The Modern Age (1915

The Modern Age
Historical Background
• US rose to become a world power
politically and economically
• However, Roaring Twenties, the Great
Depression, WWI and WWII significantly
affected the mood of the American people
• America was becoming dominant, but
losing youthful innocence and brash
• Early 1900s saw a period of artistic
Historical Setting
• Before WWI (1912) began, there was a
great sense of optimism in US
– Numerous technological advances
– Sense of a promising future
• Still some social problems in US, but some
reform policies were in place
• Outbreak of WWI forced President
Woodrow Wilson to divert his attention
from US to Europe
World War I
Axis vs. Allies
• Originally, Pres. Wilson wanted US to
remain neutral (impossible)
– Lusitania sunk by Germans (128 Americans
• Machine gun and trench warfare causes
war to drag on for several years
• Submarine warfare ultimately led to US
• Many writers saw bloody battles including
Hemingway, E.E. Cummings, John Dos
Passos, which influenced what was written
Prosperity and Depression
• Period immediately following W W I was marked
by much unrest in US
– Prohibition
• Throughout 1920s, economy rebounded and
cities grew
Large, booming cities
Movie palaces throughout US
Radio arrived (so did Jazz)
Fads: raccoon coats, flagpole sitting, the Charleston
• 1929---Stock Market Crashed and
Depression set in
• President Hoover fails
• FDR elected President
• Circumstances began to improve by late
30s and early 40s, but never as good as
the Roaring Twenties
World War II
Axis vs. Allies (part 2)
• Twenty years after WWI ended, Germany
invaded Poland to begin WWII
• US again wanted to remain neutral
– Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941
– Allies defeat Nazi Germany and drop atomic
bombs on Japan
Birth of Modernism
• After W W I, most people lost sense of
optimism; felt uncertain about future and
• People were searching for new ideas
• While there was an increase in diverse
literature, modernists shared a common
– Capture modern life (fragmented)
• Omitted traditional forms of stories
(exposition, resolutions, etc..)
• Themes were implied, not stated (forced
readers to draw their own conclusions)
• Poetic movement (1909-1917)
• Poetry used clear expression, concrete
images, and language of everyday speech
• Early leader of this movement was Ezra
• Because many people were disillusioned
with life after W W I, many American
writers became expatriates
• Left US to live elsewhere (Paris)
• Gertrude Stein called them the “lost
– Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, Eliot
New Approaches
• Stream of Consciousness Technique
– Re-creating the natural thought flow of a
character (not necessarily linear)
– Ideas presented are done in a way that is
natural for the character (natural associations)
International Renown
• Nobel Prize for Literature
established in as
international award in
1901 by Swedish inventor
of dynamite, Alfred Nobel
• Sinclair Lewis was 1st
American to win it (1930)
• Other winners: Eugene
O’Neill; Pearl S. Buck (The
Good Earth); Faulkner;
Hemingway; Steinbeck
Harlem Renaissance
• 1921---rise of African
American writers
• Harlem, New York