The Moderns: 1914-1939 Redefining the American Dream “Men travel faster now, but I do not know if they go to better things.” -Willa Cather Overview Life during the early part of the 20th Century was marked by tremendous change. Political Social Psychological Spiritual Each decade brought the new upheaval, and each upheaval required a new adjustment in attitude. During this period of time, look for answers to these questions: What is the American Dream? What happened to the American Dream in the early twentieth century? In what ways did modernism challenge tradition-especially in what people valued in art and literature? War Changes Everything World War I (the Great War) was one of the events that changed the American voice in fiction. The country lost its innocence Many Americans began to question authority (Modernist Movement) - Disillusionment with traditions that seemed to have become spiritually empty. The American Dream: Pursuit of a Promise American as a new Eden A belief in progress Triumph of the individual America as a New Eden America is a promised land of beauty, unlimited resources, and endless opportunities. -The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) 1925 - Great wealth and pursuit of pleasure had become ends in themselves for many people. - Gatsby was a self-made man whose wealth has mysterious & illegal origins. - His extravagant gestures are in pursuit of a dream. A Belief in Progress The American birthright in one of ever-expanding opportunity. Progress is a good thing. We can optimistically expect life to keep getting better & better. Triumph of the Individual The independent, self-reliant individual will triumph. Everything is possible for the person who places trust in his or her own powers and potential. Idea was championed by Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Trust the universe and trust yourself.” A Crack in the World: Breakdown of Beliefs and Traditions The devastation of WWI & the economic crash a decade later severely damaged the three tenets of the American Dream. Writers became skeptical of the New England Puritan tradition & the gentility that had been central to the literary ideal. Most writers came from New England, where American started but modernist writers came from the South, the Midwest, and the West. Two New Intellectual Theories or Movements Marxism Psychoanalysis Marxism and the Challenge to Free Enterprise Russia during WWI – Marxist revolution toppled & murdered the anointed ruler, the czar. Karl Marx’s socialistic beliefs powered the revolution in 1917. Karl Marx Believed… The capitalist system could not be fixed and had to be destroyed to make way for a classless society. All property would be owned by everyone as a community and people would receive equal benefits and rewards. Sounds great, right? However, they followed the mantra: “All men are equal, but some men are MORE equal than others.” Hence, Animal Farm Capitalism is Threatened Some Americans believed that certain elements of Marxism would provide much-needed rights to workers. Freud and the Unconscious Mind Vienna, Austria (1856-1939) Sigmund Freud, the found of psychoanalysis He said our actions were influenced by the subconscious New understanding of human sexuality and the role it plays in our unconscious thoughts. His beliefs left little room for humans to have free will. Unconscious Mind Continued… A literary result of this study of psychoanalysis was a narrative technique called stream of consciousness. Stories weren’t told chronologically Attempted to imitate the moment-by-moment flow of a character’s perception & memories James Joyce in Ulysses Katherine Anne Porter William Faulkner At Home and Abroad: The Jazz Age Prohibition- In 1919, the Constitution was amended to prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Prohibition Added the Following Words to Our Vocabulary… Bootlegger Speak-easy Cocktail Flapper Gangster Jazz F. Scott Fitzgerald gave the time period a new name: The Jazz Age The Jazz Age Continued… 1920- Women got the right to vote Gave women an opportunity to move into artistic, intellectual, and social circles. Expatriates Abroad Many American writers & artists left America to enjoy life to the fullest in Europe. Living was cheap in Paris, the French Riviera, and Italy Life was more exotic there They could drink alcohol freely American Expatriates were a hint that something had gone wrong with the American Dream American Expatriates F. Scott Fitzgerald (& wife Zelda) Ernest Hemingway Ezra Pound Gertrude Stein Grace Under Pressure: The New American Hero Ernest Hemingway was the most influential of the post-WWI writers. He strove for plain style; reduced literary style to the bare bones-reflects his past as a news reporter for the Kansas City Star Introduced a new kind of heroThe Hemingway Hero Hemingway Hero Man of action (warrior, tough competitor) Has a code of honor, courage, & endurance He shows “grace under pressure” He has thorough disillusionment-at the mysterious center of the universe lay nothing at all-this is Hemingway’s own philosophy. Belief in self: decency, bravery, competence, and skillfulness. Modern Voices in Poetry: A Dazzling Period of Experimentation The last traces of British influence were washed away and the American writers began a period of experimentation. Many writers went to Europe to soak up artistic influences there. Influenced by modernist artists like Matisse & Picasso Period of Experimentation Poets created works that invited new ways of seeing and thinking (Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, & E.E. Cummings) - Symbolism - Imagism Voices of American Character Many American poets rejected the revolution of modernism and stayed home in America. Their individual accents revealed the regional diversity and character of American life. Example: Robert Frost’s poems embodied “New England speech” and subjects. The Harlem Renaissance In the 1920s, a group of black poets focused on the unique contributions of African-American culture to America. Poetry based its rhythms on spirituals and jazz and blues based its diction on the street talk of the ghettos. Why is it called the Harlem Renaissance? Geographical center of the movement was in Harlem, a New York City neighborhood. People here were too long ignored, patronized, or otherwise shuffled to the margins of American art. When this poetry joined with music echoing from New Orleans, Memphis, & Chicago, it became part of the Jazz Age. The American Dream Revised Writers of this era experimented boldly with forms and subject matter. Also tried to find answers to the following questions: Who are we? Where are we going? What values should guide us on the search for our human identity? This echoes the philosophy of humanism in the European Renaissance.