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Modernism — Concepts. Dr. Joel Peckham. Modernism Overview.

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Modernism concepts

Modernism — Concepts

Dr. Joel Peckham


Modernism overview
Modernism Overview

  • Modernism is far too general a term to break down into a simple definition. Unlike Romanticism, one cannot list a set of philosophical beliefs or stylistic characteristics that would broadly apply to every Modern Writer. The Modern Period could be argued to extend from the late 19th century to the mid-twentieth century and could include any author writing during that period—even if that author hated the modern world and Modernist thinking. In fact, the reactionary impulse—to go back to a time that was more civilized, more Godly, more rational, more whole—may be the most modern of all impulses as it is reflected in the work of Yeats, Eliot, Stevens, Pound, and Jeffers. It may be most useful, then to look at Modern Writers as those authors who responded to the particular challenges that various upheavals from that era posed to the individual. The industrial revolution and its corresponding scientific advances, two major world wars, the development of the atomic bomb, The Great Depression, the Russian Revolution, the end of slavery in the United States, a burgeoning Women’s Movement, the influence of African Americans on world art and music etc., all combined to create a world in which the old order of things seemed to have been upended and there was no clear sense of a new direction being offered. For some artists, this meant a realization of the freedom only hinted at by the Romantics, for some it meant a disorienting, fragmented, and purposeless reality in which the individual was lost in a churning mass of humanity. What follows is a by no means exhaustive list of terms important to Modernism and Modernists with examples drawn from literature and art intended to stimulate discussion.


15 terms
15 Terms

  • Existentialism: A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness andisolation of individual experience in a hostile or indifferentuniverse, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stressesfreedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.The Problem of Radical Freedom: Derives from the existential belief inabsolute freedom—the idea that men can literally do anything and aretotally responsible for their own actions. Of course in a world withinfinite choices and no clear guide for action, this freedom can beterrifying, leading toExistential Panic: A condition in which the individual, completelyaware of his freedom and his responsibility, is overwhelmed by thatawareness and cannot act. It can also be defined by the panic causedwhen one cannot discover his purpose or value in the universe.


15 terms cont
15 Terms Cont.

Absurd Hero: The outlook of the absurd hero is this: determined tocontinue living with passion even though life appears to bemeaningless. The absurd hero does not look back in regret or forwardwith hope--he or she simply accepts life as it is and keep going inaccordance with a personal code.

Alienation: Quite simply the sense of being completely disconnectedfrom, rejected by and even repulsed by one's culture—including one'snation, religion, and social class.Misogyny: In many ways modernism is a reaction against Romanticism,that would include the Romantic idealization of the feminine. Manymale modernist writers work with an outright hostility toward thefeminine, seeing it as the voice of society (an empty realm ofsuperficial value).


15 terms cont1
15 Terms Cont.

Deracination: Rootlessness. The sense of being disconnected from theland, the earth, what is natural.

Agrarianism: A direct response to the industrialization of America ingeneral and the South in particular—a reactionary movement led bySouthern Writers like John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Robert PennWarren. This movement emphasized closeness to the land, a spiritualconnection between man and God, and for some writers a return toclassic forms of literature. Many Agrarians were also segregationists.Segregationist: Someone who believed that the solution to the AfricanAmerican "Problem" was complete separation of the races. Politicized,it meant Jim Crow laws in the South. But it was also embraced bysome American authors of the south —seen as a reactionary impulse to return to the ways of the Southern past. Like Nazism it can be seen as a powerful effort to impose order on a world in which old values and systems of belief were under threat from new ways of thinking and the questioning of authority


15 terms cont2
15 Terms Cont.

Fragmentation: An extremely important modernist concept,characterized by the effects of an increasingly industrial world onthe individual. Many modernists felt that the city and the assemblyline—as well the killing machines of war—literally fragmented theindividual, treating men as interchangeable, valueless, pieces of somegigantic machine.

Ratiocination: The act of wandering around, nomadically—a sense ofbeing lost, of belonging to nothing, no-one and nowhere.

Feminism: Belief in the social, political, and economic equality ofthe sexes. Important in modernism because it inspired great writerslike Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Susan Glaspell, Edna St. Vincent Millayand later Adrienne Rich to find their voices in counterpoint to thedominant machismo of the period. Though modern writers were oftenmisogynists, this misogyny was in itself a recognition and response tothe increasing economic, political and social power brought on byincreasing freedoms afforded different groups as the industrialrevolution heated up.


15 terms cont3
15 Terms Cont.

Ambiguity: Used by modernist authors, especially poets to get at asense of uncertainty in the universe. Often evoked through symbolism,ambiguity occurs when a statement, image, symbol or action has nodefinite meaning.Indeterminacy: Much like ambiguity, indeterminacy occurs when oneaction, image, symbol or statement is so full with possible meaning,it becomes impossible to select which one is the right one.

Stream of Consciousness: A technique used by modernist authors thatsought to simulated the associative quality of human thought throughthe neglect of punctuation and traditional sentence structure.Thoughts progress across the page in a continuous stream.


Existentialism
Existentialism

A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness andisolation of individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.


Jean paul sartre
Jean Paul Sartre

  • we show that it is not by turning back upon himself, but always by seeking, beyond himself, an aim which is one of liberation or of some particular realization, that man can realize himself as truly human.

