English Literature in the 20-30’s of the XX c.
The century is characterized by great diversity of artistic values &
methods. This age had a great impact on the literary process. Variety of
social, ethic & aesthetic attitudes. New achievements in science have their
impact on literature. Literature absorbs & transforms the material of their
V The First World War
V Russian Revolution
V Freud’s psychoanalysis
V Bergson’s philosophy of subjective idealism
V Einstein’s theory of relativity
V Existentialists thought
V Economic crises 1919-1921 & consequent upheaval of social movement
V Marxist ideology
V Strike 1926
All these factors lead to literature of social problematics. There
existed three trends: critical realism, beginning of social realism,
modernism. The writers revolutionized, changed literary form, as well as
continued the traditional forms. This inter… is a distinctive feature of
the XX c. English literature reflected Britain’s new position in the world
affairs. By the end of the XIX Victorian tradition began to deteriorate.
The desire to liberate art & literature from the contents of the Victorian
society. Thus, criticism is the dominant mood in the beginning of the XX c.
Criticism took different forms. Some of them – modernist, others –
spiritual exploiters. Artist’s duty was to reflect truly thoughts of
people. Realists in the beginning of the XX – Hardy, Galsworthy, Shaw,
Wells, Conrad, Mansfield, Bennett, etc.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
He introduced intellectual play in the English theatre. He was much
influenced by Ibsen. “In 1889 British stage came into collision with
Norwegian giant Ibsen. He passed as a tornado & left nothing but ruin.”
Everybody wanted to create something like Ibsen. Shaw also experienced
Marx’s influence especially “Das Kapital”. The society was in crisis. The
article “The Quintessence of Ibsentism”. Here he underlines his belief that
the real slavery of today is the slavery to ideas of goodness. Ibsen was
accused of being immoral. But it implies the conduct that doesn’t conform
to current ideals. The spirit of is constantly outgrowing his moral ideals
& that is why conformity to those ideals produces results not less tragic
than thoughtless violation of them. The main effect of Ibsen’s plays on
public is that his plays stress the importance of being always prepared to
act immorally. He insists that living will, humanistic choice are more
important than abstract law, abstract moral norms. Ibsen: “The Doll’s
House” let everybody refuse to sacrifice. There is no formula how to
English drama of the passed years was centered on some imaginary event.
Ibsen did not write about accidents, he wrote about “slice of life”(life
experience). He introduced open play – a play that has no end (if you show
a slice of life you obviously have open play). Shaw objected “art for art’s
sake”. It means only money’s sake. Every great artist has a message to
communicate. His role is to interpret life, to create mind. All art is
didactic. “Heartbreak House” reflects the state of Europe before the war.
George Herbert Wells (1866-1946)
A novel was also developing. In the beginning – a time of crisis for
English novel. The XIX model was not acceptable any more. The novel of the
past years developed to describe a social hierarchy. In the beginning of
the century the dominant belief was that the Victorian society fell apart.
Wells was attempting to escape the traditional novel forms. The novel was
seen as a means to create future.
His lecture – “The Contemporary Novel”.
Wells was a very prolific writer. He wrote more than 100 books, he is
best known for his science fiction. He had a very definite aim – political
& social. He was trying to combine critical analysis of present
civilization to the picture what it might be in future. He believed in
science. But he understood that it can be dangerous because the power for
destruction is huge.
“The War of the Worlds”. He was considered utopiographer. To build
utopic they needed to destroy the relics of the past – class distinction
(unenlightenment). He analyzed the feelings of the present in the life of
“Ann Veronica: A Modern Love Story” depicts the problem of emancipation.
The novel was written as a reaction to eugenics movement. He affirmed the
need of gifted individuals to find the appropriate patterns & the choice
must not be constrained by any social restrictions.
“Tono-Bungay” is a novel about the life of gentry in the rural England.
It combines science fiction & realistic novel. Bladesover – a place, where
George Pondervo (the main character) grew up. It becomes a symbol of
dominant influence of the past models of life. The novel is episodic in
form, doesn’t have classical structure. Wells was the first person who
ushered in English literature the theme of lost generation.
“Mr. Britling Sees It Through”(1916) was called by him “the history of
his own concern”. The responsibility of everyone for the war. It is
autobiographical. Tried to write about the evolution of consciousness of
his contemporaries. Concentrates on the inner life of his heroes. Fantasy &
reality mingles here. As to the reasons of the war – he brings his heroes
to the conclusion that wars are inherited in human nature. He started as an
optimistic liberalist but as he lived on he was very much disappointed.
“You Fools” is his last word to humanity.
* * *
There are many novels & poetry about war. These writers are known as
“lost generation” writers. The term was introduced by Gertrude Stein. She
uses it metaphorically: old values & beliefs were lost in the war but
unfortunately new moral values were not formed yet. Majority of these
writers went through the war themselves.
This was a certain tendency in poetry – Trench poetry. They wrote about
war. Young people who served as soldiers expressed their outcry: Wilfred
Owen ”Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”, Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac
Rosenberg. Many of the poems have pacifist character. They were among the
first to create the true picture of trench life. They gave rather
naturalistic pictures, the imagery was very vivid & appalling, scenes of
massacre, they wrote about the smell of the corpses, heavy job, gas
attacks, deaths of young & promising people. They created the image of war
as very ugly & senseless deed. Other writers responded to that huge
The classical example of novel about lost generation is “The Death of a
Hero” by R. Aldington.
Richard Aldington (1892-1962)
He started as a poet close to decadence, aestheticism, he belonged to
imagist poets (formalism). He published “Old & New Images”- his first
collection of poems. He propagated the doctrine escapism – movement to
escape in to the world of beauty (in Ellinism) from the ugliness of the
world. This ideal world was shattered by the WWI. He came from it another
man, he broke with imagists & continued to work in realistic trend.
