American Literature: Introduction to the Modern Period


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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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American Literature: Introduction to the Modern Period

  1. 1. The Modern Period Challenging the American Dream 1914-1939
  2. 2. What Is Modernism? <ul><li>Modernism = bold new experimental styles and forms sweep the arts </li></ul><ul><li>(1914-1939) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Modernism reflects a loss of faith in traditional values and beliefs, including the American Dream </li></ul></ul>
  3. 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. 4. A Harsh Awakening <ul><li>World War I (1914–1918): destruction beyond belief </li></ul><ul><ul><li>-Over 300,000 die during the Battle at Verdun… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-20,000 in a single day at the River Somme… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-over 37 million casualties, including 15 million deaths over the course of the war </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Great Depression follows the 1929 crash of the New York stock market and lasts through the 1930s </li></ul>
  5. 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. 6. Cultural Changes <ul><ul><li>Painters such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso explore new ways to represent reality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The rise of Socialism directly opposes American system of capitalism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, changes the way we see ourselves </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Cultural Changes <ul><ul><li>The 1919 Prohibition law leads to bootlegging and ushers in the Jazz Age </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In 1920, women win the right to vote </li></ul></ul>© 2003-2004
  8. 8. Modern Poetry: The Harlem Renaissance <ul><li>Centered in Harlem, New York during the 1920s </li></ul><ul><li>Flowering of African American art, music and literature </li></ul><ul><li>The birth of Jazz music </li></ul><ul><li>Poets: Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay </li></ul>
  9. 9. Modern Poetry: Experiments with form <ul><ul><li>The image = central to poetry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>T. S. Eliot’s “Prufrock” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ezra Pound’s “In the Station of the Metro” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>William Carlos Williams “The Red Wheelbarrow” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Poets choose everyday words over flowery, sentimental language. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fragmentation and re-combination </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>e. e. cummings, T. S. Eliot </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Modern Fiction: <ul><li>“ The Lost Generation”: shell-shocked souls following World War I </li></ul><ul><li>Flawed heroes: honorable yet flawed, courageous yet disillusioned </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hemingway’s Nick Adams </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Stream of consciousness narration </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. More on Modern Fiction: <ul><ul><li>The impact of Ernest Hemingway: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The most lasting influence of any 20 th century writer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Journalistic style: objective, observational </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Short declarative sentences: “Aim to write one true sentence.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The “iceberg effect” </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Modern Poetry: Traditional Forms <ul><li>Robert Frost writes in traditional rhyme and meter against the modernist trend </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Writing poetry in free verse is like playing tennis without the net.” </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. What Still Remains <ul><li>American Modernists break new ground but keep some traditional ideas </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The ideal of self-reliance </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(just can’t get away from Emerson…) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Regardless of their experiments with literary form, writers continue to ask fundamental questions about the meaning and purpose of life </li></ul>