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The Moderns – 1900-1950
Transcript of The Moderns – 1900-1950
A time of contrasts as the nation grows
Disillusionment with traditions that seem spiritually empty
Rejection of traditional themes and styles
Bold experimentation in all artistic areas
U.S. enters the war in 1917
Death toll further disillusions Americans
Magnificence of the
Empire State Building (1931)
Golden Gate Bridge (1937)
Hoover Dam (1936)
Out of the Great Depression came many great public services
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
First inaugural address,
Bridges, parks, libraries, and thousands of miles of roads
were funded by the New Deal's W.P.A.
F.D.R. was right; recovery arrives in the forties.
New England is no longer the literary center of the nation
Yoknapatawpha County, Miss.
Writers are now coming from all regions, bringing fresh perspectives to the literary canon
“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
Another group of writers become expatriates, preferring life on the French Riviera
Attractions of the Expatriate Lifestyle in France:
No Prohibition – drink all you want
Cheaper cost of living
More grace, more luxury
Seemed exotic and less stifling than America
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Old Man and the Sea
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Best known for essays and poems.
She coined the phrase,
"The Lost Generation"
The Beautiful and Damned
This Side of Paradise
The Great Gatsby
The Waste Land
All four are celebrated American writers on both continents
All four are drinking buddies with musicians like Cole Porter and artists like Pablo Picasso
Friendly competitors? More like "frenemies" – drinking buddies, total rivals.
Clearly, the rivalry improved the works of both men.
This environment leads to an explosion of creativity and cynicism about America
Still inspiring modern artists/directors
If you have two hours, it's worth a look...
The Great War
Whenever Richard Cory went downtown,
We people on the pavement looked at him.
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
– Edwin Arlington Robinson
Remember the tenets of the American Dream?
America = New Eden
Boundless resources and opportunities
No cap on progress
The independent, self-reliant person will always succeed
No longer true in the early part of the century...
and this is seen in the literary works of this era.
Explosion in art, music, writing
New appreciation for
Rally cry against racism
Seeds of Civil Rights Movement
James Weldon Johnson
One of the leaders of the Symbolist Movement in American poetry, using suggestive techniques to find new ways to represent reality
Peers who stayed in the U.S. include:
William Carlos Williams
Eliot's poems were the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical, Cats.
Desperation and suffering
of people during the
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore –
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over –
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
– Langston Hughes