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American Modernism

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Laura Abercrombie

on 19 October 2016

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Transcript of American Modernism

Differences between
the Pre-Modern World
and the Modern World
Characteristics of Modernism in American Literature
Sense of disillusionment and loss of faith in the American Dream
Rejection of the ideal hero as infallible in favor of a hero who is flawed and disillusioned but shows “grace under pressure.”
Interest in the inner workings of the human mind, (stream of consciousness) sometimes expressed through new narrative techniques.
Phases of Modernism
Early (1890 - 1920): Dadaism, Surrealism, Cubism

High (1920 – 1929): Modernist Classics, Experimentalism, Minimalism, Black modernism
Thirties (1930 – 1940): Socialist realism, proletarian novel, black modernism
Late Modernism (1940 - 1960): Modernism is canonized.

Post-Modernism (1960 - present): Radicalization of modernism or break with high modernism.
Characterized by imitation, employment or predominance of geometric shapes, such as triangles, rectangles, cubes and other solids.
Influenced by dream analysis in the unconscious mind -Overcoming the "real" with unconscious intention.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
... (more here).

Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
of a sort of emotional anemia.

And round about there is a rabble
Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor.
They shall inherit the earth.

In her is the end of breeding.
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.

She would like some one to speak to her,
And is almost afraid that I
will commit that indiscretion.
The Garden
Ezra Pound
a loosely coiled piece of yarn or thread wound on a reel
Simile. The first line shows that the woman is noble, but restricted in her social life
Kensington Gardens
The private gardens of Kensington Palace in London, England. The place of residence of the British Royal family.
one piece at a time; gradually
metaphor. Lines 3-4 show that the woman is gradually getting tired of her life and the elite ideals that govern her life.
lack of power, vigor, vitality, or colorfulness
Biblical Allusion
"Blessed are the meek
for they shall inherit the earth"
Lines 6-7 Pound is drawing attention to the differences between the classes; specifically lower class children and how they will be the next generation to take charge.
"In her is the end of breeding"
Illustrates the end of aristocratic privilege.
Line 8
"Her boredom is exquisite and excessive"
Line 9
illustrates her boredom living a sheltered, comfortable life. The young upper class are proof that being wealthy isn't always what it seems.
She would like some one to speak to her,
And is almost afraid that I
will commit that indiscretion.
Lines 10-12
The lonely woman is longing to speak to someone, but it is socially unacceptable to speak to anyone outside of her class.
radical shift in ideologies and cultural sensibilities evident in the art and literature of the post-World War I period.

Rejection of 19th century optimism.

Modernists presented an overall pessimistic picture of a culture in disarray.
What events in recent history have caused, as Virginia Woolf proclaimed, a fundamental change in human nature?
Modernism was as much
an artistic movement as
it was a literary movement
a sub-genre of Modernism
Poetry can be made purer by concentration on the precise, clear, unqualified image.
image alone can carry a poem's emotion and message
the conscious, deliberate dissociation and recombination of elements into a new artistic entity made self-sufficient by its rigorous architecture
In Poetry
Read "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

Remember to make marginal notes so you can add something meaningful to the discussion tomorrow.
Marxism - anti-capitalist school of thought based on the writings of scholar Karl Marx
Psychoanalysis - school of psychological study where emphasis is placed on dreams and studies of the subconscious. Based on the father of psychology - Sigmund Freud
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
by James Thurber

p. 625
Writers often exaggerate characters to drive a point home. Most of us will never be as dysfunctional as Walter or Prufrock, but we may recognize bits of their dilemmas in our own experiences. Both men are clearly suffering from some sort of mental or social dysfunction. Write an essay comparing the similarities between Walter Mitty and J. Alfred Prufrock, focusing on their physical characteristics, their social skills, their psychological states and the tone of their respective works. Draw a conclusion on the probability of their success in their respective world. Can they be productive, happy members of society, or will they become psychopaths, or worse?
psychoanalytic patients are invited to relate whatever comes into their minds during the analytic session, and not to censor their thoughts.
words and sounds from Mitty's real life become associated with elements of his daydreams.
What causes Mitty to lapse into each daydream? What decidedly unheroic event snaps him out of each episode?
James Thurber
American humorist
humor turned on the chaos of contemporary American life
described humor as, "a kind of emotional chaos told about calmly and quietly in retrospect."
Focused on the "little man" who cannot assert himself in a confusing world where women seem surer of their way.
Prufrock (p. 663) and Mitty (p. 625) are two representatives of the "modern" man. Write an essay in which you contrast them to Ben Franklin's "self-made man", and the characteristics of the Romantic hero.
Why does he daydream so much? Do you think he's been daydreaming all his life? If not, when do you think it started?
Have you ever had a "Mitty Moment"?
What is "manliness"?
Major Influences
Emphasis on bold experimentation in style and form, reflecting the fragmentation of society.
Rejection of traditional themes and subjects. Loss of faith in religion and society.
Three Tenets of Imagism
1. Direct treatment of the “thing," whether subjective or objective.
2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome. i.e. come up with new rythms
Ezra Pound
William Carlos
T.S. Eliot
WWI - "the war to end all wars"
Cigarette papers datebook and tobacco pouch
Ought to be like painting
And literature
A hairless head
Eyes straight
A flat nose a plane
On the forehead
My portrait
My heart beats
It's an alarm clock
In the mirror I'm full length
My head smokes
Still Life-Portrait
Pierre Reverdy
studied under Ezra Pound
The Wasteland

considered the most influential book of poetry of the 20th century; heavily influenced Fitzgerald's
The Great Gatsby
Thomas Stearns Eliot, also called T.S.Eliot was born in USA and he died in London, England.
T.S.Eliot was an American poet and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. His Most popular poem is "The love song of J.Alfred Prufrock" (1915). This one is seen as a master piece of Modernism movement.
Can you identify with him?
Have you ever experienced a Prufrockian moment?
Can you sympathize with Prufrock?
Can also mean "room" or "habitation"
to understand this poem we must spend some time in each "room"
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
This Is Just To Say
William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
I have (verb)
the (noun)
that were (prepositional phrase)

and which
you were probably
(gerund phrase)

Forgive me
(pronoun)were (adjective)
so (adjective)
and so (adjective)
Create a "This is Just to Say" Imitation Poem
a poem where a character speaks directly to one or more listeners
Try this:
Based on the examples of Prufrock and Mitty, what is Thurber and Eliot's definition of "modern manhood"?
brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance
Allusions usually come from bible, mythology, Shakespeare
is more an "average Joe"; a normal person with realistic problems.
not god-like, or extra-strong; do not have any type of special powers or abilities
Dealing with problems that everyone encounters.
personal or internal conflicts,
philosophical quests for knowledge or self-discovery,
journeys toward self-fulfillment or happiness,
even quests involving the acceptance of a family member.
The Modern Hero
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