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MODERNISM: American Literature 1900 (1914?)-1945

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1 MODERNISM: American Literature 1900 (1914?)-1945

2 Causes of Modernism WWI Urbanization Industrialization Immigration
Technological Evolution Growth of Modern Science Influence of Austrian Sigmund Freud ( ) Influence of German Karl Marx ( ) Perceived problems with the ideals of the movements that preceded modernism: Romanticism, Victorianism, and Edwardianism.

3 WWI WWI -It involved Am. Artists and thinkers with the brutal actualities of large-scale modern war, so different from imagining heroism. -The senses of a great civilization being destroyed or destroying itself, of social breakdown, and of individual powerlessness became part of the American experience as a result of its participation in WWI, with resulting feelings of fear, discrimination, and on occasion, liberation. -In the wake of the apocalyptic sense of a new century and the cultural crisis brought on by WWI, Western notions of superiority came into question. In addition, long held precepts of the Renaissance and Enlightenment models of reality, all encompassing beliefs that humans were essentially good and could perfect both themselves and their societies, were beginning to collapse, and the value systems underlying American society—those of God, country, and capitalism—also faced challenges on almost all fronts. -A new term came to be used to describe the generation of men and women who came to maturity between WWI and the Depression of the 1930s. Gertrude Stein first heard the phrase from the proprietor of the Hotel Pernollet in Belley. Referring to a young mechanic repairing Stein’s car, M. Pernollet used the expression une generation perdue to describe the dislocation, rootlessness, and disillusionment experienced in the wake of the war. Stein later expanded the meaning of the phrase in conversation with Ernest Hemingway, saying that his was a decadent generation that was drinking itself to death. Hemingway, whose early books were prototypes for the lost generation of writers, recounts this conversation in the preface to The Sun Also Rises and again in A Moveable Feast. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night is a striking account of the spiritual climate of the time. Much of Malcolm Cowley’s work deals with the writers of that generation. It applied to all Americans who, after the war, found life in the United States to be shallow, empty, vulgar, and unfulfilling.

4 URBANIZATION Romanticism’s more moderate expression and valuation of nature—the rural, agricultural, and traditional—as opposed to culture and art seemed inadequate to express a sense of loss and new beginnings.

5 INDUSTRIALIZATION Romanticism’s philosophies of pantheism and transcendence no longer seemed to cohere for those who had to cope with the technologies of industrial modernization.

6 IMMIGRATION Oscar Handlin states, “Once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America. Then I discovered that the immigrants were American history.” Between 1880 and 1920, some 23 million immigrants came to a country that numbered only 76 million in Immigrants made up 15% of the total population in 1900; in the first decade of the 20th century, immigrants constituted nearly 70% of industrial workforce.

-Telephones and electricity in homes changed the gap between better- and worse-off Americans. Those without electricity and phones were, literally, out of the network. -Phonograph record and record player, the motion picture which acquired sound in 1929, and radio -Automobile: millions of jobs were created; geography of the nation was altered by a new system of highways, which changed measure of distance, doomed some small towns to obscurity, and, put others, literally, on the map; made interstate trucking an alternative to railroading, cities changed shapes, suburbs came into being. -Large-scale migrations from rural areas to urban centers, along with technological change, also caused feelings of cultural dislocation.

Scientists became aware that the atom was not the smallest unit of matter matter was not indestructible both time and space were relative to an observer’s position some phenomena were so small that attempts at measurement would alter them Some outcomes could be predicted only in terms of statistical probability the universe might be infinite in size and yet infinitely expanding In short, much of the commonsense basis of nineteenth-century science had to be put aside in favor of far more powerful but also far more complicated theories. The prevalent assumption was that nonscientific thinking could not explain anything.

9 SIGMUND FREUD (1856-1939) Invented the use of psychoanalysis
as a means to study one’s “unconscious” -Hidden in this “unconscious” were repressed experiences: traumas, forbidden desires, unacceptable emotions—most of these of a sexual nature and many deriving from earliest childhood. The forbidden and impossible nature of these wishes left lifelong scars on the adult personality. Freud hypothesized that the process of analysis would help patients understand these emotions and that the understanding in turn would enable them to recover the ability to function as productive adults. -In popularized form, these ideas were extended to support the relaxation of sexual mores as well as permissiveness in childrearing, and they underlay the larger trend toward openness and informality in American behavior.

