Modernism - Cobb Learning

Disillusion, Defiance & Discontent
Happening in the US:
Marked by 2 world wars, prosperity, and
worldwide depression
A period of artistic experimentation and
lasting literary achievement
Feeling of optimism before WWI
WWI – struggle between Allies and Central
Powers, machine guns
US involvement started with the German
sinking of the British Lusitania – Americans
were on board
Prosperity and Depression
Prohibition – led to bootlegging,
speakeasies, law breaking, and warfare
among gangs
Economy began to boom after 1921
Entertainment: Radio – then jazz, music,
movies – movie palaces, the Charleston
1929 – Great Depression
President Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated the
New Deal – ended the Depression
World War II
Began with the German invasion of Poland
Isolation – dominant mood in US after the
fall of France
US joined Allies after the Japanese bombing
of Pearl Harbor in 1941
Atomic bombing of 2 Japanese cities ended
Now peace and the atomic age!!!
What is Modernism?
Modernists experimented with a variety of new
approaches and techniques.
Common purpose: to capture the essence of
modern life in the both the form and content of
their work
In literature – used fragments, omitted
expositions, transitions, resolutions, and
In poetry – abandoned traditional forms and
meters for FREE VERSE
Themes – implied, created a sense of
uncertainty, and forced readers to draw their
own conclusions.
Who were the Modernists?
Gertrude Stein
Ezra Pound
T.S. Eliot
Ernest Hemingway
F. Scott Fitzgerald
William Faulkner
John Steinbeck
Sinclair Lewis
Known as the expatriates:
These writers were
unhappy after the war and
many settled in Paris where
they were influenced by
Gertrude Stein.
The Expatriates
Expatriate = an exile
“Lost generation” – Stein’s term
Saw very little in their civilization to
praise or even accept
Very pessimistic
Poetic movement of Modernism (1909-1917)
Led by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and Ezra Pound
Rebelled against sentimentality of 19th century
Used harsh, clear expressions, concrete
images, and everyday language
Imagists believed that imagery alone could
carry poem’s emotion and message.
a form of poetic expression in which
the writer violently rearranges the
world of appearances in order to seek
a different, more truthful version of
tried to portray the emotional effects
suggested by objects
Stream of Consciousness
More writers began using this between the
world wars.
Recreates the natural flow of a character’s
thoughts; imitates the moment-by-moment
flow of a character’s perceptions and
Landmark novel – James Joyce’s Ulysses
Also used by William Faulkner and Katherine
Anne Porter
E.E. Cummings – wordplay, unique
typography, special punctuation
William Carlos Williams – sought meaning
in American sights and sounds and used
informal, conversational speech
Wallace Stevens – elegant poetry that
explored the relationship between reality
and fiction
Marianne Moore – lines measured by
syllable counts, quotations, and quotations
Harlem Renaissance
1920s – 1930s
Began in 1921 with Countee Cullen’s “I Have a
Rendezvous with Life (with apologies to Alan
A time of artistic, musical, and literary creativity
for African Americans
Centered in the Harlem district of NYC
Produced great works of literature, the new
musical forms of jazz and the blues, and opened
the door for later African American writers
Harlem Renaissance
The American Dream
America is the new Eden: a land of
beauty, bounty, and unlimited
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald,
reflects both the promise and the
disappointment of this idea.
The American Dream
Optimism, justified by the everexpanding opportunity and abundance
that people expect of the U.S.,
embodies the American belief in
progress and the “pursuit of
The American Dream
The importance and ultimate triumph
of the individual – an independent,
self-reliant person – comprises the 3rd
“Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
–R. W. Emerson
The New American Hero
Introduced by Ernest Hemingway, he was a
man of action, a warrior, a tough competitor.
He has a code of honor, courage, and
Hero shows “grace under pressure.”
However, he’s completely disillusioned. He
believes unbeatable odds are ranged
against us all, so he recognizes and
snatches up the rare, good, rich moments
that life offers.
Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby
Voices of Modernism
“In a real dark night of the soul it is
always three o’clock in the morning.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
“No more war, no more plague, only
the dazed silence that follows the
ceasing of the heavy guns.”
– Katherine Ann Porter
“Everything is the same and everything
is different.” – Gertrude Stein
Any questions???
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