Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.



Published on

American Modernism, "An Introduction to North American Culture and Literature"

Published in: Education, Technology


  1. 1. Modernism (1914-1945)
  2. 2. Modernism (1914-1945) <ul><li>Period between the wars: ‘Modernism’, a very general term used to talk about a series of different movements and tendencies (The ‘Avant-Garde’: impressionism, expressionism, imagism, futurism, dadaism, surrealism...) that tried to break with old tradition and the realistic concept of art. </li></ul><ul><li>Modernism challenged the assumption of reality which is at the roots of realism: that there is a common phenomenal world that can be reliably described. </li></ul><ul><li>Why? Lots of changes: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>World War I (skeptical spirit) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New ideas like psychoanalysis and Marxism </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Modernism (1914-1945) Active Reader (opacitiy) ‘ Passive’ Reader Even more critical: Lost Generation Critical perspective All types of language Literary language Variety of narrative voices. Stream of consciousness. Omniscient narrator Fragmented plots. No chronological order Conventional structure (Beginning/Middle/End) Different ways of capturing reality (poetry: images) Recorders of time Modernism Realism
  4. 4. Modernism (1914-1945) <ul><li>‘ High Modernism’: a group of writers particularly interested in formal experimentation. </li></ul><ul><li>More European than American (Paris as center). </li></ul><ul><ul><li>GERTRUDE STEIN (1874-1948) lived in Paris. Poetess, mentor and art collector made her essential for the development of American modernism. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The most important poets of the group were EZRA POUND (1885-1972) and T. S. ELIOT (1888-1965), both born in America but European-based. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Non-American figures: James Joyce (Irish) and Virginia Woolf (English). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Two representative masterpieces in English: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Eliot’s The Waste Land </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Joyce’s Ulysses, both first published in 1922. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Modernism (1914-1945) <ul><li>Different kinds of narrators : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>First person narrator (major participant, as in Huck Finn , minor, as in The Great Gatsby , or even non-participant, as in The Scarlet Letter ). At times, unreliable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Second person narrator. Quite uncommon. An example: Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter Night a Traveller . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Third person narrator. When the narration is in the third person, the focalization (Who sees?) becomes extremely important. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Omniscient point of view (typical of 19th century realist novels) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A dramatic or objective point of view (Hemingway’s short stories: the narrator is like the lens of a camera that simply records what s/he sees), </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A selected or limited point of view ( ‘Jamesian’: a character is the ‘focus’ or ‘center of consciousness’, and the reader sees the action through the focus of that character). </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Modernism (1914-1945) <ul><li>‘ Stream of consciousness ’, concept developed by psychologist William James: the thoughts, memories and feelings that exist in our mind in what he called the Pre-Speech level. Not censored, rationally controlled or logically ordered; formed by free association. </li></ul><ul><li>Modernist writers tried to show the hidden aspects of a character’s personality through the representation of this level of consciousness. Different techniques: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Description: the narrator describes with his/her own language the hidden thoughts of a character. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interior Monologue: reproduction of these thoughts in the character’s own language. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Soliloquy: Its purpose is not only to communicate psychic identity (like the interior monologue), but also to advance the plot. It communicates ideas and emotions which are related to plot and action. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Modernism (1914-1945) <ul><li>From the point of view of content: general spirit of pessimism, disillusionment and skepticism (reflected in The Waste Land , for instance): the Lost Generation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ lost’ because they had lost their ideals, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ lost’ to America because they lived abroad, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ lost’ because they did not accept older values but couldn’t really find the writer’s place in this new society </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, e.e.cummings, Hart Crane, among others, a group of writers who shared this spirit of post-war alienation and lived in Paris for some time, </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The ‘coming of age’ of American Literature </li></ul>
  8. 8. WILLIAM FAULKNER (1897-1962) <ul><li>Probably the best representative of ‘high modernism’ in the American novel. </li></ul><ul><li>Different narrative voices and focalizations, interior monologues and soliloquies </li></ul><ul><li>Use of ‘continuous present’ (mixture of past, present and future actions) </li></ul><ul><li>The Sound and the Fury (1929) </li></ul><ul><li>As I Lay Dying (1930), </li></ul><ul><li>Light in August (1932) </li></ul><ul><li>Absalom, Absalom! (1936) </li></ul>
  9. 9. WILLIAM FAULKNER (1897-1962) <ul><li>First writer to create a fictional territory (Yoknapatawpha County) in which all his stories take place. This territory was based on Oxford, Mississippi (where Faulkner had been born) and is the background for characters that appear and reappear in different novels creating a complete fictional world of mythical proportions. </li></ul><ul><li>Faulkner analyzes individual psychology as well as social conflicts, particularly racial problems in the South that had lost the war. </li></ul><ul><li>He received the Nobel Prize in 1949 and is universally acclaimed as one of the best writers of the century. </li></ul>
  10. 10. JOHN DOS PASSOS (1896-1970) <ul><li>A left-wing radical in the beginning, he combined a realistic use of language with modernist techniques to try to show the daily life of citizens in Manhattan Transfer (1925) </li></ul><ul><li>or the evolution of the recent history of his country in U.S.A . , a trilogy that included The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919 (1932) and The Big Money (1936). </li></ul><ul><li>He shared with the ‘Lost Generation’ the spirit of disillusionment, with the naturalists before him a strong sense of fate and a realistic style, and with the modernists the ideas about the difficulty of perceiving reality. </li></ul><ul><li>His solution to try to reflect the complex reality of life is to use strategies coming from the movies, like the combination of whole scene ‘shots’ with ‘close-ups’ to show the feelings of individual people. He also used ‘collage’ techniques, mixing popular songs with newspaper headlines, phrases from advertisements, short biographies of contemporary public figures and impressionistic visions of reality (that he called ‘camera eye’). </li></ul>
  11. 11. FRANCIS SCOTT FITZGERALD ( 1896-1940) <ul><li>Rapid success in the 20s with his novel This Side of Paradise (1921) and his Tales of the Jazz Age (1922), with which he became the official spokesman of the ‘Jazz Age’. </li></ul><ul><li>The Great Gatsby (1925): enthusiastic reviews, but soon afterwards his literary eclipse started. </li></ul><ul><li>He went to Hollywood to work as a scriptwriter, but did not find success and in 1940 died poor and forgotten. </li></ul><ul><li>Short stories: The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” or some of the Pat Hobby stories about his Hollywood failure. </li></ul>
  12. 12. FRANCIS SCOTT FITZGERALD ( 1896-1940) <ul><li>The Great Gatsby is his masterpiece, an excellent novel about the American Dream and the failure associated with success. </li></ul><ul><li>Through the eyes of Nick Carraway, the narrator, we see both the glamour and the moral ugliness of the twenties. </li></ul><ul><li>Gatsby is possibly a criminal, but also a true romantic, someone able to pursue a dream, even if it is impossible to achieve. </li></ul><ul><li>The novel combines symbolism and psychological realism in a way that has been described as a “symbolist tragedy”. </li></ul>
  13. 13. ERNEST HEMINGWAY (1899-1961) <ul><li>A very different kind of modernist. </li></ul><ul><li>Concise style </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Dramatic’ or ‘Objective’ point of view: perspective of an impartial observer who describes everything from the outside, without explanations or comments. </li></ul><ul><li>Hemingway says as little as possible, and he then lets the characters speak. Therefore, his use of dialogue becomes fundamental to understand both the action and the characters’ motives. </li></ul><ul><li>Iceberg technique (“There is seven-eighths of it under water for every part that shows”). </li></ul><ul><li>All these techniques are typically modernistic, because they put the reader in an uncomfortable position: he/she has to make an effort to guess what exactly is going on and what the implications and possible deeper meanings are. </li></ul>
