20th Century

Revolutions in Art and Literature
General Mood of the Period
WW I and WW II caused widespread
destruction and disillusionment in Europe
Attitudes of artists changed – a surge of
creativity comes with a rejection of the art,
music, and literature of the previous
World War I
During WWI warfare
changes drastically
Gas warfare
Massive casualties
Machine guns
Trench Warfare
World War II
Europe struggles to recover
after WW I
Many begin to question
Europe’s right to colonize
distant lands
Poverty forces many to political
Fascist dictators take power –
most notably in Germany
WW II is an even more
destructive war that rages
throughout Europe, northern
Africa, China and Japan
Notable Artists
Pablo Picasso
Created a new style of
painting called
Objects are viewed
from different
How does this change
the artist’s message?
“It isn’t up to the painter to define the
symbols. Otherwise it would be better
if he wrote them out in so many words!
The public who look at the picture must
interpret the symbols as they
understand them.”[
Notable Artists
Igor Stravinsky
Ballet The Rite of
Spring used harsh
sounds, discord, and
primitive rhythms
Different from anything
ever heard before.
Listen to the two
examples. How would
you react?
Notable Artists
Ezra Pound
Founded a literary movement called
“Imagism,” which rejected the wordiness and
poetic diction of late 19th cent. poetry
The apparition of these faces in the crowd ;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Emphasis on “impressionistic” writing that
strays from traditional forms of narration.
Moves away from objective narration with
clear moral positions.
Laments a fragmented view of human
subjectivity, but still holds that art can provide
a sense of unity, coherence, and meaning.
No one perception of reality is correct, but we can
look to art for some degree of comfort
No comfort to be found in art.
Takes the ideas of modernism even
Important Terms
Impressionism – Recreation of an
experience without interpreting or
Symbolism – The use of objects or people
to represent larger concepts
New Classicism – Fashioning of new
literature from the most vital elements of
the past.
Katherine Mansfield
Impressionistic writer
– less concerned with
elements of plot,
complication, conflict,
and climax than with
creating an
impression of
character, mood, and
Traditional Plot
Does away with many of the formal conventions
of the short story (such as the introduction) to
produce a more subtle art form
Made use of “significant detail” or symbolic
objects and gestures, and carefully rendered
Frequently shifts from present to past
Suggests that the coincidences and the
unchangeable personalities of characters make
up reality
Virginia Woolf
Like many modernist
writers, Woolf is more
interested in the way life
becomes fiction than in
depicting life in fiction.
Woolf shows how we
each sift through
impressions of reality in
an attempt to make sense
of the world.
Ultimately, we each have
our own unique
impressions of the world.
A Room of One’s Own
Woolf invents the character of “Shakespeare’s
A woman with the same level of genius as
Shakespeare would lack the physical and
emotional space in which to create.
Repressing creative urges in order to become a
wife and mother would ultimately lead
Shakespeare’s sister to a state of misery.
In the end, she would kill herself in despair.
Joseph Conrad
Fiction often takes place in far
away and exotic locations
Examines issues of race and
Controversy: Is Conrad
European narrators of Heart of
Darkness and “The Lagoon”
view natives as primitive and
even monstrous
Questionable as to whether
Conrad’s fiction indicates the
existence of white racial
Conrad also shows the
disastrous effects of
colonialism and slave trade on
both natives and Europeans
What do I Look for in This Story?
Imagery and symbolism
Shift in point of view
Character development
D.H. Lawrence
Conflict in “The Rocking Horse
Winner” has clear
autobiographical overtones.
Lawrence’s mother sought to
elevate her son by instilling in
him artistic and intellectual
Thought that his mother tried
to create in her son everything
that her husband was not.
The polarities in Lawrence’s
upbringing created the sense
of conflict in his stories.
Background on “The Rocking
Horse Winner”
Lawrence condemned
materialism and
commercialism as
destructive forces
which freeze the heart
and eliminate the
spontaneity from life.
Structure of the Story
Lawrence uses elements of the
fairy tale, social satire, and
psychological study to criticize
the values of the upper-middle
He presents a demented
version of “Rumpelstilskin.”
Unlike the girl in this story, no
gnome shows up to save Paul
from his duty of generating
wealth. However, it is still the
calling out of a name that
ultimately resolves the conflict.
Freudian Theory
Conscious Mind – What you
are aware of at any particular
moment, your perceptions,
memories, thoughts, and
Preconscious – The memories
you are not at the moment
thinking about but can easily
bring to mind.
Unconscious – All things that
are not easily available to our
awareness (drives, instincts,
repressed memories).
Oedipal Complex
The first “love-object” for all of us is our mother.
We want her affection; she is at the center of our
A young boy eventually develops a sense of
rivalry with his father.
The boy eventually redirects desire for affection
to other girls and then women.
If this process is disrupted, it can send one into
an “Oedipal Crisis.” This is what seems to be
happening with Paul.
James Joyce
"I believe that in composing
my chapter of moral history
in exactly the way I have
composed it I have taken the
first step towards the
spiritual liberation of my
“Better pass boldly into that
other world, in the full glory
of some passion, than fade
and wither dismally with
One of three stories in Dubliners that features a first
person narration and a child as the protagonist.
Children in all three stories are victims of a more corrupt
adult world.
The narrator of “Araby” has idealized notions of romantic
love when he goes on a “quest” for his “lady in waiting.”
When he sees the Araby for what it is, he can no longer
believe in such fantasies.
Like all stories in Dubliners, “Araby” contains an
epiphany – a moment when a character comes to a
painful understanding about existence.
Important Symbols in “Araby”
The booth acts as a reverse confessional
in that the narrator leaves it more aware of
sin and therefore more corrupt.
Coin acts as a pitiful reminder of the
narrator’s foolishness. It is the object he
stares at when he has an epiphany about
his own corrupt and ridiculous nature.