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American Literature: Introduction to the Modern Period
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American Literature: Introduction to the Modern Period


A presentation for high school students orienting them to the Modern Period in terms of social movements, historical events, artists, and writers.

A presentation for high school students orienting them to the Modern Period in terms of social movements, historical events, artists, and writers.

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  • 1. The Modern Period Challenging the American Dream 1914-1939
  • 2. What Is Modernism?
    • Modernism = bold new experimental styles and forms sweep the arts
    • (1914-1939)
      • Modernism reflects a loss of faith in traditional values and beliefs, including the American Dream
  • 3. What Is the American Dream? The independent, self-reliant individual will triumph. Everything is possible for the person who places trust in his or her own powers and potential. America is a new Eden, a “promised land” of beauty, unlimited resources, and endless opportunities. Progress is a good thing, and we can optimistically expect life to keep getting better and better. The American Dream
  • 4. A Harsh Awakening
    • World War I (1914–1918): destruction beyond belief
      • -Over 300,000 die during the Battle at Verdun…
      • -20,000 in a single day at the River Somme…
      • -over 37 million casualties, including 15 million deaths over the course of the war
    • The Great Depression follows the 1929 crash of the New York stock market and lasts through the 1930s
  • 5. 1914:WW I begins in Europe 1920: Women gain the US Vote 1929: Beginning of the Great Depression 1930-36: Dust Bowl devastates western states 1939: WW II begins in Europe 1950 1917: Eliot’s “Prufrock” 1925: Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby 1926: Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises 1930: Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily” 1939: Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath 1949:Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye 1900 A Modernist Timeline
  • 6. Cultural Changes
      • Painters such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso explore new ways to represent reality
      • The rise of Socialism directly opposes American system of capitalism
      • Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, changes the way we see ourselves
  • 7. Cultural Changes
      • The 1919 Prohibition law leads to bootlegging and ushers in the Jazz Age
      • In 1920, women win the right to vote
    © 2003-2004
  • 8. Modern Poetry: The Harlem Renaissance
    • Centered in Harlem, New York during the 1920s
    • Flowering of African American art, music and literature
    • The birth of Jazz music
    • Poets: Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay
  • 9. Modern Poetry: Experiments with form
      • The image = central to poetry
        • T. S. Eliot’s “Prufrock”
        • Ezra Pound’s “In the Station of the Metro”
        • William Carlos Williams “The Red Wheelbarrow”
      • Poets choose everyday words over flowery, sentimental language.
      • Fragmentation and re-combination
        • e. e. cummings, T. S. Eliot
  • 10. Modern Fiction:
    • “ The Lost Generation”: shell-shocked souls following World War I
    • Flawed heroes: honorable yet flawed, courageous yet disillusioned
      • Hemingway’s Nick Adams
      • Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway
    • Stream of consciousness narration
      • Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”
  • 11. More on Modern Fiction:
      • The impact of Ernest Hemingway:
      • The most lasting influence of any 20 th century writer
      • Journalistic style: objective, observational
      • Short declarative sentences: “Aim to write one true sentence.”
      • The “iceberg effect”
  • 12. Modern Poetry: Traditional Forms
    • Robert Frost writes in traditional rhyme and meter against the modernist trend
      • “ Writing poetry in free verse is like playing tennis without the net.”
  • 13. What Still Remains
    • American Modernists break new ground but keep some traditional ideas
        • The ideal of self-reliance
        • (just can’t get away from Emerson…)
    • Regardless of their experiments with literary form, writers continue to ask fundamental questions about the meaning and purpose of life