In 1929 “The Death of a Hero” was published. The novel was started after
the war but had not been completed until 15 years later. It’s a social
novel disclosing tragic consequence & reasons of war. He made readers see
that the war was inevitable. But the protagonist tries to find the answer
for the question – who is responsible for that? Everybody was! Everybody is
guilty for the rivers of spilt human blood. This book is a cry for
redemption for the writer.
It is a novel of big generalization. There are many autobiographical
touches in the book. He starts farther in the war to unmask the hypocrisy
of the English society, respected English families. Aldington wants to show
that this is a pack of lies that the war is a noble deed, a salvation. He
tries to show that lies started much earlier. His ideals are truth &
beauty. Aldington says that this generation was lost before the war
started. War was not the source of the tragedy but rather result of it.
The life story of George Winterborne is given in a reverse order. We see
Winterborne family in which all relations are based on deceit & lies. Later
we see George at school where he is supposed to develop into a strong &
aggressive individual, the defender of imperialism. He tries to escape from
the influence of society & turns to art in search of his place under the
sun. He moves to London but among “intellectual” people he found only
hypocrisy. He is inherently lonely, his ideas of truth & beauty are
frustrated by snobs, who pretended to be leaders of artistic movement. He
sees all their cynicism. In that period of his London life he still shows
his early tendency to resist to circumstances. He expresses his
disillusionment in angry talks but he cannot achieve peace. He remains
Much is said about his love because love was the only harbour for other
“lost generation” heroes. It is not so for G.Winterborne. These relations
are coloured with cynicism (realization of Freud’s ideas of free love
between George’s wife & her lover). When he tried to put these ideas into
practice, he faced with constant quarrels & was eventually turned down by
both his women. Then the war starts. He volunteers to the front. War
becomes a period of his maturity. He finds himself side by side with common
soldiers & this confrontation with simple people makes him aware of real
human values – those of courage, friendship, support. Nothing can be more
precious than pure trust in man. Life in the trenches makes him think about
life in general & he started to ask questions. How does it happen that
government finds huge amount of money to kill Germans in the war but cannot
find it to fight poverty in London. He becomes aware of social
contradiction & antagonism. He thought that social hostility broke through
in the outburst of hatred. He still feels very much lonely & isolated. He
feels that he differs from others, he is very much of an individual soul.
He doesn’t belong to the soldiers, their roughness makes him feel very
uncomfortable. He is completely lost. With all these problems he doesn’t
see any way out but to terminate his life by his own free will (he commits
a suicide). By all the narration Aldington makes us see that this way is
the logical ending for the person who was lost before the war started.
It is a sarcastic book. Aldington was eager to tell the truth about the
society openly. But it was impossible to overcome individualism, the author
is not objective, he shows the whole range of feelings. That’s why the end
of the book is so bitter & hopeless. The title itself is very sarcastic.
His death is also a symbol how senseless the war is, it’s just a torture.
His satire has many shades, but also a definite target & purpose. Sometimes
it reminds Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” because of the social character of
satire. “Death of a Hero” is an absolutely disillusioned novel. Aldington
called this book “a jazz novel”. This jazz effect is achieved by
kaleidoscopic change of contrasted images. The novel is characterized by
multitude of emotional states. The style is rather nervous. He is easily
overcome by despair & negation, carried to the very extreme. These feelings
are the features of the lost generation people. “The Death of a Hero” is
the first big & most successful of all his works. His other novels are:
“All Men Are Enemies”
All are about those people who came back from the war alive but still
couldn’t find their place in life. The main characters are akin to George
Winterborne. The critics say that Aldington predominantly is the writer of
one theme & one hero, & that he just treats this topic in different
He also wrote some critical works on D. H. Lawrence, & other writings.
He died in 1962.
The word “modern” means “up-to-date”. Critics & historians used it to
denote roughly the first half of the XX century. The representatives of
this movement were anxious to set themselves apart from the previous
generations. They totally rejected their predecessors. The term was
suggested by the authors themselves. The difference between past & present
tradition is qualitative. Modernist writers clearly defined the borderline
between Victorian age & modernism: in 1910 – the death of king Edward & the
first post-impressionist exhibition in London (Virginia Woolf), in 1915 –
the first year of World War I (D. H. Lawrence). They had a deep conviction
that modern experience is a unique one. They tried to point the change in
modernism. This change was – massive disillusionment, destruction of faith
in a number of basic social & moral principles, which laid the foundation
of Western civilization. This change was to some degree intellectual as the
result of late XIX theories & discoveries.
Karl Marx “Das Kapital”. He shaped the imperialistic ideology, he showed
it was not the pattern of progress. He believed that the world would not be
dominated by enlightened bourgeoisie. The struggle is inevitable.
Charles Darwin “On Origin of Species”(1859) & “The Descent of
Man”(1871). A human being was placed in the animal world. The forces that
determine human behaviour are not of intellect & reason but is determined
by the need of physical survival.
James Frazer’s “The Golden Bough”(1890-1915) showed similarities between
primitive & civilized cultures. The primitive tribes appeared to be not so
savage as they seemed to be. They were just like the civilized ones.
Nietzsche’s “Birth of Tragedy”. In this book he exposes dark sides of
human psyche, glorified the belief in ancient heroic philosophers.
Max Planck’s “Quantum Theory of Atomic & Subatomic Particles”. This
model of discreet beats of energy behaving in apparently unpredictable ways
seize the imagination of people so much that they extrapolated it beyond
the limits of physics. They believed that human behaviour was also chaotic,
disorderly & unpredictable.
Freud’s “Interpretation of Dream”. This work created a new model of
human personality itself as a complex, multilayed & governed by irrational
& unconscious survival of fantasies.
These theories were in fact not very new they were known in the XIX but
in XIX they never destroyed the general principles & ideas.
Modern writers after the WWI found themselves in so-called “empty
world”. Their world was deprived of its stability. Nothing can be taken for
granted. They didn’t believe that life they were living. Being
disillusioned & contemplating the society & cosmos most of them looked
within themselves for the principles of order. They turned to eternal
things. For that matter we see modern literature being pre-occupied with
its own self, process of perception, nature of consciousness. In its
extreme subjectivity modern literature went parallelly with other modern
arts (e.g. painting).
