Chapter Eight English Literature Between the
Two World Wars
1. An introduction of the general characteristics of the
2. Some influential writers
• William Butler Yeats (1865-1939);
• Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965)
• Virginal Woolf;
• David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930);
3. Terms: Stream of Consciousness, Imagism and
4. Difference between Modernism and Realism
5. Exercises.
The historical background
• Two world wars, an intervening介入 economic
depression of great severity严重, and the austerity苛
刻,节俭 of life in Britain following the second of
these wars help to explain the quality and direction
of English literature in the 20th century.
• The traditional values of Western civilization,
which the Victorians had only begun to
question, came to be questioned seriously by a
number of new writers, who saw society
breaking down around them.
• Traditional literary forms were often
discarded, and new ones succeeded one
another with bewildering rapidity, as
writers sought fresher ways of expressing
what they took to be new kinds of
experience, or experience seen in new
The features of literature
• 1. English poetry
• 2. English drama
• 3. English novels
• Two of the most remarkable poets of the
modern period combined tradition and
experiment in their work.
• The Irish writer William Butler Yeats was the
more traditional.
• The younger poet, T. S. Eliot, born in the
United States, achieved more immediate
acclaim with The Waste Land (1922), the most
famous poem of the early part of the century.
• Both Yeats and Eliot exercised enormous
influence on modern poets.
• After the flowering of English comedy in the last
decades of the 19th century, George Bernard
Shaw , in Ireland the founding of the Abbey
Theatre in Dublin in 1904 brought much lustre
to a whole series of Irish play wrights including
W.B.Yeats, Lady Gregory. Lennox Robinson, St.
John Ervine, and Sean O’ Casey.
• In the 1920s and 1930s, a rival to W. Somerset
Maugham in the field of popular comedies of
witty dialogue and in genious situation was Noel
Coward. T.S. Eliot, was possible the most
outstanding playwright.
• We may say that the 1920s were marked by the most
mature works of the three “modernist” novelists:
• D.H. Lawrence (with his Women in Love), James
Joyce (with his Ulysess) and Virginia Woolf (with her
Mrs. Dalloway, and To the Lighthouse).
• James Joyce related his Stream of Consciousness.
• D. H. Lawrence related his sense of the need for a
return from the complexities, over-intellectualism, and
cold materialism of modern life to the primitive;
unconscious springs of vitality of the race.
• Virginia Woolf was more resolute and thorough in her
insistence on taking up her stand in the minds of the
characters than most other novelists had been.
Some influential writers
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939);
Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965)
Virginal Woolf;
David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930);
• William Butler Yeats(1865-1939) was born into
an Anglo-Irish Protestant family in Dublin. He
was awarded Nobel Prize for literature. In his
romantic poetry, he exploited ancient Irish
traditions and then gradually developed a
powerfully honest, profound, and rich
poetic idiom, at its maturity in The Tower
《塔》 (1928) and The Winding Stair 《盘
旋的楼梯》 (1933).
His works’ characters
First stage:
The major themes are usually Celtic legends, local
folktales, or stories of the heroic age in Irish history,
Many of his early poems have a dreamy quality,
expressing melancholy, passive and self-indulgent
feelings. He is not only the great poet, but also the
dramatist, writing verse plays in most of the cases.
He wrote more than 20 plays in a stretch of 48 years.
Second stage : He disgust the bourgeois
philistinism 庸俗 soured his political optimism.
Later stage: in order to reflect “the deeps of the
mind”, he began experimenting with techniques
borrowed from the Japanese plays, such as the
use of masks, of ritualized actions, and of
symbolic languages together with the
combination of music and dance, in a certain
way, his experiments anticipated the abstract
movement of modern theater.
Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965)
First studied at Smith Academy in his
hometown, then at Harvard where he
concentrated his energies on studying
philosophy and logic. Then study in France,
Germany and Oxford. Editor of the The Egoist
and The Criterion. He rewarded the Nobel Prize
and the Order of Merit in 1948.
