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The Birth of American Modernism

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The Birth of American
Modernism
(1915-1945)
“World War I . . . destroyed faith in progress,
but it did more than that—it made clear to
perceptive thinkers . . . that violence
prowled underneath man’s apparent
harmony and rationality.”
--William E. Leuchtenburg, The Perils of
Prosperity
Definition
Robert Wohl – “Modernism is a response
by clusters of intellectuals and artists to
the converging processes of
industrialization”
 In Other Words…
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Modernism is the reaction of artists and
writers to the new society formed
because of industrialization.
Literary Modernism: 1915-1945
Aspects
-
-
high degree of experimentation.
characters most often alienated people searching
unsuccessfully for meaning and love in their lives
themes pulled from real life.
AFTER THE GREAT WAR
The devastation of World War I
brought about an end to the sense of
optimism that characterized the years
leading up to the war.
пЃ° This more negative, or realistic, view
of the world, and the technological
advances, gave birth to Modernism
пЃ°
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
Philosophy and Theory:
A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE
INTELLECTUAL CURRENTS
WHICH INFLUENCED
MODERNISM
Karl Marx (1818-1883) Marx felt that reality was determined by materialist cultures and
economics. He called for a social revolution.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) Darwin's theory of evolution and “survival of the fittest”
suggests that survival is determined by the ability to adapt. The Origin of the Species
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) Feels that traditional religions have been debunked by
physical and natural sciences and thus, that moral and ethical systems that arise from
traditional religions are illogical.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) Freud’s theories of the dynamic unconscious suggested that
humans are not fully aware of what they think or why they think it. His ideas proposed that
awareness existed in layers and that many thoughts occur "below the surface.”
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) Overturns Newtonian conceptions of Physics.
uncertain and we are ill-equipped observers.
The universe is
Major Influences
пЃ° WWI
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32 countries and claimed the lives of over 20 million people
new weapons b/c of technology
Signals an end to idealism and ushered in an era marked by
hedonism*, political corruption, and ruthless business practices
пЃ° The
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пЃ®
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Jazz Age / Roaring Twenties
“the greatest, gaudiest spree in history” (FSF)
Young people rebelling against past + tradition
Experimentation with fashion
Major Influences
пЃ° Prohibition (1920-1933)
пЃ®
пЃ®
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Alcohol was made illegal
Bootleggers= sold alcohol anyway
Speakeasies= where alcohol was served despite prohibition
пЃ° New Era for Women
пЃ®
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The right to vote (19th am.)
Flapper= “an emancipated young woman who embraced new
fashions and urban attitudes of the day”
More women working
Major Influences
пЃ° The Great Depression
пЃ®
пЃ®
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Stock Market crashed in 1929
Banks failed, businesses floundered, workers lost job; 25%
unemployed
Farmers ruined and went West to find work. Tough times. Not many
jobs and too many people.
пЃ° The New Deal (FDR)
пЃ®
New Deal programs: relief for the hungry and homeless, recovery
for agriculture and business, and various economic reforms to
prevent such a severe depression from occurring again.
Themes of Modern Literature
Collectivism versus individualism
пЃ° Disillusionment
пЃ° Violence and alienation
пЃ° Decadence and decay
пЃ° Loss and despair
пЃ° Breakdown of social norms and cultural
sureties
пЃ° Race and gender relations
пЃ° The American Dream
пЃ°
Theme of Alienation
пЃ°
Sense of alienation in
literature:
пЃ®
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The character belongs to a
“lost generation” (Gertrude
Stein)
The character suffers from a
“dissociation of
sensibility”—separation of
thought from feeling (T. S.
Eliot)
The character has “a
Dream deferred” (Langston
Hughes).
Valorization of the Individual
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Characters are heroic in the
face of a future they can’t
control.
Demonstrates the
uncertainty felt by
individuals living in this era.
Examples include Jay
Gatsby in The Great Gatsby,
Lt. Henry in A Farewell to
Arms, or George in Of Mice
and Men.
Literary Styles of Modernism
пЃ® Stream
of consciousness
narration: a narrative mode
which seeks to portray an
individual’s point of view by
giving the written equivalent of
the character’s thought
processes, either through loose
interior monologue or in
connection to action.
Juxtaposition
Two images that are otherwise not
commonly brought together appear side by
side or structurally close together, thereby
forcing the reader to stop and reconsider
the meaning of the text through the
contrasting images, ideas, motifs, etc.
 For example, “He was slouched alertly” is a
juxtaposition.
пЃ°
American Literary
Modernism:
MAJOR AUTHORS
T.S. Eliot (18881965), AmericanBritish poet and
literary critic, author
of Prufrock and Other
Observations (1917)
won numerous
awards and honors in
his lifetime, including
the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1948.
His early and
experimental poetical
works depict a bleak
and barren
soullessness, often in
spare yet finely
crafted modern
verse.The most
dominant literary
figure between the
two world wars.
