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From Romanticism to Modernism

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CR Dobson

on 20 April 2014

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Transcript of From Romanticism to Modernism

From Romanticism to Modernism
Transcendentalism (1830-1860)
The Transcendental Movement occured during the Romantic Period and started with 19th-century American philosophers and writers. The Transcendentalists believed in the essential unity of all creation, the innate (from birth) goodness of humankind, and the supremacy of the
logic and experience
to understand the mysteries of life.

Some of the best known members of this period were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller. Together they helped give the United States its own literature. Through their writing and political activities, they fought for changes in church, state, and society. They contributed to the rise of freedom of religion and the abolition movement and to the formation of various utopian communities.

They were America's first Hippies! They attempted to create perfect communities where people worked together to provide for everyone else and not a higher government system.

"The Wasteland" by T.S. Eliot
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide
Red sails
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
The barges wash
Drifting logs
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of Dogs.
Weialala leia
Wallala leialala

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Born in San Francisco, CA

Attended Harvard University 1897-1899

Worked as a farmer, and writing professor

He wrote realistic poems about every day life using natural and concise language.

The rhymes of his poems were very natural sounding.

Winner of FOUR Pulitzer Prizes.

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Fireflies in the Garden

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Born in Dublin, Ireland
Poet, Playwright and Senator

Helped to "revive" Irish Literature and became one of the world's most important poets.

His early work was influenced by Romantic Period poets, but his later work fits into the Modern Period.

"The Young Man's Song"
I whispered, "I am too young,"
And then, "I am old enough";
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
"Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair,"
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

Oh, love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away,
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.

Naturalists, in their writings, described how we, humans, belong entirely in the order of nature and do not have souls. We're just smart animals who are controlled by our
DNA and our environment.

We inherit, via our DNA, personal traits and compulsive instincts, like hunger, to get "things", and to reproduce.

We are subject to the social and economic forces in the family, the class, and the environment into which we were born.

Modernism (1910-1965)
Modernism was revolt against the traditional forms of literature, art, and thought. Life is no longer like that. Why should literature be like that?

“How can we be the same after WW1?”

Poets began to shorten their poems to make them more concise. They used very obscure references and strong imagery.

They used language in ways nobody had before.
T.S. Eliot in The Wasteland breaks the normal flow of poetry with fragments of speech.
The Wasteland calls on the reader to piece together the poem like a puzzle.
The world of art changed too: Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp

Realism (~1820-1920)
Realist writing focused on the average, the commonplace, and the everyday over the less common aspects of life.

The characters, therefore, are usually of the middle class or (less frequently) the working class. They live through ordinary experiences of childhood, adolescence, love, marriage, parenthood and death.

They often find life rather dull and often unhappy, though it may be brightened by touches of beauty and joy.

Sometimes . . . only sometimes, they can be "heroes."

Early Realist: Jane Austen (
Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice
) Realist: Sinclair Lewis:
Main Street

"We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds...A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

A village in a country which is taking
pains to become altogether
standardized and pure, which aspires
to succeed Victorian England as the
chief mediocrity of the world, is no
longer merely provincial, no longer
downy and restful in its leaf-shadowed ignorance. It is a force seeking to conquer the earth... Sure of itself, it bullies other civilizations, as a traveling salesman in a brown derby conquers the wisdom of China and tacks advertisements of cigarettes over arches for centuries dedicate to the sayings of Confucius. Such a society functions admirably in the production of cheap automobiles, dollar watches, and safety razors. But it is not satisfied until the entire world also admits that the end and joyous purpose of living is to ride in flivvers, to make advertising-pictures of dollar watches, and in the twilight to sit talking not of love and courage but of the convenience of safety razors.
-Sinclair Lewis:
Main Street
"Hope is a slave, Despair is a freeman "

A vagabond between the East and West, Careless I greet the scourging and the rod ; I fear no terror any man may bring, Nor any god.

The clankless chains that bound me I have rent,
No more a slave to hope I cringe or cry ; Captives to Fate, men rear their prison walls, But free am I.

I tread where arrows press upon my path, I smile to see the danger and the dart ; My breast is bared to meet the slings of hate, But not my heart. I face the thunder and I face the rain,

I lift my head, defiance far I fling My feet are set, I face the autumn as I face the spring.

Around me, on the battle-fields of life, I see men fight and fail and crouch in prayer ; Aloft I stand unfettered, for I know

The freedom of despair (Edith Wharton: "The Freeman"
Elizabeth and Leicester
Beating oars
The stern was formed
A gilded shell
Red and gold
The brisk swell
Rippled both shores
South-west wind
Carried down stream
The peal of bells
White towers
Weialala leia
Wallala leialala
Eliot uses obscure references from Western Literature and Eastern religions to tell a story similar to the of "The Holy Grail." This poem also works to describe the state of British society. This poem, for most people, can only be understood with explanatory footnotes.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The Second Coming
Born in Hutchinson, Kansas USA

PhD University of Iowa 1954

He was a pacifist.

Traveling Through the Dark
(1963) was his first published book of poetry. He was 48!

That book won the National Book Award in 1963.

He wrote about every day, ordinary life.

William Stafford (1914 -1983)
Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

Traveling through the Dark
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Next Monday. . .
Read the Maya Angelou and Margaret Atwood poems.

Review the Wallace Stevens and Langston Hughes poems. We'll talk about them too!
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