20th Century Literature



hello and welcome back I'm dr. mark D Baldwin and today's lecture is on twentieth century literature today we're going to discuss the political social and philosophical elements that contributed to 20th century literature most of their marks and observations in this lecture can be applied to everything else we'll be reading in this perhaps the predominant climate of the early 20th century a climate that abdun flowed throughout the entire century and still exists in many quarters today is a profound disillusionment derived from the incongruity zhh between the expected 19th century ideals and the actualities of the post-world War one years the 19th century promises of scientific and material progress to remained in to a utopian ideal only resulted in a world war that left countless millions dead or devastated even the victorious were left to face the grim reality that humanity was closer to destroying them perfecting itself prior to World War one Edith Wharton the author of the brilliant novels the House of Mirth and the age of innocence prophetic Lea proclaimed that society's climate of innocence was terrifying in its hypocritical denial of the world's realities President Woodrow Wilson had envisioned an idealistic political social and moral utopia and the end of war in our time as he said from that speech of Wilson's Ernest Hemingway took in our time as the cynical and ironic title of his first work a collection of stories about brutalized and broken people the prevailing sense among both intellectuals and the general public was that everything had lost its meaning because society no longer adhered to a solid moral foundation or principles the realities of disillusionment meaninglessness corruption terror crime Philistine ISM and injustice are cast in novels and images of Hell such as Upton Sinclair's the jungle William Faulkner Sanctuary an F scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby one of the most influential yet overlooked and underrated thinkers and writers of the day was Sherwood Anderson his novel Winesburg Ohio brilliantly depicts the aforementioned mood attitude and disposition of early twentieth-century America the following remark by Anderson perfectly sums up the pathetically sad situation of broken illusions and shattered idealism that permeated the times one shudders at the thought of the meaninglessness of life he loves life so intensely the tears come into his eyes due to this political and social climate most modern American authors exhibited Anderson's schizophrenic sensibility their natures were primarily idealistic but their experiences had transformed them into hard-bitten and often cynical realists they at once embraced yet hated the power and progress of science and materialism perhaps Fitzgerald expressed that schizophrenic personality best in his insightful characterization of Jay Gatsby let's elaborate more on the specific characteristics of this period which has come to be known as the modern era as I've eluded before when we approach a work of art it helps to know some of the rudimentary aspects of the artists influences in context the artistic school of thought that contains and influences the artist where the artist is coming from so to speak well most of the author's will be studying for the rest of this course are to one degree or another modernists modernism is characterized by number one a rebellious spirit the Victorian world was no longer the old values were gone or exposed as false or hypocritical and so the feeling was that new values must be created number two the influence of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche he scorned the idea of getting a truth believing that there is no truth no reality no absolute all is relative and a matter of individual perception he believed in undecidable in life language and art the third characteristic of modernism is decadence which occurs when a form of something our lifestyle fashion civilization government etc has gone as far as it can and no one can think of another direction decadence stresses the invalidity of structure believing that there can be no such thing as a coherent truly workable design in nature or society thus revolution happens the fourth characteristic of modernism is its romantic legacy romanticism is concerned with the commonplace with natural simple material it seeks to find the absolute by transcending the actual it's ironic that the modernists like realists are drawn to the concrete and immediate but like romanticists they search for the ideal self-consciousness self-reliance and the imaginations power to create our almost obsessions of Romanticism the fifth characteristic of modernism was its radically new notions regarding the nature of consciousness froy noon posited that consciousness is multiple that the past is always present and coloring ones present reaction and then man is his memories in literature these ideas are manifested in Faulkner's stream of consciousness and Hemingway's iceberg principle a new kind of reality developed one preoccupied with the inner life the subjective the sixth characteristic of modernism was a new view of time time was seen not as a series of chronological moments in sequence but as a continuous flow in the consciousness of the individual with the already merging into the not yet a number 7 modernism also attacked the English system of utilitarianism which held that the value of an action or law or thing is measured according to how much pleasure it provides for the most people this philosophy undergirds the Democratic idea of the pursuit of happiness it was the dominant 19th century political and social formula modernism says quite simply that happiness cannot be pursued that when you seek it you aren't really living some themes in modernist literature include the breakdown of more relationships a radical dehumanization of the individual the disillusionment of war and a feeling of hopelessness about politics and society which led to alienation and romantic individualism as a result individuals had to construct their own private code of ethics to combat the feeling of rootlessness emptiness and sterility three more themes of modernist literature are a pervasive sense of disillusionment as a result of the incongruity between the expected and the real or actuality in the ideal the collapse in the belief in God and religion which also led to man's alienation from nature and ideals and an obsession with the self to the point that it was believed by many that God and death are quote actually states of ourselves that we've externalized in order to simplify our existence as the poet Rilke II posited it was a constant fight to keep the self intact and safe from demoralization the five elements of existentialism are number one the predominance of the absurd existentialist believe that there is nothing lasting or real no absolutes no final purpose or anything worth any effort individuals exist in a state of isolation and frustration number two the individuals focus should be on just being truth resides and striving toward in becoming people attain meaning in their lives not in stasis but rather in flux change enervates movement defines existentialist believe that people must face the dread of existence popularly known as angst the german word for anxiety or anguish dread is an awareness that anything is possible that insecurity is infinite if accepted dread destroys all faith in finite ends and prepares the individual for the infinite faith of positive nothingness the fourth characteristic of existentialism is that the existentialist must make conscious choices only through choosing do we define and construct our individuality one must choose not drift by choosing we become new cells when the absurdity of life is recognized the dread converted the choice made and responsibility assumed existence is felt as a value in itself finally the existentialist must make a commitment effort and accomplishment become the reasons to exist this idea is such as doctrine of engagement talk is cheap there is no individual reality except in deeds and actions I love starts wonderfully paradoxical Maxim freedom is responsibility Mull that one over awhile what you should do right now is start reading your texts take notes and do some research attempt to identify the elements of modernism and existentialism or lack thereof in what you're reading thanks for your attention and I'll see you next time

3 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *