Modernism

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Modernism

  1. 1. American Literature Modernism 1900-1950
  2. 2. Modernism Definition: a term for the bold new experimental styles and forms that swept the arts during the first third of the 20th century. Modernism called for changes in subject matter, in fictional styles, in poetic forms, and in attitudes.
  3. 3. Difference between Realism and Modernism  Whereas REALISM   Emphasized absolutism, and Believed that a single reality could be determined through the observation of nature  MODERNISM  Argued for cultural relativism,  And believed that people make their own meaning in the world. 3
  4. 4. Value Differences in the Modern World Pre-Modern World Modern World (Early 20th Century) Ordered Chaotic Meaningful Futile Optimistic Pessimistic Stable Fluctuating Faith Loss of faith Morality/Values Collapse of Morality/Values Clear Sense of Identity Confused Sense of Identity and Place in the World 4
  5. 5. Contributing Factors World War I Loss of Innocence Disillusionment Cynicism
  6. 6. The Elements of Modernism • Emphasis on bold experimentation in style and form to represent the fragmentation of society • Rejection of traditional themes and subjects • Disillusionment and loss of faith in the American Dream • Rejection of the ideal hero • Interest in the inner workings of the human mind
  7. 7. History and Culture • World War I caused a “traumatic coming of age” where “Americans returned to their homeland but could never regain their innocence.” • Soldiers from rural roots yearned for a modern, urban life. (Nick Carraway—The Great Gatsby) • “Big Boom” business flourished—1920s • Major advances allowed for fast production of new technology and business. • 1920 Americans—The Lost Generation
  8. 8. History and Culture (cont.) • The Lost Generation— “Without a stable, traditional structure of values, the individual lost a sense of identity. The secure, supportive family life; the familiar, settled community; the natural and eternal rhythms of nature; the sustaining sense of patriotism; moral values [founded] on religious beliefs and observations—all seemed undermined by World War I and its aftermath.”
  9. 9. History and Culture (cont.) • 1929—The Stock Market Crash brought The Great Depression of the 1930s. • 1930s—One third of all Americans were out of work. “Soup kitchens, shanty towns, and armies of hobos—unemployed men illegally riding freight trains—became part of the national life.”
  10. 10. American Literature •The Harlem Renaissance •A time when Harlem attracted worldly and raceconscious African Americans who nurtured each other’s artistic, musical, and literary talents and created a flowering of African American arts. Noted writers: Langston Hughes Claude McKay Countee Cullen W.E.B. Dubois Zora Neale Hurston
  11. 11. American Literature • 1920s—F. Scott Fitzgerald —The Great Gatsby —flamboyance, bootlegging, money, parties, wildness —The Jazz Age • 1930s—John Steinbeck —Of Mice and Men —The Grapes of Wrath —no money, migrant work, tragedy, hardship • 1940s—Arthur Miller — The Crucible — Death of a Salesman
  12. 12. The American Dream Pre-Modernist View— •America as the new Eden •Triumph of the individual •Optimism Modernist View •America as New Eden •Self-reliance
  13. 13. Forces Behind Modernism  The sense that our culture has no center, no values.  Paradigm shift  from the closed, finite, measurable, causeand-effect universe of the 19th century to an open, relativistic, changing, strange universe; 13
  14. 14. Characteristics of Modernism in Literature  Literature Exhibits Perspectivism   Meaning comes from the individual’s perspective and is thus personalized; A single story might be told from the perspective of several different people, with the assumption that the “truth” is somewhere in the middle 14
  15. 15. Characteristic of Modernism in Literature  Perception of language changes:    No longer seen as transparent, allowing us to “see through” to reality; But now considered the way an individual constructs reality; Language is “thick” with multiple meanings and varied connotative forces. 15
  16. 16. Characteristic of Modernism in Literature  Emphasis on the Experimental   Art is artifact rather than reality; Organized non-sequentially  Experience portrayed as layered, allusive, discontinuous, using fragmentation and juxtaposition.  Ambiguous endings—open endings which are seen as more representative of reality. 16

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