The Moderns 1900-1950

The Moderns
WWI 1914-1918:
A time of…
Great change
Increased cynicism
Questioning of authority
Loss of innocence
Disillusionment with tradition
The American Dream:
3 Central Ideas
1. America seen as a “new Eden”
2. Optimism, opportunity, and
3. Ultimate triumph of the individual
Crack in the World
 WWI and economic crash--damaged
ideals of American dream
 American literature shifting away from
New England
 New intellectual trends: Marxism,
psychoanalysis (Freud)
Shifts in Literature
 Stream of consciousness writing
 Examination of subconscious mind
 Questioning of free will
The Jazz Age: Here and
1919: prohibition
Bootleggers and the speakeasy
Flappers, jazz, gangsters
“Roaring Twenties” Fitzgerald as
 1920 women right to vote
 Many writers moving abroad: cheaper,
more exotic, more open
Grace Under Pressure
 New kind of American hero
 Ernest Hemingway: influenced literary
styles--plain, bare bones of truth and
new hero
 Hemingway hero: tough, courageous,
competitor, shows grace under
pressure--and, disillusioned
Modernist Poetry
 Am.poetry went into decline after
Whitman and Dickinson died.
 After 1910, poets began to explore
artistic life of Europe.
 Influenced by artists like Matisse and
Picasso--exploring new ways to rep.
Taking world of “appearances” and
violently rearranging to create more
truthful representation
 Wanting to get rid of national,
religious, and psych.symbols--thought
they were overused
 Instead, wanted to focus on the
emotional effects that objects can
 Concentration on the pure image to
carry the poem’s emotion
 Desire to get rid of artificial, pretty poetry in
exchange for the “raw power” of the image
Poetry in New England and
Some rejected “modernist” trends
Some stayed here
Plain, American speech--regional
American heartland, rougher stanzas,
looser lines (ie, Spoon River Anthology)
Harlem Renaissance
 African American culture found
expression in poetry
 Focus on unique contributions of
African Americans
 Based in rhythms of jazz and spirituals
 Lyrics known as the blues; diction
based on street talk
Poetic Voices of West and
 Poetry of the West became the
inspiration of the later “beat poets”-some conventional and some
 Voice of the South subtle, graceful,
and polished
American Dream: Revised
 Moderns not “optimistic” like Emerson,
but still saw importance of selfreliance and America as new Eden
 Ultimately experimenting boldly with
style and subject matter
 Seeking answers to--who are we?
Where are we going? What is our