more significant in its repercussions than it may be in itself. The stir that the book created had to do with Hemingway's conception of his world-weary expatriates as redefining heroism. To middle-class American readers, the book seemed shocking, its characters almost entirely 'lost'. It is one of the most visible modern novels and a testimony to several of the difficulties of modern literature, including its implicit elitism. It became a set piece of modernist art because it constitutes an almost perfect example of craft driving fragmentary scenes and provocative characters before it. Although it discloses the many ways in which the traditional principles of order and honour have disappeared from postwar life, and although it forces readers to confront disarray and ugliness, it also holds fast to the desire, the need, and the possibility of honour.

Hemingway’s Books
  • First book Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923)
  • In Our Time (1923), a series of one-page vignettes
  • The culmination of a word-by-word approach to writing
  • Endowing prose with the density of poetry.
hemingway s books8
Hemingway’s Books
  • First novel: The Sun Also Rises (1926)
  • Men Without Women (1927).
  • A Farewell to Arms (1929).
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
  • Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 for The Old Man and the Sea in 1952
hemingway s art
Hemingway’s Art
  • His world is characteristically violent and often brutal, the world of war, of crime, of dissipation, of the bullring and prize-ring, of big game hunting and deep-sea fishing
  • A world of fear and despair, a world in which man cannot find meaning, a world of nothingness
  • The themes of war, love and death become central to Hemingway’s work between the two World Wars
hemingway s art11
Hemingway’s Art
  • ‘Grace under pressure’ code:
  • If the hero is to be defeated, it is to be upon his own terms, this is what distinguishes the Hemingway hero from the fictional characters in naturalism who merely follow their natural instincts.
  • The issue for the Hemingway hero, always male and almost always white, is to cope simultaneously with the threats coming from the outside world and from his inner world.
hemingway s art12
Hemingway’s Art
  • The story has two characteristic forms: that of the initiation, and that of the test.
  • The Hemingway story is characteristically without past and without future. It appears as an archetypal moment outside of time, and outside of society.
  • The art of Hemingway is essentially a lyric art, not a dramatic art.
hemingway s art13
Hemingway’s Art
  • “You could omit anything … if the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood"(75). A Moveable Feast
  • This “new theory” as he called it has become known as the “iceberg technique” and could have been the result of his working as a journalist and wiring stories in which he was forced to omit the details.
hemingway s art14
Hemingway’s Art
  • In this respect he is very close to E. A. Poe since both of them aimed at an intensity of emotional effect based on rigorous selection and arrangement of material, and the effect both aimed at is, in the end, a sublimation of terror.
  • Turned the profession of the writer into a sacred one, the writer as a priest
francis scott fitzgerald 1896 1940
Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
  • Family background:
  • Irish nobility and colonial aristocracy
  • Confederate romanticism
  • Francis Scott Key, the author of "The Star Spangled Banner”
francis scott fitzgerald 1896 194016
Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
  • Education: boarding school, Princeton (left in1917 without graduating)
  • Two years in the Army without being able to participate in the Great War
  • After the end of the war went to New York to work in advertising.
scott zelda
Scott & Zelda
  • Epitomized the young and glamorous people of the age
  • Tried to live the American dream of money, success, and happiness
  • But their lives were touched by sadness and even tragedy
scott and zelda
Scott and Zelda
  • Rather extreme fusion of public role and fictional image
  • Popular culture, advertising, and the movies also played an important role
  • As Zelda put it : “We grew up founding our dreams on the infinite promise of American advertising. I still believe that one can learn to play the piano by mail and that mud will give you a perfect complexion.”
zelda fitzgerald 1900 1948
Zelda Fitzgerald /1900-1948/
  • The prototype of the rich, beautiful woman, the flapper
  • An accomplished writer, dancer, and painter
  • Epitomize the kind of Jazz Age style that Fitzgerald’s fiction portrays

