Virginia Woolf (U.K. 1882-1941) A Room of One’s Own (1929) Mental instability, abuse 1905: Bloomsbury Group; 1912: m. Leonard Woolf Brilliant innovative Modernist writer Hogarth Press “Angel in the House” 1928 Lectures on Women & Creativity, Newnham College Shakespeare’s Sister: Essay genre; Anglo- American Feminist Literary Criticism Rec. Films: The Hours, Orlando, Mrs. Dalloway
World War I: 1914-1918 See 20 th Cent. Timeline (Davis et al. 1346-1351) 1917-1922: Bolshevik Revolution, Civil War in Russia 1920: Women’s Suffrage in U.S.; Irish independence; Gandhi leads Indian independence 1922: Soviet Union 1924: Lenin dies, Stalin comes to power 1925: Hitler, Mein Kampf; U.S. Scopes “monkey” Trial Late 1920s: German “Black Friday”; U.S. Stock Market crash; 1930s: Depression
1924: Lenin dies; Joseph Stalin gains power. Stalin perfects Lenin’s tactics of terror. Communist rule becomes totalitarian dictatorship fueled by paranoia. 1930's: Stalinist Terror peaks; Purges claim millions of victims: Akhmatova’s friends, fellow writers, & her only son, Lev Gumilev. 1933, 1935: Lev Gumilev arrested, imprisoned, threatened with death Anna Ahkmatova [b. Anya Gorenko] Russia, 1889-1966
Akhmatova’s Requiem (wr. 1935-1940; banned in USSR) Alienated by sick dehumanized society Realist protest: death of individual freedom, negation of family ties Realist subject: social realities, misery of ordinary people’s lives Art’s critical function Romantic individ- ualism of visionary (confessional) poet as national conscience: “I” & (controlled) emotion to remember & bear witness for silenced community.
Requiem, cont. Organicism: poetic expression creates its own poetic forms; Mixed points of view, style, form - varies among poems in cycle Modernist fragments comprise the cohesive whole Readers co-create meaning, but Akhmatova not distainful of general audience Powerful simplicity, directness, concrete imagery (rejects obscure symbolism):
World War II (1939-1945) WWI not “war to end all wars”: tensions brew 1920s-1930s economic conflicts & competition among colonial powers rise of dictators & ultra-nationalism world-wide depression Fascism (Hitler, Mussolini, Franco): reverse decline of West, preserve “pure” European culture; “Axis” incl. Japan Democracies “Allies” Communism: Stalin, totalitarianism
“Where Are the War Poets?” 1939:Appeasement fails, war begins TLS chastises U.K. poets for failing to “do their duty,” calling upon them to sound “trumpet call” to fight this “monstrous threat to belief & freedom” Cecil Day Lewis responds for many writers in: “Where Are the War Poets?”....
“Where Are the War Poets?” cont. “They who in folly & mere greed Enslaved religion, markets, laws, Borrow our language now & bid Us to speak up in freedom’s cause.” “It is the logic of our times, No subject for immortal verse— That we who lived by honest dreams Defend the bad against the worst.”
WW II, cont. Unprecedented scale of world conflict & devastation (aerial bombing) Science, technology, industrialism used for mass murder Genocide in the Death Camps Atomic bomb (Hiroshima, Nagasaki): power to bring on apocalypse Civilian casualties, nightmare of suffering & devastation United Nations: re- build hope for future?
WW II: The Aftermath Politically defines world powers for next 40 years Raises profound moral. spiritual & political questions re: religious faith, human capacity for evil - triumph of the “dark side” Global guilt: passive immorality of people, nations who stood by & did nothing Challenges Enlighten- ment faith in progress, human reason, science, education
Post-WWII: Existentialism Existentialism (e.g. Sartre, Camus): human condition =absurd, alienated & angst-ridden: --cast alone into a senseless alien universe (without meaning or value); -- death our only certainty; --radical responsibility for creating meaning, value of our existence: Existence precedes essence 20 th -Century Literature of the Absurd (Kafka & his heirs) depicts surreal, radically meaningless, randomly violent modern world, where ethical justice & spiritual values seem to have no place or power. “The Metamorphosis” (wr 1912; pub. 1915, 1948)
The books we need are the kind that act upon us like a nightmare, that make us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves..... A book should serve as an ax for the frozen sea inside us.” Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
Post-WWII Art/Literature in Crisis Survivor guilt, betrayal, withdrawal: “inner emigration” (Hannah Arendt) Failure of the imagination before the unthinkable, loss of reasons to go on living, make sense of senseless horrors Heated debate: What kind of art, literature is viable, equal to profound issues raised by WWII? Can art/lit help restore human values in post- WWII global society? Sartre (and others) call for Post-WWII artists and writers to meet these challenges.
Holocaust Literature Jean-Paul Sartre: post- WWII “arte engage” authenticity of form and feeling paramount (vs. Romantic sublime egotism & art for art’s sake = frivolous & irresponsible) New Global consciousness Wiesel’s “vow of silence” (1945), then silence broken (Night, 1960) Eye witness - Bear witness: testify to the unthinkable horrors Obligation to the dead: Do not forget!
1986 Nobel Peace Prize: “one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterise the world.” Wiesel’s “hard-won belief” that evil can be overcome originated in personal experience of Hitler’s death camps and soul-wrenching testimonies that Wiesel has widened to embrace the sufferings of “all repressed peoples and races.” Elie Wiesel (b. 1928, Romania) Wiesel’s “message is one of peace, atonement and human dignity.”
Wiesel’s “Death of My Father” (From Legends of Our Time, 1968; rpt. 1982) Rejects fiction for confessional memoir, autobiography -acts of memory with truth value, authentic Confront the past Survivor guilt & Healing power of storytelling Pose tough, probing questions: Where was God? What happened to ethics, justice? What meaning can religious rites confer? Modernist search for meaning w/new urgency - will human imagination fail again?
Takenishi’s “The Rite” (1963) Japanese children of 1945 begin to tell their stories of sorrow, loss, grief in 1950s-60s. Shares Wiesel’s themes: death rites, acts of remembering Fictionalizes to distance? Survivors’ guilt, incomprehension Semi-autobiographical retelling of Hiroshima: Aug. 1945, Takenishi 16-yr-old schoolgirl; large no. of Japanese school kids killed; 140,000 dead by end 1945; 60,000+ die of longer term effects Long silence, denial
“The Rite,” cont. Setting: one long night 10 yrs. later when Aki can’t sleep, & suppressed memories flood back Adapts Modernist narrative techniques to create authentic representation of psychological reality Modernist rendering of Aki’s past memories & present consciousness: free- associational, stream of consciousness achronological, fragmented, disjointed flashbacks/forwards = broken pieces of film
“The Rite,” cont. Modernist search of meaning - look back & look within at what has been repressed Remembering frees her of the past, by confronting its horrors, & performing the death rites left undone Readers too must experience Aki’s dislocation, confusion, alienation, etc. in search for meaning “World” Literature (e.g. TFA, 1958)