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Part IX

20th century literature

Modernism

20 century literature
th

period of great artistic change


dominated by
the impact of two world wars
the artistic concerns of modernism (which affected

both themes and methods of writing).

I.

Historical Background
II. Modernism

I. Historical Background
The

First World War was usually regarded as


the watershed( ) in English history, for it
had hastened radical changes in every field of
English society.
But the changes started long before the war.

1. The First World War


capitalism

came into its monopoly stage in

Britain
the sharpened contradictions between
socialized production and the private ownership
caused frequent
economic depressions
mass unemployment
greatly slowed down the speed of the British

economic development.

But

in the same period, Germany, Italy and


the United States grew very rapidly in their
industrial production.
Towards the end of the 19th century,
Germany and the United States had already
caught up with or even surpassed Britain in
the main fields of industry.

Having

lost her industrial supremacy, Britain


faced a severe challenge from Germany and
other newly-arisen imperialist countries for the
redivision of the world, which led to the
outbreak of the First World War (1914-1918).

2. The Boer War


1899-1902
waged

by the British imperialists to effect a


political and economic control over the Boer
Republics of South Africa
another example to mark the rapid decline of
the British Empire

The

fact that the forces of the most powerful


country on earth had great difficulty in
defeating the small and ill-equipped Boer
forces gave people something of the effect
similar to that of the Vietnam War in the
American sixties.

The

storm of World War I tremendously


weakened the British Empire.
For the first time, Britain became a debtor
nation, and London lost its position as the
financial center of the world.

The

postwar economic

dislocation and spiritual


disillusion produced a
profound impact upon the
British people.

3. The Second World War


The

Second World War marked the last


stage of the disintegration of the British
Empire.
Britain suffered heavy losses in the war.
thousands of people killed
the economy ruined.

4. Post-war
Most

of her colonies had been tempered


and awakened by the war.
Thus, right after the war, a powerful
movement for independence was rising.
India, the brightest jewel in the British
Crown, took the lead and won her
independence in 1947.

The

other colonies followed

suit in a quick succession.


Up

to 1970, Britain had lost

almost all her former


colonies.
The

once sun-never-set

Empire finally collapsed.

The

end of the British Empire enormously


lessened its power and influence over the
world.
The postwar adjustment to Britain's
changed position was hard and painful.

It

took almost twenty years for

most English people to really


understand and accept the fact
that England no longer stood at
the center of world affairs.

In

those years, the Labour and

Conservative governments replaced one


another without being able to discover a
new destiny to inspire and unite the people.

the

English people in the 1950s, and again in


the 1960s
discontented with the impotent ( )
government
launched a strong protest against government
bureaucracies and social injustices

However,

Britain has managed to pass the

most difficult period.


By

developing high-tech industries, Britain has

got a new footing( ) in her economy and


trade.

Britain

is still one of the major capitalist

countries in the world.


the introduction of the social welfare programs
class antagonism softened up to a certain degree
people's living conditions have been much

improved.

. Cultural Background
1.

New Theories and

Ideas
2.

Modernism

1. New Theories and Ideas


In

the second half of the 19th century and


the early decades of the 20th century, both
natural and social sciences had advanced in
an enormous way.

pessimism or determinism
The

rapid development of natural sciences


not only led to great gains in material
wealth, but also gave rise to all kinds of
pessimism or determinism, which became a
standard feature of late Victorian thought.
Naturalism is one of its reflections in
literature.

1)

Darwins theory of evolution


2) Einsteins theory of relativity
3) Sigmund Freuds analytical psychology
4) Karl Marx
5) Arthur Schopenhauer
6) Friedrich Nietzsche
7) Henry Bergsons irrational philosophy
8) Sartre's existentialism

1) Darwins theory of evolution


& Spencers Social Darwinism
exerted

a strong influence over the people's


thoughts
caused many to lose their religious faith

But

the social Darwinists, under the cover of


Survival of the Fittest, vehemently
advocated colonialism or jingoism, which
was
eulogized by Kipling
criticized by Conrad and Forster

Herbert Spencers Social


Darwinism
Herbert

applied Darwins evolutionary theory


to human society. Thats
1, Struggle for existence.
2, Survival of the fittest.
Herbert social Darwinism severed for the
Bourgeois class.

