Modernism (1914 – 1945) Disillusionment and Doubt Corruption and Decay… New Ideas / Styles / Experimentation
Historical Background • The booming of American industry with its gigantic roaring factories, its impersonality, and its large scale aggressiveness, no longer left any room for the code of polite behavior and well-bred morality fashioned in a quiet and less competitive age. • And it was during that period that a number of sensitive writers found that since there was little remedy for a country that was blind and deaf to everything save the glint and ring of the dollar, the only way out was to emigrate to Europe. There they began to think of themselves in the words of Gertrude Stein, as the “Lost Generation.”
Literature. The First World War stands as a great dividing line between the 19th century and contemporary America. Writers of the first postwar consciously acknowledged that America was, as Ezra Pound described it, “an old bitch gone in the teeth.” Yet in the years between the two world wars American literature achieved a new diversity and reached its greatest heights. In 1922, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land was the most significant American poem of the twentieth century… It helped to establish a modern tradition of literature rich in learning and allusive thought.
In 1920 Sinclair Lewis published his memorable denunciation of American small-town provincialism Main Street, and in the same year F. Scott Fitzgerald summarized the experiences and attitudes of the decade in his short stories and in his novel The Great Gatsby. Earnest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms, and William Faulkner published one of the most influential American novels of the age, The Sound and the Fury. During the twenty years between the two world wars six American writers who did their best and most original work won the Nobel Prize for literature.
“Lost Generation” of the Roaring Twenties War disfigures and tears away precious lives. Its horrors embed themselves in the minds of the survivors, who, when left to salvage the pieces of their former existences, are brushed into obscurity by the individuals attempting to justify the annihilation of the world that was. The era following World War I epitomizes the inheritance of trouble and sorrow for the generation that remains to retrieve some form of happiness - writer Gertrude Stein called it the "Lost Generation."
After WWI, many young Americans left their native country, bitter over the war and seeking adventure. A circle of artistic expatriates appeared-- among them Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound, and Pablo Picasso. Hemingway and Fitzgerald employed their keen social observation in writing The Sun Also Rises and The Great Gatsby, respectively, widely considered the two masterpieces of Lost Generation fiction.
Poetry – the Imagists • They concentrated on the direct presentation of images or word pictures. • They wanted to produce the essence without the explanations. • They wanted to freeze a moment in time. • They used the language of everyday speech in irregular rhymes and patterns
Ezra Pound • Best remembered for the development of imagism. • He relied a great deal on allusions. • He supported Italy during the second World War and was tried for treason in the U.S. He was declared criminally insane and spent 13 years in a mental hospital. He was later released and lived his remaining years in Italy.
William Carlos Williams • He was both a poet and a doctor • He, unlike other imagists, focused only on things he regarded as American. • He went on to win a Pulitzer Prize
T.S. Eliot • Thomas Sterns Eliot was born into a wealthy family and attended Harvard. • He began his writing career in college. • While in his 20s, he moved to England. • He married there and made many literary friends.
Eliot continued • He created a sensation in the literary word with his use of new structures and themes. • He focused on the frustration and despair of modern life. • Because of his use of imagery, he became famous as a Modernists • He published his literary masterpiece known as “The Waste Land” • Later, he turned to plays and wrote “Murder in the Cathedral” • He won a Nobel Prize.
Wallace Stevens • He went to Harvard to study business and became an insurance salesman. Later, he started writing poetry. • Most of his poetry was about nature and the imagination. • “Anecdote of a Jar” • “The Emperor of Ice Cream”
Marianne Moore • She started out publishing a literary journal. • She did not want her work published. • She wrote about animals, nature, and poetry itself
Carl Sandburg • One of the most popular poets of his day because he captured the spirit of the working class • A poet that helped establish Chicago as a literary community and wrote a famous biography of Lincoln
Robert Frost • He depicted rural New England in his poetry. • He was a conventional poet that was popular in England and America. • Was the first poet to speak at a presidential inauguration (JFK)
Prose Authors of Modernism • Steinbeck • Hemingway • Anderson • O’Connor • Fitzgerald • Faulkner • Porter
Fitzgerald - The Jazz Age • The age takes its name from jazz music, which saw a tremendous surge in popularity among many segments of society during the affluent 1920’s. • Among the prominent concerns and trends of the period are the public embrace of technological developments (cars, air travel and the telephone) as well as new modernist trends in social behavior, the arts, and culture.
William Faulkner • Born in Oxford Mississippi. Set the majority of his stories in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi • Although he had little formal education, he began to make his mark • He focused mainly on the decay of traditional values as small communities got caught up in the changes of the modern age. • He was considered a regional writer until he started experimenting.
Faulkner Novels • As I Lay Dying. A story about a family’s journey to bury their mother, told in 15 different points of view. It was a masterpiece of narrative experimentation. The Sound and The Fury • A complex story of the downfall of a southern family seen through the eyes of three brothers. One of whom was mentally challenged; • told by four different people telling four different points of view.
John Steinbeck • Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California. He ended up supporting himself in various jobs as a laborer, teacher, and journalist. He went to Stanford University but did not graduate • He tried his hand at writing but did not succeed until he began to write about Depression era topics. He had his first real success was Of Mice and Men.
Steinbeck Continued • His masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath won a Pulitzer Prize. This book focused on the plight of migrant workers. • Later, he produced other best sellers including: Cannery Row,The Pearl, and East of Eden. He did win the Nobel Prize for his discussions on social justice.
Hemingway • Hemingway’s style • simple and natural / direct • conversational, common, fundamental words • simple sentences • iceberg principle: understatement, implied… • Use of symbolism • Main Theme – grace under pressure (?)
Hemingway’s hero- Hemingway’s hero is an average man of decidedly masculine tastes, sensitive and intelligent, a man of action, and one of few words. That is an individualist keeping emotions under control, stoic and self-disciplined in a dreadful place. These people are usually spiritual strong, people of certain skills, and most encounter death many times.
Terms to know • Expatriate: a person who either temporarily or permanently lives in a country other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence. • Flapper: in the 1920s referred to a "new breed" of young women who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz music, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior.
Terms to know • Apostrophe-the speaker or narrator addresses a person or thing. • Personification-Giving human characteristics to known human things. • Blank Verse- poems without rhyme but with meter. • Meter-a pattern of stressed or unstressed syllables • Pastoral-poem that deals with rural settings
Terms to know • Stream of Consciousness- present thoughts as they issue directly from a character’s mind. • Flashback-an interruption that describes a past event. • Dialect-manner of speaking that is specific to a particular group. • Hyperbole-exaggeration for humor purposes. • Imagery-descriptive language that appeals to the senses.