  • what man needs is to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God.

    • “Existentialism is a Humanism”


The problem of radical freedom
The Problem of Radical Freedom

The Problem of Radical Freedom: Derives from the existential belief in absolute freedom—the idea that men can literally do anything and aretotally responsible for their own actions. Of course in a world with infinite choices and no clear guide for action, this freedom can beterrifying, leading to Existential Panic.


T s eliot
T. S. Eliot

  • Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells: Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of insidious intent To lead you to an overwhelming question. Oh, do not ask, "What is it?" Let us go and make our visit.

  • -- “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”


Jean toomer
Jean Toomer

  • Crimson Gardens. Hurrah! So one feels. The bare-back rider balances agiley on the applause which is the tail of her song. Orchestral instruments warm up for jazz. The flute is a cat that ripples its fur against the deep-purring saxophone. The drum throws sticks. The cat jumps on the piano keyboard. Hi diddle, hi diddle, the cat and the fiddle. Crimson Gardens . . hurrah! . . jumps over the moon. Crimson Gardens! Helen . . O Eliza . . rabbit-eyes sparkling, plays up to, and tries to placate what she considers to be Paul's contempt. She always does that . . Little Liza Jane. . . Once home, she burns with the thought of what she's done. She says all manner of snidy things about him, and swears that she'll never go out again with him along. She tries to get Art to break with him, saying, that if Paul, whom the whole dormitory calls a nigger, is more to him than she is, well, she's through.

  • --From “Bona and Paul”


Existential panic
Existential Panic:

  • A condition in which the individual, completely aware of his freedom and his responsibility, is overwhelmed by thatawareness and cannot act. It can also be defined by the panic caused when one cannot discover his purpose or value in the universe.



T s eliot revisited
T. S. Eliot (revisited)

  • There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create, And time for all the works and days of hands That lift and drop a question on your plateTime for you and time for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions And for a hundred visions and revisions Before the taking of a toast and tea.


Absurd hero
Absurd Hero:

The outlook of the absurd hero is this: determined to continue living with passion even though life appears to be meaningless. The absurd hero does not look back in regret or forwardwith hope--he or she simply accepts life as it is and keep going in accordance with a personal code.


Albert camus
Albert Camus

The absurd man says yes and his effort will henceforth be unceasing. If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is but one which he concludes is inevitable and despicable. For the rest, he knows himself to be the master of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that silent pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which becomes his fate, created by him, combined under his memory's eye and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.

“The Myth of Sisyphus”


Robert frost
Robert Frost

  • Whose woods these are I think I know.His house is in the village though;He will not see me stopping hereTo watch his woods fill up with snow.My little horse must think it queerTo stop without a farmhouse nearBetween the woods and frozen lakeThe darkest evening of the year.He gives his harness bells a shakeTo ask if there is some mistake.The only other sound's the sweepOf easy wind and downy flake.The woods are lovely, dark and deep.But I have promises to keep,And miles to go before I sleep,And miles to go before I sleep.

  • -- “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”


Alienation
Alienation:

  • Quite simply the sense of being completely disconnectedfrom, rejected by and even repulsed by one's culture—including one'snation, religion, and social class.


Robinson jeffers
Robinson Jeffers

  • But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption

  • Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.

  • And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.

  • There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught – they say – God, when he walked on earth.

    -- “Shine Perishing Republic”


Misogyny
Misogyny:

  • In many ways modernism is a reaction against Romanticism, that would include the Romantic idealization of the feminine. Many male modernist writers work with an outright hostility toward the feminine, seeing it as the voice of society (an empty realm of superficial value).



Deracination
Deracination

Rootlessness. The sense of being disconnected from the land, the earth, what is natural.


John dos passos
John Dos Passos

  • The young man walks fast by himself through the crowd that thins into the night streets: feet are tired from hours of walking; eyes greedy for warm curve of faces, answering flicker of eyes, the set of a head, the lift of a shoulder, the way hands spread and clench . . . .

  • --from USA


Agrarianism
Agrarianism

  • Agrarianism: A direct response to the industrialization of America ingeneral and the South in particular—a reactionary movement led bySouthern Writers like John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Robert Penn Warren. This movement emphasized closeness to the land, a spiritual connection between man and God, and for some writers a return to classic forms of literature. Many Agrarians were also segregationists.


I ll take my stand twelve southerners
I’ll Take My Stand, Twelve Southerners

  • Opposed to the industrial society is the agrarian, which does not stand in particular need of definition. An agrarian society is hardly one that has no use at all for industries, for professional vocations, for scholars and artists, and for the life of cities. Technically, perhaps, an agrarian society is one in which agriculture is the leading vocation, whether for wealth, for pleasure, or for prestige-a form of labor that is pursued with intelligence and leisure, and that becomes the model to which the other forms approach as well as they may.


Segregationist
Segregationist:

  • Someone who believed that the solution to the AfricanAmerican "Problem" was complete separation of the races. Politicized,it meant Jim Crow laws in the South. But it was also embraced bysome American authors of the south —seen as a reactionary impulse to return to the ways of the Southern past. Like Nazism it can be seen as a powerful effort to impose order on a world in which old values and systems of belief were under threat from new ways of thinking and the questioning of authority


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