The main feature – subjectivity & self-interest. Modernist aesthetics
was formed under the influence of French symbolist poets :
Their aim was to capture the most perishable of personal experience in
open-ended & essentially private symbols, to express the inexpressible, to
express the slightest movements of the soul, or at least evoke it subtly if
not express, create the atmosphere of the soul. The symbolist concentration
upon single moments of individual perception. Life in their reproduction
was reduced to small fragments of experience. This fragmentation influenced
not only composition of the work but also the character. The character was
disassembled in fragmentary pieces & these pieces of human character were
not held together by any theory of human type, like a collagé,
juxtaposition – all transitions are removed. You just put the fragments
together. The widely used technique “stream of consciousness” takes the
form from a fluid associations, often illogical moment to moment sequence
of ideas, feelings & impressions of a single mind. Traditional literary
forms & genres merged & overlapped. The introduction of poetry into prose
became possible, imagery characteristic of poetry – into prosaic text. The
forms of the past were also employed but to produce the satirical effect.
An equally important principle – “the stream of unconsciousness” – the
use of irrational logic of dreams & fantasies, denies ordinary logic
(“exhausted rationality”). They employed the shadowy structure of dream.
The idea “time & space” didn’t exist & the imagination was only slightly
grounded in reality but generally it created new patterns by combining
previous experiences, etc.
The authors employed myth very much as a kind of collective dream.
Modernist’s myth was stripped of its religious & magical associations.
Joyce’s “Ulysses” is based on the ground of Homer’s ”Odyssey”. Eliot said:
“In using the myth, in manipulating the contentious parallel between
contemporaniety & antiquity Mr. Joyce is pursuing the method which others
must persue after him. It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of
giving a shape & significance to an immense panorama of futility & anarchy
which is contemporary history”. Myth is the way of organizing history. The
writers’ quest for order lead to their preoccupation with the artist
himself & with the artistic process. The imaginary character stood for the
Marsel Proust “Remembrance of the Things Past”
Lawrence “Sons & Lovers”
Joyce “The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”
We can’t say that the artist became modernists’ hero. Not all writers of
that period were modernists. There was the co-existence of different
James Joyce (1882 – 1941)
He was born in Ireland (Dublin). Although he spent many years not in
Ireland he is considered one of Irish writers. Primarily he wrote about
himself, transforming his experiences in his books, & relatives & friends –
into symbols. His works are said to be “expansive & inclusive”. Expansive –
because he gave a very wide panorama of Dublin life at the turn of the
century, inclusive – because his works seemed to include all the human
history. These novels still are the stories & novels about life in general.
He started to attend an expensive private boarding school but his father
became bankrupt & he continued his education at home. Then he attended
“University College” in Dublin. He read very much & began to write
seriously. He produced critical articles, essays but also poems & notebooks
of epiphanies (theological term – an intense moment in a human life when
the truth of a person or some thing is being revealed). He studied in
Paris, then returned to Ireland & in 1904 left it. He lived in different
places in Europe. First, he earned money by giving English lessons. In 1905
he submitted to the publisher his first version of the collection of
stories “Dubliners”. But it was repeatedly rejected & even after acceptance
it was subjected to severe censorship for sexual frankness & use of
obscenities & use of real names & places. This collection consists of 15
stories devoted to childhood, mature life & public life. All are unified by
the theme of person’s loneliness & hopelessness. Joyce describes life with
all naturalistic details. Everything suggests that life is dead. All the
stories explore the paralysis of Irish life. The most famous stories are
“Araby” & “The Dead ”. The stories are arranged in successive sequences –
childhood, adolescence, mature & public life. Mood is gloomy, imagery is
dark & malignant. People are incurably lonely, their hopes are doomed to
disappointment & frustration.
In the full form the collection was published in 1914 together with his
autobiographical novel “The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, which
was to be called “Stephen-Hero”. This book explores the story of the
formation of the artist’s consciousness. In criticism it is called “a
gestation of the soul”, for he tries to penetrate into people’s mind. It is
deeply psychological work. In form it is “buildungsroman” (German word
meaning “educational novel”). Life is shown chronologically. The main hero
– Stephen Dedalus. The process of his maturing is shown in the development.
In the first part the language is very simple. Then some glimpses of
family life are given. The disagreement between its members has political
roots. Another stage is school & college. Stephen does not participate in
boys’ games. He longs for the moment when he can be alone, he is weak &
suffering. The Jesuit college bred an aversion for religion in the young
artist. Everything was repulsive in the college: sermons, system of
punishment, religibility + hypocrisy. It was an anguish experience. Stephen
learnt to build a wall between him & all the rest of the humanity.
The book has an open ending – we don’t know Stephen will do. It ends
with the decision to leave Ireland. This exile, solitude are the ways in
which Stephen opposes to the oppressing influence of the society. He
rejects what life suggests to him – his choice is loneliness. The problem
of correlating of artists & society is solved by Joyce from highly
individualistic standpoint. The last pages express Stephen’s understanding
of form & time categories. “The past is consumed in the present & the
present is living because it has force in the future”. The name “Dedalus”
is symbolic. It is a symbol of new art which is liberated from restrain of
old art… He discovers & explores the possibilities of new art. Its aim is
to create a new labyrinth of forms of new art.