10 KARL MARX (1818-1883) “The history of all hitherto existing society is
the history of class struggles.” “The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” -Marx sought to explain history and produce a new sense of historical consciousness. -He believed that the root of all behavior was economic and that the leading feature of economic life was the division of society into antagonistic classes based on a relation to the means of production. -The Industrial Revolution, according to him, depended on the accumulation of surplus capital by industrialists who paid the least possible amount to workers. -Americans who thought of themselves as Marxists in the 1920s and 1930s identified with the world’s workers and with a society in which workers would control the means of production. These ideas went counter to traditional American beliefs in free enterprise and competition in the marketplace; therefore, the growth of labor movements in the 1920s was contested by industrialists.

Modernist writers concerned themselves with the inner being more than the social being and looked for ways to incorporate these new views into their writing. Modernist writers looked inside themselves for their answers instead of seeking truth, for example, through formal religion or the scientific presuppositions that realism and naturalism rested upon. Marxism instructed even non-Marxist artists that the individual was being lost in a mass society. Although Marx provided an analysis of human behavior opposed to Freud’s, both seemed to espouse a kind of determinism that, although counter to long-standing American beliefs in free will and free choice, also seemed better able to explain the terrible things that were happening in the twentieth century. Some modern writers believed that art should celebrate the working classes, attack capitalism, and forward revolutionary goals, while others believed that literature should be independent and non-political. -The psychology of Freud and Carl Jung have been seminal in the “modern” movement in literature. In many respects it is a reaction against realism and naturalism and the scientific postulates on which they rest. -All of these new ideas worked to undermine long-held assumptions about language, culture, religion, and reality, which aided in the creation of the “modernist self” prevalent among literary artists of this movement. -This new sense of self gave the modernist writers a heightened sense of purpose, even as their responses to the cultural crises were highly individual.

from country to city from farm to factory from native born to new citizen introduction to “mass” culture (pop culture) continual movement split between science and the literary tradition (“science vs. letters”) -Artists belittled the capacity of science to provide accounts of the things that matter, like subjective experiences and moral issues. -Victorianism and Edwardianism also proved inadequate: The first seemed too morally earnest, complacent, and, at times, overly squeamish about sexual matters; the second, a reaction to its predecessor’s conservatism, began to doubt authority, but not always very deeply. After the Edwardian period, the movement to the ideas of modernism seemed almost inevitable.

13 1920’s: THE JAZZ AGE To F. Scott Fitzgerald it was an “age of miracles, an age of art, an age of excess, an age of satire.”

14 1930’s: THE DEPRESSION “True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Conviction that the previously sustaining structures of human life, whether social, political, religious, or artistic, had been either destroyed or shown up as falsehoods or fantasies. Therefore, art had to be renovated. Modernist writing is marked by a strong and conscious break with tradition. It rejects traditional values and assumptions. “Modern” implies a historical discontinuity, a sense of alienation, loss, and despair. It rejects not only history but also the society of whose fabrication history is a record. Poetry tended to provide pessimistic cultural criticism or loftily reject social issues altogether.

Writers exhibited a skeptical, apprehensive attitude toward pop culture; writers criticized and deplored its manipulative commercialism. Literature, especially poetry, becomes the place where the one meaningful activity, the search for meaning, is carried out; and therefore literature is, or should be, vitally important to society. Imaginative vision is thought to give access to an ideal world, apart and above reality, or to contain alternative, higher values than those reigning in the statehouse and the marketplace, which could enrich life. Furthermore, modernists believed that we create the world in the act of perceiving it (existentialism…).

A movement away from realism into abstractions A deliberate complexity, even to the point of elitism, forcing readers to be very well-educated in order to read these works A high degree of aesthetic self-consciousness Questions of what constitutes the nature of being A breaking with tradition and conventional modes of form, resulting in fragmentation and bold, highly innovative experimentation A variety in content because with a stable external world in question, subjectivity was ever more valued and accepted in literature Along with the social realist and proletarian prose of the 1920s and 1930s came a significant outpouring of political and protest poetry.

