American Modernism
1919-1939 (roughly)
New York Armory Show
1913 – The New York Armory Show
introduces contemporary European
art to America.
Most controversial painting was
Marcel Duchamps Nude
Descending a Staircase. (pictured
(image taken from:
Fountain, Marcel Duchamp
The Great War, 1914-1919
1914: Archduke Francis Ferdinand is assassinated in
Sarajevo, after which the Austro-Hungarian
Government declares war on Serbia.
August, 1914: Germany declares war on Russia and
France; Great Britain declares war on Germany as
German troops invade Belgium. Japan also declares
war on Germany.
The Great War, 1914-1919
April 2, 1917: Saying that "the world must be made
safe for democracy," Wilson asks Congress to
declare war on Germany.
June 26, 1917: The Versailles Treaty was signed,
ending WWI
Hemingway: drove ambulance in Italy during WWI
EE Cummings: volunteer ambulance driver
Important works of 1915
T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Robert Frost, North of Boston
1922: Modernism’s Golden Year
Important works published in 1922:
James Joyce, Ulysses (the copies sent to the US were
burned because they were considered “obscene”)
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Elements of Modernism
Emphasis on bold experimentation in style & form,
which reflects the fragmentation of society
Rejection of traditional themes, subjects, & forms
Rejection of sentimentality & artificiality
Sense of disillusionment & loss of faith in
American dream
Elements of Modernism
Rejection of the ideal of the hero as infallible () in
favor of a hero who is flawed & disillusioned, but
shows “grace under pressure”
Interest in the inner workings of the mind
(especially new techniques: stream of
Definition: form of expression in which the world
of appearances is violently rearranged by artists
who seek a different and more truthful version of
Everyday version: Symbolists believed that art
should aim to capture more absolute truths which
could only be accessed by indirect methods. Thus,
they wrote in a highly metaphorical and suggestive
manner, endowing particular images or objects with
symbolic meaning
Manifesto: “The image is the thing!”
Images and Imagery alone can carry a poem’s
emotion and message
Imagist poets wanted to “rid poetry of its
prettiness, sentimentality, and artificiality,
concentrating instead on the raw power of the
image to communicate feeling and thought”
Ezra Pound:
2. Direct treatment of the “thing”
3. Use absolutely no word that does not contribute to
(From Pound, “A Retrospect”)
An Image: “that which presents an intellectual and
emotional complex in an instant of time”
“In a Station of the Metro”
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.