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MODERNISM: 1900-1950 “Things fall apart, The center cannot hold.”

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MODERNISM: 1900-1950 “Things fall apart, The center cannot hold.”. The Excited Early Modernists.

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“Things fall apart,

The center cannot hold.”

the excited early modernists
The Excited Early Modernists
  • continue to react to dehumanizing trends evident in the modern world: world that seems to be meaningless, isolation and alienation in the midst of urban crowds, the standardization of work, and conformity
  • Stressed INNOVATION: if the world was going to be in upheaval, they would recreate that in their work
  • the rise of “-isms”: Imagism, Surrealism, Futurism, Cubism, Dadaism, etc.
  • absurdity in art: strong images, unusual symbols, shock tactics => emotional response!
  • free verse: poets abandon traditional stanza form and meter for more natural poetry
  • new interest in psychological theories (Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung): dreams and subconscious desires; the self/mind is a place of conflict
  • Stream-of-consciousness: narrative technique that attempts to depict the leaps and associations of the human mind
  • shift from third person narrators of the Victorian era to first person narrators (no longer confident, no longer can be certain of the truth, all knowledge is filtered through humans)
  • Poetry that focused on precise imagery and clear, sharp language
  • Example:

A Lover by Amy Lowell

If I could catch the green lantern of the firefly I could see to write you a letter.

  • Attempts to express the workings of the subconscious and is characterized by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter.
  • Salvador Dali
  • objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form—instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context
  • Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne
  • Dada rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition.

Hannah Höch, Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany,

disillusionment and the lost generation
Disillusionment and “The Lost Generation”
    • Devastation of World War I
      • Known as the “Great War:” thought that another war on that scale would never be possible – wrongo!
  • Disillusioned:
    • By use of science and technology creating death (gas/airplanes)
    • Vast sense of meaninglessness (no progress with death!)
    • Sense of anonymity (too many soldiers in too many trenches)
  • Many writers turn bitter and cynical
    • “The Lost Generation”
the later modernists
The Later Modernists
  • 1930’s and 1940’s: the growth of fascism (Mussolini & Hitler) prompted many writers to focus on social and political concerns. (W. H. Auden , Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene, and George Orwell)
  • Aspects of Modernism became increasingly accepted as they became more familiar, and mere novelty played a less important role in literature than before. Free verse, for example, remained popular, but some poets were equally at home with more traditional forms. In fiction, the use of stream-of-consciousness techniques became more widespread and less obscure.
overall literary techniques
Overall Literary Techniques
  • Sense of alienation, futility, loss and despair
  • Multiple ways to view the world: no clear “right” or “wrong”
  • But they are searching for meaning and truth: see the world as chaotic but hope to find meaning by seeing the world differently!
  • Rejection of traditional values and assumptions
  • Elevation of the individual
  • First person narration
  • Emphasis on introspection/depth of human mind/psychology
  • Stream of consciousness
  • Irony: not as technique, more as an attitude