• Main works:
poem: 1915-1925
• Poems (many poems) 《诗集》
• Prufrock and Other Observations 《普罗夫洛
• The Waste Land 《荒原》(the most famous
poem, comparable to Wordsworth’s Lyrical
• Ash Wednesday 《灰色星期三》
• Four Quartets 《四个四重奏》
Murder in the Cathedral 《大教堂谋杀案》
• The Family Reunion 《全家重聚》
• The Cocktail Party 《鸡尾酒会》
• The Confidential Clerk 《机密职员》
T.S. Eliot’s artistic view
• Eliot’s primary goal in poetry is a search for
detachment,超然,独立 or impersonality.非个人
化 In his essay tradition and the Individual
Talent, 传统和个人天才Eliot writes that “the
emotion of art is impersonal”, “Poetry is not a
turning loose of emotion, but an escape from
emotion; it is not the expression of personality,
but an escape from personality’ the progress of
an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual
extinction 毁灭,of personality.”
Novelist--Virginia Woolf
• Her contribution to the life of British letters was
made both as a novelist and as a critic. She was also
attempting to explore the consciousness of her
characters, but she was not attempting to deal with
so many types of people and situations as James
Joyce was.
• In her books, she laid stress on the interior flow of
people’s experience in life rather than on the exterior
happenings. Her use of very long sentences, difficult
syntax and large vocabulary sometimes make her
books hard to read. In her books she developed her
own impressionistic technique for communicating
the inner life of her characters.
D. H. Lawrence Rainbow; Women in Love; Lady
Chatterley‘s Lover
2.Sons and Lovers
Contents: ignorant, drunken and brutish father
(Mr.Morel), the weary, frustrated mother (Mrs.Morel),
the intelligent and ambitious woman, tries to find
emotional fulfillment in her sons (Paul). she hopes her
sons should never became miners, they will be
educated to realize her ideals of success, happiness
and social respect. Paul is incapable of escaping the
overpowering emotional bond imposed by her mothers
love. (distorted relationship)
D.H. Lawrence‘s works’ features:
• (1) He interests in exploring the psychological
development, he thinks life impulse is man‘s instinct.
Any conscious oppression will cause distortion of the
individual‘s personality
(2) he makes a psychological exploration of human
relationships, especially those between men and
(3) He emphasizes that it‘s capitalist industrialization
that turn man into inhuman machines. And the desires
for power and money cause the alienation of human
James Joyce
1. His works’ scene: the same setting: Ireland,
especially Dublin,
the same subject: the Irish people and their life
2. Works: Ulysses: an account of man‘s life during one
3.Stream of consciousness: presents unspoken
materials directly from the psyche of the characters,
or make the characters tell their own inner thoughts
in monologues.
4. Araby (from Dubliners): a tale of the frustrated quest
for beauty
theme: the child lives not with his parents but
with an uncle and aunt, a symbol of that isolation
and lack of proper relation between parents and
His works’ characters:
He was one of the most prominent literary figures of
the first half of the 20th century.
He is regarded as the most prominent stream-ofconsciousness. He adopts a kind of mock-heroic style.
The essence of the mock-heroic lies in the application
of apparently inappropriate styles.
He achieves this mainly by elaborating his style into
parody, pastiche模仿作品, symbolic fantasy, and
narration by question and answer from an omniscient
Many critics think that Joyce is a great master of
innovation. His radical根本 experimentation实验
ranges from “stream-of -consciousness” to his
fantastic engagements with rhetoric, sentimental
romance, historical stylistics, counterpoint and
expressionist drama.
Some terms
Stream of Consciousness
Some terms- Stream of Consciousness, Imagism and
• Stream of consciousness:
• The narrative method of capturing and
representing the inner workings of a
character’s mind. Generally speaking
there are two levels of consciousness “the
speech level” and “the pre-speech level”.
The pre-speech of levels of consciousness
are not censored, not rationally controlled
or logically ordered.
• Modernism rose
out of skepticism and
disillusion of capitalism. The appalling
shock of the First world war severely
destroyed people’s faith in the Victorian
values; and the rise of the irrational
philosophy and new science greatly incited
writers to make new explorations on
human natures and human relationships.
The French symbolism, appearing in the
late of 19th century, heralded modernism.
• After the first world war, all kinds of literary trends
of modernism appeared: Expressionism, Surrealism,
Futurism, Dadaism, Imagism and Stream of
• Towards the 1920s, these trends converged into a
mighty torrent of modernist movement, which swept
across the whole Europe and America. The major
figures that were associated with this movement
were Kafka, Picasso, Pound, Webern, Eliot, Joyce
and Virginia Woolf. Modernism was somewhat
curbed in the 1930s.
• Imagism, poetic movement that flourished in
the us and England between 1909 and 1917.
The movement was led by the American poets
Ezra Pound and later Amy Lowell.