In 1922 ”Ulysses” was published. It started as another short story for
“The Dubliners” but grew into the massive novel. Joyce recreates the action
of “Odyssey” in a single day – July 16, 1904 (it was a significant day for
Joyce: he decided to leave Ireland & met his future wife). Since two plains
run parallel. The main characters are associated with certain people in
“Odyssey” by Homer: the main characters are Stephen Dedalus & Leopold
Bloom, an advertising solicitor & in a certain way an eternal Jew both
figuratively & literally. Minor characters are the people whom they meet in
different places. Dedalus acts as Telemachys & Leopold Bloom is modern
Odyssey & his wife Molly is modern Penelope. Bloom wanders from place to
place throughout this day – butcher’s shop, post office, cemetery, printing
house, library, pub, hotel, again pub, shop, his poor house, cheap pub… his
adventures has nothing in common with adventures of Odyssey. They are down
to Earth, petty. In Bloom Joyce tried to show wandering of “eternal…”. He
has unheroic adventures & finally meets Stephen who becomes his spiritual
son. This is a plot.
In form the book is mostly a never-ending stream of Bloom’s
consciousness (he is not an intellectual person, his impressions are very
incoherent). The book has a very rigid form. Joyce describes in many
details every moment of the day: actions, feelings & thoughts. But apart
from it Joyce deepens into human consciousness… he tries to render
something which doesn’t depend on people’s mind, he tries to penetrate into
human psyche, impulses which govern, move them. Each chapter corresponds to
the certain episode in Homer’s “Odyssey” & each chapter has its own style.
It witnesses that Joyce was a virtuous of the English language. ”Ulysses”
has 18 episodes, each of them tracing the deeds & the thoughts of three
people during one day in Dublin. The book is a mosaic. It consists of
different & not quite linked together parts. There is almost no plot. Joyce
still puts the idea in it to describe symbolically man’s wandering in the
chaos of life & floating with the stream of his thoughts. The humanity is
lost & confused about all the contradictions of modern life, people waist
their lives in this chaos, their existence is sensless & purposeless. The
three main characters present three eternal types of human beings – common
person, an artist, a woman. Bloom stands for the symbol of a typical
bourgeois person. He is very limited & content with down-to-earth
The book caused a storm of outrage. It was banned in Britain & America
for more than ten years. Now it is praised for technical experimentation &
stylistic brilliance. The book attracted attention to the stream of
consciousness technique. In general it evoked controversial responses.
Even before completing “Ulysses” Joyce wrote “Finnegan’s Wake” – a
novel. If “Ulysses” is considered to be a daybook, “Finnegan’s Wake” is a
night book. Joyce tried to present the whole human history in a dream of a
Dublin innkeeper Earwicker by name. The style is appropriate to a dream,
the language is shifting & changing, the words blur & glue together, this
suggests the merging of images in a dream. This technique enables Joyce to
present history & myth as a single image. The characters stand for eternal
types, identified by Earwicker himself, his wife & the three children.
The work masks the limit of formal experiment in the language.
“Finnegan’s Wake” is considered to be a closed book. It is very
sophisticated. Joyce loses the thread of narration sometimes… attempted in
the sound of words, construction of a sentences, to render the meaning of
what he was talking about (e.g. images of woman & the river are merging;
the rhythm – gurgling, flowing water). What unifies these two books – both
of them express Joyce’s positive credo: he asserts that life is eternal,
human society does change but the change has a circular character.
Everything is renewed, nothing can be destroyed. Joyce starts the work with
the continuation of thoughts & the beginning of them is at the end. Man
must believe in the city (symbol of Dublin).
Thomas Stearns Eliot (1889 – 1965)
Thomas Stearns Eliot is considered today’s genius in poetry.
Quintessence: refine sensibility – the essential quality of the poet. “Our
civilization comprehends great variety & complexity; & this variety &
complexity playing upon a refined sensibility must produce various &
complex result. The poet must become more & more comprehensive, more & more
allusive, more indirect in order to force, to dislocate if necessary
language into his meaning” – said Eliot. This is an account of what a
modern poet should do. He must be finely tuned to the world to be able to
express the various & complex. The poet can distort the language, to use it
Extremely was influential figure in literary circles. Editor, poet,
playwright, critic – he came from a prosperous American family, his father
was a rich manufacturer & his mother wrote poetry. He was brought up in St.
Louis Missouri. He was educated in private school & attended Harvard to get
his degree in philosophy in 1906. Then left for Paris. There he attended
lectures of Henry Bergson – “Subjective Idealism Philosophy, Theory of
Intuitivism”. Being in Paris he read much on French symbolist poets. The
symbolist movement was one of major influences upon his poetry. The goal of
art is to express the unique personal emotional responses to a certain
moment in human life through indefinite illogical, sometimes private in
meaning symbols. Eliot returned to Harvard & there he read widely in
Sanskrit & oriental philosophy (had a powerful influence on him). In 1915
he decided to give up philosophy to remain in England & to begin writer’s
career. In 1916 he completed his Ph.D. theses, but never received a degree.
He married & settled in England permanently.
The beginning of his literary career starts from 1910 when he wrote “The
Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. It was published in 1915 in magazine
“Poetry”. The poem is written in a very simple style. Then he made a
collection “Prufrock & Other Observations”. This was compared with “Lyrical
Ballads” of Wordsworth & Coleridge. This work inaugurated the age of
modernism in poetry. There is no plot in the story. It’s a dramatic
monologue but of the new kind. It sounds like a stream of consciousness of
a person who walks up the street of London. The protagonist is Alfred
Prufrock. He is an antiromantic hero, rather timid, self-centred. The tone
is very ironic, images are startlingly fresh. The title suggests that some
feeling should be shown to the other person. The poem starts as a dialogue:
Let us go out – you & I…
Critics argue that you & I are two sides of one & the same person. Eliot
says that “YOU” is a companion of Prufrock. We should pay attention to the
epigraph: “The truth will remain under”. This means that the speaker can
persuade himself to talk only if this will never be heard. It is his own
dramatic monologue. Prufrock is intensely preoccupied with himself.
Probably he signs his love song to himself… (though it doesn’t matter much)
We can understand “love-song” in ironic sense because the whole poem is
an elaborate rationalization for not seeking love. Love cannot exist in
this ugly senseless chaotic world. It is a miracle, hopeless yearning of
person for the vitality. The whole scene makes us see that love is not
possessive in this world. Repulsive attitude of the narrator towards what
he sees – images of a pair of ragged claws, mermaids singing each to each.