  14. 14. ERNEST HEMINGWAY (1899-1961) <ul><li>Lived in Paris between 1921 and 1928 and this is the time when he wrote some of his best short stories (“Hills like White Elephants” and “The Killers” among them), collected in In Our Time and Men Without Women. </li></ul><ul><li>His experience in Spain was reflected in The Sun Also Rises (Fiesta) (1926). Death in the Afternoon (1932) and For Whom the Bells Toll (1940). </li></ul><ul><li>In these and his other novels and stories (like “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, A Farewell to Arms or “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber”) we see the development of the typical Hemingway hero: a stoic man of few words who may be sensitive but never shows it, and who frequently shows a misogynistic attitude. </li></ul><ul><li>He liked to put his heroes in situations between life and death (bullfighters, soldiers, hunters) where they would show their real self. </li></ul><ul><li>His last novel was The Old Man and the Sea (1952), after which he received the Nobel Prize. </li></ul><ul><li>Very popular, but the misogynistic attitude of some of his works has put Hemingway in an uncomfortable position in the American canon in these days of political correctness. </li></ul>
  15. 15. SHERWOOD ANDERSON (1876-1941) <ul><li>A precursor of Modernism. Considered by Faulkner “the father of [his] generation of writers”. </li></ul><ul><li>His best work is Winesburg, Ohio (1919), a series of interconnected short stories taking place in the same town and narrated by the same character. </li></ul><ul><li>Thematically it is part of a movement called the ‘Revolt from the Village’ which tried to show the many ways in which people were damaged by the narrowness of life in small-town America. </li></ul><ul><li>The book is also modernist because of its use of time, the importance of form over content and its emphasis on the problems of perception and communication. There isn’t really a plot, and instead the writer attempts to capture special and significant moments in the lives of the citizens of Winesburg, moments that are like windows into the true nature of a character (a concept similar to Joyce’s ‘epiphanies’). </li></ul>
  16. 16. JOHN STEINBECK (1902-1968) <ul><li>A late heir of the Naturalist movement, his work is a response to the Depression era after the 1929 Stock Market Crash. </li></ul><ul><li>The Grapes of Wrath (1939) is probably the book that has best pictured the spirit of the times. It’s another story of a trip to the west and a sweet-and-sour portrayal of the American Dream, a mixture of realism and deep concern about other human beings. </li></ul><ul><li>Also a Nobel Prize, other important works of Steinbeck are Of Mice and Men (1937) and East of Eden (1952). </li></ul><ul><li>Part of a movement called Proletarian Realism, to which JAMES AGEE (1909-1955) and MICHAEL GOLD (1896-1967) also belong. </li></ul>
  17. 17. SINCLAIR LEWIS (1885-1951) <ul><li>A socialist, his writing is more realistic than modernistic, but shows a new spirit: instead of portraying the typical realistic fight for life, his characters have everything they need from a material point of view, but they show a kind of spiritual dissatisfaction. </li></ul><ul><li>Main Street (1920) satirized monotonous, hypocritical small-town life. </li></ul><ul><li>Babbit (1922) is the story of a frustrated businessman. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1930, he became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Other writers <ul><li>THOMAS WOLFE (1900-1938), whose autobiographic ‘anti-novels’ were years ahead of his time; </li></ul><ul><li>HENRY MILLER (1891-1980), a big rebel whose ‘obscene’ novels, like Tropic of Cancer (1934), could not be published in the USA until the 60s, when he became a kind of guru for the ‘beats’ and ‘hippies’; </li></ul><ul><li>NATHANIEL WEST (1902-1940), whose Days of the Locust (1939) is an inversion of the American Dream set in Hollywood. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Other writers <ul><li>In the South, a movement called ‘The Fugitives’ (J, C. RANSOM, ALLEN TATE AND ROBERT PENN WARREN) criticized the business and commercial base of American society and praised the agrarian traditions of the Old South. </li></ul><ul><li>Also from the South, KATHERINE ANN PORTER (1894-1980) combined the false world of dreams and fantasies with the cruelty of real experience. In her works, tradition and the nostalgic longing for a romantic past create a suffocating atmosphere. </li></ul>