The modernists were highly conscious that they were being modern—that they were “making it new”—and this consciousness is manifest in the modernists’ radical use of a kind of formlessness. Collapsed plots Fragmentary techniques Shifts in perspective, voice, and tone Stream-of-consciousness point of view Associative techniques

19 COLLAPSED PLOTS It will seem to begin arbitrarily, to advance without explanation, and to end without resolution, consisting of vivid segments juxtaposed without cushioning or integrating transitions. It will suggest rather than assert, making use of symbols and images instead of statements. The reader must participate in the making of the poem or story by digging the coherent structure out that, on its surface, it seems to lack. Therefore, the search for meaning, even if it does not succeed, becomes meaningful in itself. Its rhetoric will be understated, ironic.

Compared with earlier writing, modernist literature is notable for what it omits—the explanations, interpretations, connections, summaries, and distancing that provide continuity, perspective, and security in traditional literature. The idea of order, sequence, and unity in works of art is sometimes abandoned because they are now considered by writers as only expressions of a desire for coherence rather than actual reflections of reality. The long work will be an assemblage of fragments, the short work a carefully realized fragment. Some modernist literature registers more as a collage. This fragmentation in literature was meant to reflect the reality of the flux and fragmentation of one’s life. Fragments will be drawn from diverse areas of experience. Vignettes of contemporary life, chunks of popular culture, dream imagery, and symbolism drawn from the author’s private repertory of life experiences are also important. A work built from these various levels and kinds of material may move across time and space, shift from the public to the personal, and open literature as a field for every sort of concern.

The inclusion of all sorts of material previously deemed “unliterary” in works of high seriousness involved the use of language that would also previously have been thought improper, including representations of the speech of the uneducated and the inarticulate, the colloquial, slangy, and the popular. The traditional educated literary voice, conveying truth and culture, lost its authority. Prose writers strove for directness, compression, and vividness. They were sparing of words. The average novel became quite a bit shorter than it had been in the nineteenth century. Modern fiction tends to be written in the first person or to limit the reader to one character’s point of view on the action. This limitation accorded with the modernist sense that “truth” does not exist objectively but is the product of a personal interaction with reality. The selected point of view was often that of a naïve or marginal person—a child or an outsider—to convey better the reality of confusion rather than the myth of certainty.

Stream-of-consciousness is a literary practice that attempts to depict the mental and emotional reactions of characters to external events, rather than the events themselves, through the practice of reproducing the unedited, continuous sequence of thoughts that run through a person’s head, most usually without punctuation or literary interference. The writers of the stream-of-consciousness novel seem to share certain common assumptions: that the significant existence of human beings is to be found in their mental-emotional processes and not in the outside world, that this mental-emotional life is disjointed and illogical, and that a pattern of free psychological association rather than of logical relation determines the shifting sequence of thought and feeling The present day stream-of-consciousness novel is a product of Freudian psychology with its structure of subliminal levels.

23 ALLUSIONS Modernists sometimes used a collection of seemingly random impressions and literary, historical, philosophical, or religious allusions with which readers are expected to make the connections on their own. This reference to details of the past was a way of reminding readers of the old, lost coherence. T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land is arguably the greatest example of this allusive manner of writing; it includes a variety of Buddhist, Christian, Greek, Judaic, German and occult references…

24 IMAGISM Includes an eclectic group of English and American poets working between 1912 and 1917 including Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and William Carlos Williams. It was a reaction against a prevailing cultural romanticism which encouraged social optimism concerning the ultimate perfectibility of humankind and which led, in turn, to art that imagists believed was soft and weakly expressive. The imagists aimed to strip away poetry’s tendency toward dense wordiness and sentimentality and to crystallize poetic meaning in clear, neatly juxtaposed images. Ezra Pound defines the image in almost photographic terms as “that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time It is the presentation of such a “complex” instantaneously which gives that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.” Early influences on the imagists included the symbolist poets, classical Greek and Roman poetry, and Chinese and Japanese verse forms, in particular the haiku, or hokku.

25 “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."

26 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

27 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.

28 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

29 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.

30 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.

31 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”

32 Marianne Moore She started out publishing a literary journal.
She did not want her work published. She wrote about animals, nature, and poetry itself

33 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

34 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)

35 Prose Authors of Modernism
Steinbeck Hemingway Anderson O’Connor Fitzgerald Faulkner Porter

36 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.

37 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.

38 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.

39 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.

40 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.

41 Hemingway Main Theme – grace under pressure (?) 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 (?)

42 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.

43 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.

44 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.

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