Â ãîñòèíûõ äàìû òÿæåëî
Áåñåäóþò î Ìèêåëàíäæåëî.
It means that they talk of what they pretend to know.
The poem is full of allusions. The epigraph is quite important, taken
from Dante’s “The Divine Comedy”. The end of poem is pessimistic. It is one
of the most understandable of his poems.
“The Waste Land” (the poem (1922) in ”Dial” & “Criteria”[GB]). The poem
consists of 5 parts & their titles speak for themselves:
“The Burial of the Dead”
“A Game of Chess” – an allusion of a medieval play, where the action was
as if in two playings.
“The Fire Sermon” – the postulates of oriental religion.
“The Death by the Water”
“What the Thunder Said”
In terms of forms the poem is a collage of fragments of memories,
overheard conversations, quotations put together only by the implied
present of a sensible person (= a refined sensibility = a modern poet),
upon whom all these complexibilities & varieties of human world are hipped
& who staggers under the burden of them. We can say that the mind of the
poet is heavily packed with cultural tradition. A poem abounds in highly
. “The Tempest”
. Anthropological account of “Grail”(“Ãðààëü”) legend– a legend
connected with Christianity – a cup from which Christ drank;
. from “The Divine Comedy”;
. alluded & used words from operas of Wagner;
. refers to the story of crusification;
. uses French symbolists;
. as well as scraps of popular culture – music-hall songs, slang
words, contemporary fashion;
He hips everything together. This bits & pieces are set into a matrix of
flowing stream of consciousness of a man. The dramatic portrait of a single
mind becomes the portrait of an age. Eliot provided 52 notes for “The Waste
Land” when it was first published. The poem was opposed violently but there
were also admirers. They said that Eliot gave a definite description of
their age. Now terms “lost generation”, “post-war disillusionment”, “jazz
age”, “waste land” are used parallelly For many contemporary writers &
critics “The Waste Land” was a definite description of the age.
Civilization was dying. Critics regarded it as the disillusionment of a
generation. Eliot protested against that. The term “waste land” is used in
literature alongside with the term “lost generation”.
He also employed the myth of dying & reviving king – what the poem
expresses is the need of salvation & this is expressed in 3 Sanskrit words
(give, sympathize & control). There are many barbarisms in the poem.
In 1925 he published another poem in the same tonality. “The Hollow Man”
develops the major themes & images of “The Waste Land” – problems of
spiritual bareness, the problem of loss of faith in contemporary
generation. The poem is a set of recurrent symbols. The meaning depends on
cumulative effect of the individual images. The idea of spiritual sterility
in the image of Hollow Man – grotesque caricature of man, their behaviour
is mimicry of human activity. The poem is very short. It is easily read but
not so easily understood. There are 5 parts in the poem. Other images –
Death of the Kingdom. The life of the Hollow Man – is more shadowy & less
real than the life beyond the grave. Religion is substituted by simple
rituals devoid of all true feelings & emotions. The end-of-the-world
(apocalyptic) motive is very strong in the poem. The picture is very
pessimistic. The poem ends hopelessly:
This is the way the world ends,
Not with a bang but a whimper…
Eliot’s development after “The Waste Land” was in the direction of
literary, political, religious conservatism. Classicist in literature,
royalist in politics & Anglo-Saxon in religion he developed more composed
His mature masterpiece is “Four Quartets” (1944) which is based on the
poetic memories of certain localities of America & Britain. This is a
starting point for his probing in the mystery of time, history, eternity,
the meaning of life. It deals with one single question of what significance
in our lives are ecstatic intense moments when we seem to escape time &
glimpses of supra-ordinary reality (it resembles Joyce’s “Epiphanies”.
There are two epigraphs that give clues to the answer. The epigraphs are
The first comes from Heroclitus. It contrasts the general wisdom of the
race with moments of private individual insight. It shows the dualism of
individual existence. First of all individuality is apart of a body of
mankind, located in history & tradition. Secondly, it is a unique
personality. Each person embraces both & this predetermines the reaction to
The second is short – “The way up & the way down are one & the same”.
This is another duality, two ways of apprehending the truth. The first one
is an active embrace of ecstatic experience (the way up), the second one is
a passive withdrawal from experience into self (the way down).
The poem got a reputation of a great obscurity due to a philosophical
richness but at the same time it is intensely musical. He tries to make it
closer to music by the motives that return like the tones in music. It is
not by chance that the poem is called “Four Quartets” – 4 instrumental
voices in the quartet. In his essay “The Music of Poetry” he explained this
usage of recurrent things.
From 1926 he experimented with poetic drama “The Cocktail Party”. But
his dramas remain unpopular because drama needs plot.
Eliot received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1949 as recognition of
his innovations in modern poetry. He also wrote critical works “The Sacred
Wood”, “The Use of Poetry & the Use of Criticism”, “On Poetry & Poets” –
most influential literary documents.