Utilitarianism(

/ ) and Social

Darwinism served for the Bourgeois class.


Darwins

evolutionary theory shattered the

Christian belief.

2) Einstein's theory of relativity


gave

a great momentum to the scientific


research
provided entirely new ideas to the concepts of
time and space

3) Sigmund Freuds analytical psychology

the

more important theory of the 20th century

drastically

altered our conception of human

nature in both life and literature

4) Karl Marx and


Friedrich Engels
put

forward the theory of scientific socialism

provides a guiding principle for the working people


inspires them to make dauntless fights for their own

emancipation

And

Marxist ideas about art and literature


have played an important role in literary
criticism.
In the meantime, the idealist philosophy had
a rampant growth.

5) Arthur Schopenhauer
( 1788-1860)
a

pessimistic philosopher
first started a rebellion against rationalism
then dominant philosophy in Europe
stressed the importance of will and intuition in
his The World as Will and Representation
( )

6) Friedrich Nietzsche
( 1844-1900)
inherited

the basic principles from


Schopenhauer
further sharpened the criticism of rationalism
by
advocating the doctrines of power and
superman
rejecting Christian morality completely.

God is dead
Nietzsche puts the statement "God is Dead" into the
mouth of a "madman" in The Gay Science
I

am looking for God! I am looking for God!


Where has God gone? he cried. I shall tell
you. We have killed him - you and I. We
are his murderers.

7) Henry Bergson(1859-1941)s
irrational philosophy
established

his irrational philosophy, which

put the emphasis on


creation
intuition
irrationality
unconsciousness

His

conceptions of life impulse and psychic


time made the Western idealist philosophy
afresh.
These irrationalist philosophers exerted
immense influences over the major
modernist writers in Britain.

8) Sartre's existentialism

carried the irrational philosophy


to an absurd extreme

touched upon the major


aspects of life in the Western
world

Existentialist idea
the

world was absurd, and the human


life was an agony.

The truth is that everyone is bored.
Others are Hell.

New Trends
existentialist

literature,

()
theatre of absurd, (
)
new novels, ( )
black humour, ( )

2. Modernism
The

movement known as English literary


modernism grew out of a general sense of
disillusionment with Victorian era attitudes of
certainty, conservatism, and objective truth.

the

earliest examples of the movement's


attitudes appeared in the mid to late
nineteenth century
literary modernism reached its peak
between the First and Second World Wars

The

first decades of the 20th century saw


several major works of modernism published,
including
the seminal short story collection Dubliners by

James Joyce
Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
the poetry and drama of William Butler Yeats

Important

novelists between the World Wars

included
Virginia Woolf
E. M. Forster
Evelyn Waugh
D. H. Lawrence

1) the rising of all kinds of literary


trends of modernism
Expressionism:

( )
Surrealism: ( )
Futurism: ( )
Dadaism: ( )
Imagism: ( )
streams of consciousness: (
, )

Modernism

also touched upon visual arts,


music, dance and the other fields of social
life.
Towards the 1920s,these trends converged
into a mighty torrent of modernist
movement, which swept across the whole
Europe and America.

The

major figures that were associated with


this movement were
Kafka
Picasso
Pound
Eliot
Joyce
Virginia Woolf
Modernism was somewhat curbed in the
1930s.

2. Characteristics
1)

Modernism marks a strong and


conscious break with the past.
It does not only reject history and society,
but also the moral, religious and cultural
values of the past.

2)

Modernism rose out of the skepticism and


disillusion of capitalism.
this made writers and artists search for new

ways to express their understanding of the


world and the human nature.

3)

Modernism emphasizes on the need to


move away from the public to the private,
from the objective to the subjective.

It

elevates the individual and the inner being


over the social being, prefers the subconscious to the self-conscious, and
stresses on passion and will over reason
and intellection, on dynamic visions over the
static images.

4)

The French symbolism heralded


modernism
appeared in the late, 19th century
became the forerunner of modernism

5)

The theoretical bases:


the irrational philosophy
the theory of psycho-analysis

6)

Modernism upholds a new view of time


by emphasizing the psychic time over the
chronological one.

It

maintains that the past, the present and


the future are one and exist at the same
time in the consciousness of individual as a
continuous: flow rather than a series of
separate moments.