One of her six watercolors illustrating chapters in Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

zelda fitzgerald 1900 194822
Zelda Fitzgerald /1900-1948/
  • Save Me the Waltz 1932
  • Bits of Paradise 1974
  • Scandalabra 1980
fitzgerald s works
Fitzgerald’s Works
  • This Side of Paradise 1920
  • “Flappers and Philosophers” 1920
  • The Beautiful and the Damned 1922
  • "Tales of the Jazz Age" 1922
  • Тhe Vegetable 1923, play
fitzgerald s works24
Fitzgerald’s Works
  • Тhe Great Gatsby 1925
  • "Аll the Sad Young Men" 1926
  • Tender is the Night 1934
  • "Taps at Reville" 1935
  • "Тhe Crack-Up" – an essay published in the Esquire 1936
  • Тhe Last Тусооп 1940-41, ed. and published by Edmund Wilson 1945
he great gatsby 1925
Тhe Great Gatsby 1925
  • Several titles proposed by F. S. Fitzgerald:

- Trimalchio or Trimalchio in West Egg

- On the Road to West Egg

- Gold-Hatted Gatsby

- The High-Bouncing Lover

  • Not liked by his publisher, who gave the present title to the book
  • A last minute suggestion by F. S. Fitzgerald to call it Under the Red, White and Blue
he great gatsby 192526
Тhe Great Gatsby 1925
  • The basic story of the novel is simple
  • The factual summary of the action is different from the plot, i.e. the order of treatment of action
  • A central consciousness, a character whose reactions serve as an index to meaning, Nick Carraway
he great gatsby 192527
Тhe Great Gatsby 1925
  • Created a new version of the outrageous lowborn, even criminal, American 'hero', the Great Gatsby
  • Symbolic figures from American history:

- Dan Cody is a blend of Daniel Boone and William Cody (Buffalo Bill)

- Hopalong Cassidy

- James J. Hill

- Horatio Alger and Benjamin Franklin

he great gatsby 192528
Тhe Great Gatsby 1925
  • Gatsby 's story acquires mythic dimensions
  • Gatsby's incorruptible illusion, and capacity for wonder are fused with versions of the American dream
  • The symbolic landscapes:

- the opposition between East and West, between East Egg and West Egg

- the Valley of Ashes

he great gatsby 192529

Thus we can claim that in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald showed a certain cultural materialism (embodied in Tom Buchanan) exhausting a romantic energy (embodied in Gatsby) leaving us a physical residue (embodied by George and Myrtle Wilson and the Valley of Ashes). He also brilliantly showed how romantic expectation was connected with historical ideals always located in the past. With the ending Fitzgerald gives to his novel, he in fact makes it clearly question its own moral center by showing the mechanics of power at work exploiting the vacuum of an exhausted past. This is a political kind of representation that locates the novel itself squarely in history and allows insights into both the text and into American history. These are cultural insights from which we are deprived when the text is frozen at the level of rhetorical and tropological play.

Тhe Great Gatsby 1925
  • The way the women characters are treated:
  • The name of the main heroine "Daisy" implies a nostalgia for the old Edenic world, for the virginal land that the first settlers ravished and possessed
  • Some very strong attacks on the part of the feminist critics as another of the American 'love stories', hostile to women. Judith Fetterley’s The Resisting Reader(1978)
he great gatsby 192530
Тhe Great Gatsby 1925
  • Fitzgerald’s book has also been subject to Marxist and New Historicism critiques
  • Cultural materialism (embodied in Tom Buchanan) exhausting a romantic energy (embodied in Gatsby) leaving us a physical residue (embodied by George and Myrtle Wilson and the Valley of Ashes
fitzgerald s other works
Fitzgerald’s Other Works
  • "The Rich Boy" and "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”:

- his fascination with the very rich as another aspect of the cultural materialism

  • “Babylon Revisited”:

- a poignant and devastating judgement of the irresponsibility and careless extravagance of the 1920s