David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930)
Lawrence was very much influenced by Freud’s conception of human
personality. He is considered to be a modernist but he didn’t experiment
with form. On the outside he worked within the confines of English novel
tradition but he broke from the understanding of human relations that were
accepted in critical realism. He was the first who touched upon the problem
of marrying, the relations between sexes, he didn’t hush down the
contradictions between them. His main concern was to liberate a person from
all the constrains which were put by the society upon him. There was so
much taboos, hush-hush attitudes to this topic, that …
He is compared to Eliot. Both started from similar points that
civilization threatens human beings, it is hostile to man. Civilization is
sick, it destroys people morally & bodily. What Lawrence can suggest
instead? His religion was belief in blood & flesh as being wiser than the
intellect. This belief became one of his main themes. He interpreted human
behaviour & character from this standpoint. All his writings were
underlined with a deep discontent with a modern world. And this fact unites
him with other modernists. Civilization is on the wrong track. Science,
industrialization produced a race of robots. Civilization is evil. The only
way out – the way back – to re-awaken our emotional, irrational layers of
consciousness. He was little concerned with social problems. Lawrence’s
treatment of character is based on the assumption that 7/8 are submerged &
never seen. He explored the unconscious mind that was not always seen but
was always present. He is fumbling for the words to describe strictly
indescribable. He enjoyed popularity in his lifetime. His first works are:
“The White Peacock” 1911
“Sons & Lovers” 1913
They were well received. Critics thought that there appeared one more
working-class writer. His late works were received with shock & opposition
because of his frankness to the questions of sexuality, relations of men &
women. These themes suffered from late Victorian prudishness. He was the
first to describe sexual relations using common words not…
“Sons & Lovers” is considered to be autobiographical. Lawrence was
brought up in miner’s family in Nottinghamshire. His mother was cultivated
ex-school teacher. She married beneath herself & so she tried to develop
ambitions in her children. The book centers around Paul Morel & his
mother’s relations. His mother made him fatally unable to love another
woman. “There was something in his life that blocked his intentions.” The
relations that he explores within the Morel family remind us of the
relations in his own family. He must get it clear & get away with it. By
giving this story a form of a novel Lawrence tried to liberate himself of
his ties with the past. Sometimes it is considered an illustration of
Freud’s theory of Oedipus complex.
We consider Lawrence a modernist not because of his innovations in form
& style but by his attitude to human beings (human behaviour is
biologically determined). “Blood & flesh being wiser than intellect”.
Lawrence is a very prolific writer but his books were uneven in quality
– 15 novels & volumes of short stories. The best of them are:
“The Rainbow”(was also condemned as obscene one)
“Women in Love” 1920
“The Plumed Serpent” 1926
“Lady Chatterley’s Lover” (1929) was subjected to obscenity trial. It
was banned for oscine vocabulary till 1960. “His urgency in seeking out the
deepest core of his characters’ being lead him to employ a language
overfraught with portentous vocabulary – repeatedly, ineffectually
gesturing at dark, mystic, passionate, but ultimately vague & ungraspable
emotions.” Critics considered this work to be his greatest one.
Sexual aspect wasn’t the only one though very important. It was a part
of his concept of personal development.
It appeared in the first decade of the XX when the group of poets
appeared in the USA who tried to bring modernists’ ideas. The most active
of these poets were Ezra Pound & Thomas Eliot. American modernism doesn’t
mean geographical terms. Many American writers created their works in
Europe (mainly in Paris). Ezra Pound said: “Paris is a lab of ideas”.
John Dos Passos
Partially William Faulkner
Francis Scott Fitzgerald
Ezra Pound (1885 – 1972)
A famous poet, publicist & translator. He studied in the University of
Pennsylvania (studied Roman languages). But he had a very brief career as a
teacher & in 1908 he left for Europe. He walked all the way from Gibraltar
to Venice where the first collection of his poems appeared – “A Hume
Spento”. During 2 years from 1908 he gained his popularity. His collections
“Canzoni” – songs
“Ripostes” – leisure
“Lustra” – light
The poems impressed the readers by the original form, new expressiveness &
metrical faction. He is the founder of imagist’s school (opposed
traditional Victorian verse). The poets’ aim was to be precise & clear in
word usage. They did not accept thematic limitations, were responsible for
exploding the traditional form, tried to find form to substitute it. There
was a trend in imagism – wordism – the model for the XXth century poetry.
V Specific rhyme
Much attention was paid to the metaphorical images. These ideas influenced
young poets like Robert Frost, Thomas Eliot, and W. Butler.
Pound edited magazine “Little Review” where new names & works were
introduced. It is believed that he revolutionized English versification. He
tried to capture the intonation of monological speech. His poems have a
peculiar form of masques. His poetry is dressed in the bright clothes of
Latin, Greek, Japanese, Anglo-Saxon, etc poets.
Translations are the best part of his legacy. They were also thoroughly
polished masques. He developed interest Japanese poetry. He liked the
Japanese way of presenting the most abstract idea through a concrete image.
So he introduced idiomatic poetry when any nation could be rendered through
the combination of concrete images. This principle was employed in “The
Cantos” epic poem, which he started in 1925 & continued almost up to the
end of his life. He called it “íåèñ÷åðïàåìûé ñâîä ñòèõîòâîðíûõ ôîðì”. The
synthesis of his ideas of works, autobiography, aesthetic & poetic
principles & reflection of the urgent & poetic issues. “The Cantos” are
uneven in quality. Some fragments are difficult to understand. To
facilitate the process of reading “The Index of Cantos” was published. In
1925 Pound moved to Italy & became interested in politics & economics. He
devoted much time & effort to discuss economics & politics.
“The ABC of ECONOMICS”
“What Is Money For?”
He supported the fascist regime. After the war he was arrested & charged in
prison, but was considered to have mental disease & spent 22 years in
mental hospital. In late 50’s he was let free & went to Italy where he
died. But he continued to write even in hospital. “The Cantos of Pizza” is
a very painful reevaluation of the things passed. The famous critic Malison
said: “He chose a wrong position above the society & that’s the problem”.
He was the poet who transformed the form of English verse – thus his
achievement was great.
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
Gertrude Stein is remembered because of her influence on the writers to
come, not for her works. She doesn’t enter anthologies of English or
American literature. She was born in USA, her childhood was spent in
Europe. She studied psychology in Harvard. Her teacher was William James.
She conducted several experiments on automatic writing but she was
interested only from psychological point of view. However, she did not
become a psychologist yet this influenced her writing. In 1903’s she left
for Paris & remained there almost all her life. In 1909 she published the
novel “The Three Lives”. It consists of three parts describing the lives of
three women. The work was unnoticed in that time. But that time she got
acquainted with famous artists: Picasso, Matisse. New tendencies in
painting (cubism, abstractionism) impressed her very much.