They placed primary reliance on the use of
precise, sharp images as a means of poetic
expression and stressed precision in the choice
of words, freedom in the choices of subject
matter and form, and the use of colloquial
language. Most of the imagist poets wrote in
free verse.
Difference between Modernism and
Modernism is a reaction against realism in
many aspects
(1)Modernism rejects rationalism,
which is the theoretical base of Realism.
(2)Modernism reflects the source of
Realism, i.e. the external, objective,
material world.
(3)Modernism rejects almost all the
traditional elements in literature
Some exercises
• ( c) 1. “The Vanity Fair” is a well-known part in
A. The Holy War
B. The life and Death of Mr.
• C. The Pilgrims Progress
D. Oliver Twist
• (D) 2. _______is D. H. Lawrence’s autobiographical novel.
• A. The White Peacock
B. The Trspasser
• C. The Rainbow
D. Sons and Lovers
• (C) 3. ________ is the first volume of Robert Frost. .
• A. Hamlet
B. The Scarlet Letter
• C. “A Boy’s Will”
D. young Goodman Brown
• (A) 4. The “iceberg” analogy is __________ style, which he had
been trying hard to get.
• A. Hemingway’s
B. Fitzgerald’s
• C. Ezra Pound’s
D. Eugene o’Neill
• (C) 5. Hardy’s novels are all _______ in date.
• A. Elizabethan
B. Modern
• C Victorian
D. Classical (A) 6. Washington
Irving was one of the first American writers to earn an
international reputation and regarded as “Father of
American _______”.
• A. short stories
B. drama
• C. poetry
C. literature
• (B) 7. In 1950, Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize
for the anti-racist __________.
• A. The Sound and the Fury.
B. Intruder in the Dust
• C. Go Down, Moses
D. Absalom, Absalom!.
• (A ) 8. The name of Browning is often associated with
the term: ____________, though it is not his invention.
A. “dramatic monologue”
B. “black humour”
C. “Wessex novels”
D. “Lake Poets”
• (C) 9. Most of Shaw’s plays are concerned with
political, economic, moral, or religious problems, and,
thus, can be termed as _________.
A. serious plays
B. tragedy plays
C. problem plays
D. comic plays
• (C) 10. The impact of Darwin’s evolutionary theory on
the American thought and the influence of the 19th
century French literature on the American men of
letters gave rise to yet another school of realism:
A. critic realism
B. romanticism
C. American naturalism
D. modernism
• (C ) 11.In the years preceding World War I,
nineteenth-century realism and _____ remained vital
forces in American Literature.
A. critic realism
B. romanticism
C. American naturalism
D. modernism
• (B ) 12. The best-selling American books in the first
decades of the twentieth century were ______.
A. novels B. historical romances C. poems D.
• (A ) 13. Although the form and direction of modern
American literature had clearly begun to emerge in the
first decades of the century, ______ stands as a great
dividing line between the nineteenth century and
contemporary America.
A. the First World War
B. the Second
World War
C. American Naturalism
D. American
• (C ) 14. The publication in 1922 of T. S. Eliot’s
_______, the most significant American poem of the
twentieth century, helped to establish a modern
tradition of literature rich with learning and allusive
thought. A. Prufrock and Other Observations
B. the
Sacred Wood
C. Waste Land
D. Murder in the
• (B). 15. Jazz music of the American __________---the most influential art form to originate in the United
States --- spread throughout the world.
A. White men B. Negro C. players D. workers
• (C ) 16.Frost employed the plain speech of rural
________ and preferred the short, traditional forms of
lyric and narrative.
A. New American
B. American
• C. New Englanders
D. Puritans
• (. C ) 17. In 1952, _______portrayed an old fisherman in the
Old Man and the Sea.
• A. William Faulkner
B. John Steinbeck
• C. Ernest Hemingway
D.Robert Frost
• (D ) 18.In the cluster of poems Whitman called
______________ he gave America its first genuine epic poem.
A. Voices of the Night.
B. the Song of Hiawatha
C. Ballads and Other Poems
D. Leaves of Grass
• (C ) 19. The range of __________’s poetry suggests not her
limited experiences but the power of her creativity and
A. H. W. Longfellow B. Walt Whitman C. Emily Dickinson
D. Robert Frost
• (A ) 20. The Gilded Age had already pointed towards
_______’s uneasy acceptance of the values of nineteencentury American society.
A. Mark Twain
B. Walt Whitman C. H. B. Stowe
Emily Dickinson

Chapter Eight English Literature Between the Two World Wars