  • Tender is the Night(1934)
  • The Last Tycoon, published posthumously in 1945 by his friend Edmund Wilson
djuna barnes 1892 198233
Djuna Barnes (1892-1982)
  • Born in Cornwall-on-Hudson in a wealthy and free-spirited family
  • Her father, Henry Budington ("Wald") Barnes, was an unsuccessful painter, who ran a farm on Long Island
  • Elizabeth (Chappel) Barnes, her mother, was an English violinist
  • Raised by her mother and her suffragist grandmother outside the school system
barnes s career
Barnes’s Career
  • In 1911 she enrolled at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn; studied briefly at the Art Students League
  • After the divorce of her parents, she started to work as a journalist and freelance illustrator
  • Lived a Bohemian life in Greenwich Village and wrote for several New York newspapers
barnes s works
Barnes’s Works
  • The Book of Repulsive Women(1915), a collection of poetry and drawings
  • One-act plays
barnes s works36
Barnes’s Works
  • In 1920 left for Paris and spent the next twenty years abroad
  • Met Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot, James Joyce and interviewed them
barnes s works37
Barnes’s Works
  • A collection of interviews with Diamond Jim Brady, Florenz Ziegfeld, Frank Harris, D.W. Griffiths
  • I Could Never Be Lonely without a Husband: Interviews by Djuna Barnes (1987) - ed. A. Barry
barnes s works38
Barnes’s Works
  • Ryder (1928), a mock-Elizabethan chronicle
  • The Antiphon (1958), a verse play
nightwood 1936

The novel was rejected by American publishers, but finally accepted by Faber & Faber after T. S. Eliot’s recommendations. T. S. Eliot wrote about the book that it possessed "the great achievement of a style, the beauty of phrasing, the brilliance of wit and characterisation, and a duality of horror and doom very nearly related to that of Elizabethan tragedy.” The novel was admired by Joyce, and is seen by many of the critics as as important to the history of the 20th century novel as Finnegans Wake .", being at the same time much more readable.

Nightwood (1936)
  • A stream-of-consciousness narrative, which has become a cult classic
  • William Burroughs: "I read Nightwood back in the 1930s and was very taken with it. I consider it one of the great books of the 20th century.”
  • A story marked by an unsurpassed sense of humor and a novel of destruction at the same time
nightwood 193640

The criss-crossing of race and genderis very well exemplified in one of the stories Matthew O'Connor tells in order to entertain his audience. It is about Nikka the Nigger, the bear wrestler at the Cirque de Paris. O'Connor’s description of Nikka as being tattooed from head to the knees represents in fact the history of the racial construction performed by society. As Laura Winkiel has observed in her article “Circuses and Spectacles: Public Culture in Nightwood” (Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 21, Number 1):“The tattoos drive his audience to the realization of an entire set of cultural narratives that, taken one at a time, have been used to stereotype black men. The essentialized and condensed knowledge of race thereby opens into a multi-layered and contradictory range of meanings that anchors modern narratives of progress from primitive savage to civilized white man. “

When Nikka tattoos his penis "Desdemona," he makes ironic that process by which black men are categorized as primitive and excessively sexual. Nikka's tattoos combine pre-modern African culture with Western culture's myths about Africans so as to create a contradictory, hybrid subject. Nikka makes the two most prominent stereotypes about black men evident at once - his threatening sexuality and his docile servitude. Thus, he contradicts his assigned position as bearer, not maker, of meaning. His multi-layered, ironic use of history inserts ambivalence and uneasiness into the circus performance. This alternative history, as L. Winkiel argues, checks an easy optimism in modern progress which depends on positioning black peoples as primitive, ahistorical "others" against which to measure modern Western culture.

Nightwood (1936)
  • The story of Robin Vote and those she destroys:
  • her husband "Baron" Felix Volkbein and their child Guido,
  • the women who love her, Nora Flood and Jenny Petherbridge
  • Commenting on them all is Doctor Matthew O'Connor, whose outlandish monologues elevate their romantic losses to the level of Elizabethan tragedy
nightwood 193641
Nightwood (1936)
  • Tells the story of the marginal and the different
  • Unlike Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, it is situated in the pre-war world of Paris and Vienna
  • Very much like Hemingway’s characters, Barnes’s characters are over-ridden by their sense of alienation
  • Grotesquely trying to find love and to make sense of sexual and racial identity