Abstraction tendencies dominated in her artistic works. She claimed that
only Spanish & American writers were able to realize abstract notions in
literature. This abstraction must be expressed by the deformity of the
form. She was the only representative of literary abstractionism. Her
desire was to get rid of the content of words (of the meaning) so that she
could be able to concentrate on the plastic properties of the language &
its syntax. She was going to capture inner & outer reality in the most
precise & objective form.
Literature must not awake any associations: associative emotions are
invalid. Everything that is the result of emotions cannot be the gist of
literary work, cannot be material for prose & poetry. They must consist in
the precise rendering of internal & external reality. The words must
express the reality directly, she tried to devoid them of any meaning. But
she forgot that the painter & the writer use different media for their
arts. But if colours have no meaning the words obviously possess it. She
wanted to create pure literature by using pure words, no one else tried to
do that before. She emptied the words of the thought & created almost her
private language & that was the extreme. It showed how far one could go in
violating the language.
Another novelty – the new concept of time. She tried a new method of
narration – “continuous present”. Instead of the narration she creates a
composition where a story is presented as if happening at the present
moment, not as a consequent unfolding of the theme as we perceive reading.
She did acknowledge that such a category as time in literature would
transform into continuous perception of the present moment. So she tried to
put this theory into practice in her book “The Making of Americans”.
In “The Making of America” describing the history of the Gestland family
she tries at the same time to give a picture of American history. She tried
to describe individual & general simultaneously. And that resulted in the
style, which was very awkward. She also tried to use the technique that she
borrowed from cinematography, like in a film each next shot presents a
slight variation from the previous one. Each next sentence differed from
the previous one only insignificantly (regularly-repeated phrases, key
words). It may look ridiculous, stupid, but many modern writers took this
repetition from her.
Another side the so-called portraits in literature were created on the
basis of rhythmic principle. Every person has his own rhythm & in
portraying a person’s life she tried to combine & match these rhythms –
literary expressionism. The result of this was simplification of syntax,
foregrounding of the verbs, minimal punctuation & omission of nouns &
adjectives. “Tender Buttons” is a collection of poems, examples of this
technique. The reaction was not unanimous. They accused the style for
deintellectualization. For example, Malcolm Kowly said that “reading her
style annoys us…”. Stein’s experiments are not so important by itself
because they warned other artists against taking the same route. Her works
are fruitless & senseless – they distract the communication. But her
experiments are noticeable in Hemingway’s syntax, Faulkner’s “continuous
present” (=past does exist in the present), Sherwood Anderson’s principles
of cinematography. Her significance – she was the first English writer who
expressed those tendencies which were the distinctive features of the avant-
John Doss Passos (1896-1970)
He was born in Chicago. He lived a long life but his most productive
period was in the 20-30’s of the XXth century. He reflected the progressive
ideas of the time, produced the epic of American life within the framework
of a literary experiments. He graduated from Harvard. In 1916-17 studied
architecture in Spain & this background can be felt in his works in their
architecture. Participated in the war & after that he began to write. His
first book – “One Man’s Initiation”(1920). It was the first book in
American literature, which treats the war topic. It is a lost generation
book because it was motivated by post-was disillusionment that young people
experienced. The pathos is clearly antiwar. It is autobiographical. The
pacifist motives are very strong here. The style doesn’t differ much from
that of his mature works. Dos Passos chose the fragmentary way of
organization of material, which is to his mind, more expressive. The book
is in the form of interior monologue – to express more precisely the crash
of a young American world in the war.
He continued the same technique in “Three Soldiers”. He attacks the
corruption of the world, socialist motives become more explicit in his
work. Here he experiments with writing technique – plot. The lives of three
young people – Americans – are in the focus of his attention. At first
their lives are connected, they met each other on the same boat but this is
the only point where their fates are close. As they arrive in Europe their
ways diverge. Each one follows his own path. The plot decenters, follows
the life of each of three heroes. All of them are ruined at the war, feel
lost, disillusioned. It is a typical lost generation novel written in the
modernist technique. John Andrews is a painter, he dreams to express his
protest against the war by artistic means. Both J. Andrews in the book & J.
D. Passos fear capitalist tyranny & revolutionary enthusiasm. Antibourgeois
pathos is rather strong.
These tendencies increase in his next works. “Manhattan Transfer”
(novel) is a kaleidoscope of numerous episodes, names, dates where the
reader can hardly find the characters. It consists of independent stories,
which are all mixed. The only similar feature is the place & the time. Dos
Passos considered that such composition will enable him to show the reality
objectively, a stream of New York life. Characters represent different
social layers. The author introduces clips from newspapers, some glimpses
of literature, which are not connected with the novel. It produces
disorder. But it was his intention – city is a chaos; life is a chaos.
Reaction to the novel was contradictory. Some thought that it was a
collectivist novel. Dos Passos was not in the individual lives, troubles or
joys. A collectivist writer was interested in social relations but the
paradox was that social relations were abstract from his work. He didn’t
dispose social. His attitude to the events is not clear. The lack of
objective conclusions was intentional but the writer can’t do that. He
tried to produce such works where the generalization should be.
He was popular in 20-30’s in Soviet Union, unfortunately his popularity
was short-lived for political reasons. As soon as he began to criticize &
warn against totalitarianism he fell out of grace. He lived through the
economic crises of 1929 & this found its expression in the novel “USA”.
Dos Passos wrote “USA” – a big epic where he paid more attention to
generalization. He wrote it for 20 years. It consists of 3 novels: “The 42
Parallel”, “1919”, “The Big Money”. Dos Passos tried to be more precise
with the composition, developed a scheme of it. It is a big panoramic work.
The real hero is American society, the country. It is shown against the
social background of the nation. It is an epic of American life. The
structure is very logical & coherent. Each chapter falls into several
parts, which are made up of for components & the combination of these
components is very different. These four components are:
V novel - the portraits of literary characters
V biographies of historical personalities
V news-reel, i.e. news of the day
V camera obscure (eye) – inner monologue of the author
Each piece has a title & a number. The biographies of historical
personality were intended to create the historical background, dedicated to
famous people of political, social, scientific, artistic activities. It
included the stories about the outstanding people.