Influential poet and
T.S. Eliot
Southern American
writer
William Faulkner
(1897-1962), one
of the 20th century's
most gifted novelists,
wrote for the movies
in part because he
could not make
enough money from
his novels and short
stories to support his
growing number of
dependants. The
author of such
acclaimed novels as
"The Sound and the
Fury" and "Absalom,
Absalom!"any works
center on the
mythical
Yoknapatawpha
county
William Faulkner
Iceberg Theory
ofliterature (oneeighth
Ernest Hemingway
(1899–1961)
Nobel Prize winner
Ernest Hemingway is
seen as one of the
great American 20th
century novelists,
and is known for
works like A Farewell
to Arms and The Old
Man and the
Sea.above water)
Spare, tight
journalistic prose
style
Objective, detached
point of view
Ernest Hemingway
Expatriate Author
Coined the term “Lost
Gertrude Stein
(1874–1946)
was an American
author and poet best
known for her
modernist writings,
extensive art
collecting and literary
salon in 1920s
Paris.eneration”
Patron of authors and
artists as well as
artistic innovator
“Rose is a rose is a
rose is a rose.”
Major works: Three
Lives (1909), The
Making of Americans
(1925)
Gertrude Stein
Focus on Jazz Age
and Great Depression
F. Scott Fitzgerald
(1896-1940),
American author
wrote The Great
Gatsby. Examination
of American
materialism
Exploration of the
American dream
Major works: The
Great Gatsby (1925),
Tender is the Night
(1934)
F. Scott Fitzgerald
John Ernst
Steinbeck, Jr.
(1902-1968)
was an
American author
of twenty-seven
books, including
sixteen novels,
six non-fiction
books, and five
collections of
short stories.
Ideal American Dream
Endless Opportunities— “New Eden”
 Progress—Life should keep getting
better and better
пЃ° The independent, self-reliant
individual will triumph
пЃ°
Characteristics of Modernism in American
Literature
Emphasis on bold experimentation in style
and form, reflecting the fragmentation of
society.
пЃ°
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Example—There is no resolution in “A Worn Path”
пЃ°
Rejection of traditional themes and
subjects. Loss of faith in religion and
society.
пЃ°
Sense of disillusionment and loss of faith in
the American Dream
пЃ®
Example—Nick and Gatsby from The Great Gatsby
Rejection of the ideal hero as infallible
in favor of a hero who is flawed and
disillusioned but shows “grace under
pressure.”
пЃ° Interest in the inner workings of the
human mind, (stream of
consciousness) sometimes expressed
through new narrative techniques.
пЃ°
пЃ®
Examples—Hurston, Hemingway
What is Today’s American Dream?
“American modernist writers both echoed
and challenged the American Dream.
They constituted a broader, more
resonant voice than ever before, resulting
in a second American renaissance. With
all the changes, however, writers
continued to ask fundamental questions
about the meaning and purpose of human
existence.”
Modernism in Art
пЃ°
Cubism:
cubВ·ism, Л€kyoНћoЛЊbizЙ™m/noun: cubism; noun: analytical cubism;
noun: synthetic cubism an early 20th-century style and movement in art,
especially painting, in which perspective with a single viewpoint was abandoned and
use was made of simple geometric shapes, interlocking planes, and, later, collage.
пЃ°
Dadaism:
Dada /Л€dЙ‘ЛђdЙ‘Лђ/ or Dadaism was an art movement of the
European avant-garde in the early 20th century. Many claim Dada began in Zurich,
Switzerland in 1916, spreading to Berlin shortly thereafter but the height of New York
Dada was the year before in 1915
пЃ°
Surrealism: surВ·reВ·alВ·ism [suh-ree-uh-liz-uhm]; noun a style of art
and literature developed principally in the 20th century which developed from dada
and stressing the subconscious or nonrational significance of imagery arrived at by
the exploitation of chance effects and unexpected juxtapositions.
пЃ°
Futurism:
fuВ·turВ·ism [fyoo-chuh-riz-uhm] noun 1. a style of the fine arts
developed originally by a group of Italian artists about 1910 in which forms derived
chiefly from cubism were used to represent rapid movement and dynamic motion.
Cubism
Dadaism
Duchamp
Surrealism
Dali
Magritte
Jackson Pollock
Futurism
Kandinsky
Giacomo Balla
Works Cited
пЃ°
American Art, The Phillips Collection, National Endowment for the Arts, July 27, 2012,
http://www.phillipscollection.org/research/american_art/learning.htm
пЃ°
Biography.com, В© 2014 Bio and the Bio logo are registered trademarks of A&E Television
Networks, LLC, July 27, 2012, http://www.biography.com/people#awesm=~oCheG9QhtZtX5I
пЃ°
The European Graduate School, Copyright © 1997–2012. European Graduate School EGS, July
27, 2012, http://www.egs.edu/library/william-faulkner/biography/
пЃ°
Literature Lab, Copyright В© 1995 - 2010 Pearson Education, July 27,
2012http://wps.pearsoncustom.com/pcp_mylitlab_1_master/37/9654/2471558.cw/index.html
пЃ°
Literature Network, Site Copyright © Jalic Inc. 2000 – 2014., July 27, 2012, http://www.onlineliterature.com/author_index.php.
пЃ°
Modern Art Timeline Part I (1870-1930), My Arty Factory, 2014, April 20, 2014,
http://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/timelines/modern_art_timeline.htm
пЃ°
Twentieth Century Design Movements, Visscom, Word Press blog, April 7, 2013, April 20, 2014,
http://visscom.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/20th-century-design-movements/
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