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Modernism in Literature What is it? When and why did it happen? Don’t confuse the Modernist movement with the standard dictionary definition of modern:

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Presentation on theme: "Modernism in Literature What is it? When and why did it happen? Don’t confuse the Modernist movement with the standard dictionary definition of modern:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Modernism in Literature What is it? When and why did it happen? Don’t confuse the Modernist movement with the standard dictionary definition of modern: Of or relating to present times (adj.) Synonyms: present day, current, contemporary

2 The Modern Age The devastation of WWI brought about an end to the sense of optimism that had characterized the years immediately preceding the war. Many people were left with a feeling of uncertainty, disjointedness, and disillusionment. No longer trusting the values of the world, people sought to find new ideas that were more applicable to 20 th century life. Modernists sought to capture the essence of modern life.

3 Why did Modernism Happen? In the aftermath of WWI, people were faced with :  Disillusion  Dehumanization  Survivor guilt and  Mechanized Death

4 Questions of the Modern Era  What is human nature?  What do I know?  Is it possible to know anything for sure?  Is it just our perception or point of view that dictates reality?  Example of Schrodinger’s cat: both alive and dead at the same time  What is truth?

5 The Expatriates  The postwar disenchantment led a number of American writers to become expatriates, or exiles. They were nicknamed “The Lost Generation.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot were all members of this group.

6 What are the characteristics of Modernism?  Marked by a strong and intentional break with tradition.  This break includes a strong reaction against established religious, political, and social views.  A belief that reality is created in the act of perceiving it; there is no such thing as absolute truth.  Life is unordered

7 Common Themes of Modernism  Alienation, loss and despair  Reality vs. perception (point of view)  Championship of the individual and celebration of inner strength.  Concerned with the sub-conscious mind as well as the conscious mind  Strong and intentional break with tradition

8 Techniques in Modernism  Writers and poets spurred common conventions of writing: they might omit punctuation, or create a new form  Writing took on an experimental nature  Influenced by developments in modern psychology, writers began using the stream-of-consciousness technique, attempting to re-create the natural flow of a character’s thoughts.

9 Techniques in Modernism  Lack of traditional chronological narrative (discontinuous narrative)  Break of narrative frames  fragmentation = disjointed and nonlinear narratives. Modernist literature embraces fragmentation as a literary form, since it reinforces the fragmentation of reality

10 Techniques used in Modernism  flashback – presents an event from an earlier time, it interrupts the chronological presentation of events.  Interior monologue technique – a kind of stream of consciousness writing- presents character’s thoughts in the form of silent inner speech. Interior Monologue = a character talking/thinking, using words specific to that character, making assumptions, mistaken judgments, conclusions RIGHT FOR THAT CHARACTER.

11 Techniques used in Modernism  Stream of Consciousness - a narrative technique that presents thoughts as if they were coming directly from a character’s mind. Instead of being arranged in chronological order, the events are presented from the character’s point of view. Events are presented as the character thinks of them, not in chronological order. Stream of consciousness tends to be less ordered than interior monologue. Consciousness has no beginning and no end – thoughts flit quite randomly from one thing to another.

12 Examples of Modern Literature  James Joyce – His experimental work, Ulysses, completely abandons generally accepted notions of plot, setting, and characters  Virginia Woolf’s – To the Lighthouse, strays from conventional forms, focusing on Stream of Consciousness  Stevie Smith’s – Novel on Yellow Paper parodies conventionality  Aldous Huxley’s – Brave New World protests against the dangers and nature of modern society  D. H. Lawrence’s works reflect on the dehumanizing effect of modern society.  T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland emphasizes the emptiness of Industrialism.

13 American Modernism  Ernest Hemingway chronicles the meaningless lives of the Lost Generation  F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby shows the corruption of the American Dream

14 What is Postmodernism?  Postmodernism is a term that encompasses a wide-range of developments in philosophy, film, architecture, art, literature, and culture.  Originally a reaction to modernism, referring to the lack of artistic, intellectual, or cultural thought or organized principle.  Started around 1940s, exact date is unknown.  Peaked around the 1960s and 1970s with the release of Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse Five


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