MODERNISM (1920-1935) -Fragmentation as a reaction against classical patterns, conventions and tradition.It started before WWI, but it wasn't until afterwards that it developed. -Anti-historicist, rejects sequential time (non-cronological), absolute polarities and the division between past and present (simultaneity). -Elitist: a certain level of knowledge is required to understand this movement. -Cultural despair: society expected changes after WWI, but this didn’t happen and they are in chaos and despair, afraid of the unknown (repetitive and nightmarish circumstances). -Moral relativism: each person judges what is moral or not, there is not any absolute value. -It portrays the impact of technology: a mechanical movement will establish a new set of references. Nature wouldn’t be an issue any longer. -Fascination with chaos and irrationalism: no absolute truths hold and no one can rely on conventions any more, leading people to craziness and frustration. -They were obsessed with form (even in their lifestyles) and the objective is to create something new. New times need new forms. In poetry, images became very important. -The mythical method coined by T.S. Eliot and used to describe Joyce’s Ulysses portrays reality as something chaotic and crazy and we need a structure or device to combine those pieces of reality. It connects the present and the past, as in The Wasteland where we see symbols to connect reality with references to the Arthurian myth or the vision of London in Ulysses, a comparison between Dante’s Inferno and people going to work crossing a bridge. Modris Eiksteins-Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean alone in 1927 without stopping, appealing so much to Europeans. He did this trip just for the sake of doing it, he didn’t have any special purpose. He was like a war hero, with an immaterial intention. This woke up a new sensibility connected to old values: decorum, religion, nature, the good and moral life… He looked as a supernatural God-like being, which satisfied both the old and the modern worlds. The effects of war were discontent, radical ideas and people feeling cheated (spiritual crisis with no values to hold on to). Lindbergh’s act was something surprising and fresh. T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) American and British. From Harvard, he came to Oxford. He was interested in literature, anthropology, history, myths, primitive religions or rituals and he spoke Old Greek, Latin and Sanskrit. He won the Nobel Prize in 1948. He was part of the Bloomsbury circlewith Virginia Woolf. Hispoetry is a masterpiece of modernism:The Love Song of J. Alfred Profrock (1910), Gerontion (1920), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), Four Quartets (1945- his best book, the opposite of The Wasteland, harmonious humans-) and The Waste Land (1922). Tradition and the Individual Talent The importance of the past for new poetry: it was time to look back due to the sense of being stuck since nothing new was happening in art, it was paralysed. Modern artists didn’t improve the traditional ones. The past and the present existed in a simultaneous level. A new work of art is compared with the present art and the canon, the tradition. The author has to relate themselves to tradition. When a new piece of art is created the preceding tradition will also change: James Joyce’s Ulysses changed the way(s) we looked at Homer’s Odyssey. Stream of consciousness: no description or place, the assumption of coherent character is gone. The Wasteland (1922) Art is atemporal, so we see examples of different works. There is no setting and different voices narrate it (polyphony). Stream of consciousness effect: realistic attempt of showing how the human mind works, an imitation of the psychological processes of thinking, without any order or coherence, provoking a chaotic feeling on the reader. The initial quotation from the Greek is associated to a priestess who reads the future (oracle) and is a guide to the underworld. She has been granted immortality by Apollo, but because she forgot to ask for perpetual youth, she shrank into withered old age.The waste land is nothing but repetition. There isno rhyme because it is not the natural way of thinking: reality is something broken (fragmentation). Dante's allusion to the first level of Hell in Inferno. Sinners are there for not having a purpose in life, criticism to actual society. It echoed Joyce’s prose. Present civilisation is chaotic and irrational.
EDWARDIAN AND GEORGIAN LITERATURE (1901-1914) It described how life has changed in England because of the colonies mainly. In these years previous to the Great War income increased and new questions arose. Itdealt with the English countryside andlooked back in time, because since that moment they were looking at the urban life in literature. They tried to find the lost values of the 19th century.
Poets created bucolic scenes which seemed ideal. Walter De la Mare (1873-1956)-The Listeners The Traveller is a pilgrim or searcher coming to the house in the forest, some sort of castle where aristocracy dwelled. They are gone, only ghosts are left. It is the aristocratic past that has faded due to the rise of the middle-class. The alliteration in thelast lines of the poem (“s”) imitates a whisper or evokes silence. Homophony: “stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair” (Stair(case)/stare): it’s as if someone invisible would be staring at us. There is no final answer to the poem (ambiguity was very typical ofde la Mare). It seems that it is meant to make us doubt about what kind of reality it is. John Masefield (1878-1967)-Up on the Downs The savage tribes (Celtic) used to make rituals on the downs, which can also happen in 1917 England due to the war: “lungs choke”=gas. The kestrels represent the threat that came from the skies, and the mouse the potential victim. A superstitious savage ritual is going on. We have some reference to spirits/ghosts. The poet is trying to link the past and our violent instincts. The 3rd stanza moves from reality to imagination: the madness of war.
Edward Thomas (1878-1917)-As the Team’s Head-Brass He was from the outskirts of London and saw how the suburbs and all were changing London completely. He became very good friend of Robert Frost. He was a difficult person to deal with since he suffered from depressions and try to commit suicide in several occasions. /It is some sort of autobiographical poem (he didn’t go to war and was resentful about it) . He is witnessing a ploughman. The farmer is alone, there is no one to help him due to the war. A whole generation has been lost. War interrupts the cycle of life. The farmer keeps working the land because life goes on in spite of the war. The ploughing of the field means that things need to die so that others can be born. Fallen elm (dead soldiers), Ploughman (high rank person leading the troops), furrow (trench), clods (corpses in the trenches), stumbling team (soldiers). Robert Graves-Good-bye to All That (1929) Written after his experiences in WWI. He wanted to make a statement about what England was like before the war, the rural lifestyle of England at the beginning of the 20th century.
-Utilitarianism, practical purpose for everything: p.31: “my mother brought us up to be serious and to benefit humanity in some practical way”
-The original spirit of English: p. 34 “Having no Welsh blood in us, we felt little temptation to learn Welsh, still less to pretend ourselves Welsh, but knew that country as a quite ungeographical region”. “Wales has no history or geography”, he’s not obliged to learn them.
-Double Standards: p.31: center on the good, beautiful. “Two students entered… on rubbish heaps” and earnestness: p.33: “speak the truth and shame the devil!”
-Science & Progress: p.31: “my mother used to tell us stories about inventors and doctors… themselves” and Empire & colonialism: p.31: The Boer War.