7) The major themes of the modernist


literature are the
distorted
alienated
ill relationships
between
man and nature
man and society
man and man
man and himself

5)

Modernism is, in many ways, a reaction


against realism.
It rejects rationalism which is the theoretical
base of realism
it excludes from its major concern the
external, objective, material world which is
the only creative source of realism;

by

advocating a free experimentation on


new forms and new techniques in literary
creation, it casts away almost all the
traditional elements in literature like story,
plot, character, chronological narration, and
etc., which are essential to realism.

As

a result, the works created by the


modernist writers can often be labeled as
anti-novel, anti-poetry or anti-drama.

Stream of Consciousness
Stream

of Consciousness was a literary


technique in which a character's thoughts
are presented in the confusing, jumbled,
and inconsequential manner of real life
without any clarification by the author.
It's best known writers are Marcel Proust,
Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce.

Virginia Woolf
Virginia

Woolf was part of the Bloomsbury


Group, a group of philosophers, writers, and
artists who met in the Bloomsbury section of
London.
This group included many different types of
people such as John Maynard Keynes,
Lytton Stachey, and E.M. Forster.

Virginia

Woolf experimented with Stream of


Consciousness in her book such as Mrs.
Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and
The Waves (1931), all of which concern the
feelings brought on by common experiences.
She was a brilliant critic, some of which was
published in The Common Reader (1925).
She was mentally unstable, and in 1942, she
drowned herself.

Marcel Proust

Marcel

Proust was a French novelist who


wrote Remembrance of Things Past (1905),
which is probably one of the greatest novels
of the 20th century.
He wrote it after retiring from Parisian
society and living alone from 1907-1919.
It explores time, consciousness, and
memory, and it was extremely influential in
changing the way novels are written.

James Joyce

James

Joyce developed the Stream of


Consciousness style of writing by allowing
his readers to live in the minds of the
characters.
Born in Ireland in 1882, he continued to
write about Ireland for the rest of his life,
even though he had left.

He

wrote Ulysses (1922), an immensely


influential book, using the framework of the
Homer myth to create his own private
language.

He

took this a step further in Finnegans


Wake (1939), where he explored dream
consciousness.
He also wrote Dubliners (1914), and the
autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a
Young Man (1916) before dying in 1941.

MORE WRITERS
Yeats

(1965-1939)
Gide (1869-1951)
Stein (1874-1946)
Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
Rilke (1875-1926)
Thomas Mann (1875-1955)

Carl

Sandburg (1878-1967)
E. M. Forster (1879-1970)
Guillaume Apollinaire (18801918)
Kafka (1883-1924)
William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
H. D. (1886-1961)H.D.
T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

E.M. FORSTER
An

English novelist, Edwin Morgan Forster's


work concerned the differences between
truth and falsehood, culture and emotion,
and private and public life.

He

wrote
The Longest Journey (1907)

A Room with a View (1908)

Howards End (1910)


A Passage to India (1924)

Aspects of the Novel (1927)

Franz Kafka
German

writer born to controlling and


dominating Jewish parents.
He writings reflect his sense of seclusion, and
his inhibitions and shortcomings.
His writing is often surreal and nightmarish
with characters involved in impossible
situations.

His

works include
The Hunger Artist
The Trial
The Castle
Amerika
Metamorphosis

T.S. ELIOT
A

major twentieth century poet.


An American living in England, he used
modern styles to present classical and
traditional ideas.
He wrote Prufock and Other Observations
(1917), Ash Wednesday (1930), and Four
Quartets (1944).

His

most famous poem, The Waste Land


(1922), portrayed the chaos of modern life.
He was awarded the Noble Prize for
Literature in 1948.
After becoming a British subject, he wrote
many plays and poetical dramas before his
death in London in 1965.

William Butler Yeats


Irish

poet and dramatist.


He led the Celtic Renaissance and
cofounded Dublin's Irish Literary Theatre
(later the Abbey Theatre).
Using nationalism as his driving theme, he
wrote heavily on Irish legend in his early
poetry.

Later

his work matured as in The Wild


Swans at Coole (1917), Michael Robartes
and the Dancer (1922), The Tower (1928),
and Last Poems (1940).
He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in
1923.