News of the day was to documentarize the specific moments in the USA
history to create the historical colouring & objective picture of that
epoch. It included popular songs, headlines from papers. Here they try to
follow the stream of consciousness of the newspaper reader.
Camera obscure were to show the author’s attitude to life, to bring an
individual lyrical touch to the story, personal meditations upon certain
subjects, reminiscences of the things passed, expression of author’s ideas
upon various aspects of life. It gave a picture of the author’s evaluation
for 30 years.
Novels are fictions. The portraits of literary characters were imaginary
literary heroes. There were 11 of them – typical representatives of all the
layers of the American society. The central characters John Wool McHouse.
The author tries to trace his relations with other characters but it
doesn’t mean that he knows all of them.
From the unique combination of these elements the unique picture of
American life springs up. The general mood is that of confusion, tension,
tumult, frustration of hopes, feeling that the present is ugly &
intolerable. People are too fussy about their daily routine. In this work
he showed how life was lived on the national scale.
Dos Passos was concerned with the history of the country primarily. The
writer must be an architect of history. His work was a literary conclusion
– different elements were assembled. The work is considered to be an
achievement in the American literature. The author tried to use
cinematographic principles in writing: close up, precision in details, the
art of assembly. He also used the technique of montage or juxtaposition. In
his later works he perfected this technique & achieved quite a success in
it. Later he became a radical writer. He was a passionate individualist &
individual freedom was most important to him.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
He belongs to the lost generation but he gave his own name to it – “jazz
age”. Jazz was representative of the general atmosphere of the years – the
feeling of instability in life. Age of transition of social values. To his
mind jazz beat ideally expressed that feeling of hopeless despair with
which his young men & women tried to experience the every passing moment of
their lives, their age. There is a recurrent “capre diem”(ëîâè ìîìåíò)
theme in his novels. His heroes indulge & overindulge. Jazz age expresses
instability & changebility of life present in mind of many people who tried
to flee from the feeling of being lost, for they no longer believed in
life, so they tried to live it to their full. Fitzgerald was not very rich
but was educated in Princeton. He dropped out of it because of poor health
& poor performance, he didn’t get to front though he enlisted. He was
painfully aware of the difference between himself & rich students. He had
hatred for the rich. The main topic of his work – money & its corruptive
influence. For him money & wealth were social categories. He regarded the
rich to be another race, whose habits & moral principles differ very much.
He looked into the phenomenon of being rich. For him a rich person is one
for whom everything is permitted & they lack human qualities, he tried to
penetrate to the very heart of the matter. So, money & wealth for him were
not economic categories but social phenomena. He regarded rich as another
race, alien kind of people whose habits, moral principles, views were not
as the habits of the ordinary people. They are the people to whom
everything is permitted & consequently they lack certain human qualities
that of pity, compassion, and sympathy. In his works Fitzgerald striped
this world of this mysterious veil. He tried to penetrate to the very
depths exploring the ethics of the rich world. Wealth has dehumanizing
impact on human personality. He had a feeling that something awful is
coming. “All the stories that come to my head have touch of disaster”. He
produced the collection of short stories “All the Sad Young Men”, “Tales of
the Jazz Age”. They are permeated with appocaliptical feeling of tragedy
of American life. Fitzgerald was not the only one who treated this topic –
Theodore Dreiser in “American Tragedy” did the same.
His finest achievement is the novel “The Great Gatsby” which showed the
contrast between material wealth & the spiritual poverty of the heroes.
Concerning this work in Soviet criticism the term “ïîýçèÿ îòðèöàòåëüíûõ
âåëè÷èí” was used. It means that he tried to show people who were real
characters, strong individuals, but this all is directed not to a right
channel – to make one’s life to the top, to get something from life, strive
for the world success. For Gatsby wealth is not the purpose but means to
have everything that money can give, a key to personal happiness =
relations between Jay Gatsby & Daisy whom he loves. In youth he suffered
feeling of inferiority, for she was the daughter of rich parents & he was a
poor soldier. He seeks to get money by bootlegging but it turned out that
happiness could not be achieved even with money because Daisy had changed,
she is very deaf & blind spiritually, feeling of all-permissiveness
increased in her. She doesn’t stop short in the fraud (car accident).
Gatsby was killed, Daisy departed, fled with her husband without any
remorse. Gatsby’s tragedy lies in the fact that he hoped to find happiness,
sympathy, love in the world where these feelings don’t exist. The tragedy
is that money changes people & money changed him & Daisy & he didn’t
understand this tragedy couldn’t foresee it.
Was he a positive or a negative character for the author? He possesses
good moral qualities but he is not the paragon of moral beauty, he obtained
his wealth by not clear ways. It’s clear that he is a tragic person. He
wastes his talent for money. Very often he is compared to Clyde Griffite
(Dreiser’s). But Gatsby is a personality.
Fitzgerald’s own story in a way repeats Gatsby’s story: he lived
bohemian life, gradually writing became an obligation. He appeared to be a
hostage of his own success. He also had drinking problems, & his wife whom
he loved very deeply had some mental problems.
The other works are “This Side of Paradise”, “Tender is the Night”, “The
Last Typcoon”, “The Beautiful & the Damned” where he developed the same
topic. Fitzgerald also had a dilemma & he had to choose to write for money
that ruined his health. He died in 1940.
William Faulkner (1897-1962)
A unique personality born in small town of Oxford (Mississippi) he grew
up in an impoverished southern aristocratic family & it had impact on him
(the spirit of the South). His education was not systematic. He inherited
the tragic confrontation of white & black. In 1925 he mat Sherwood
Anderson, dropped out of the university. He tried his hand in different
areas. After an unsuccessful attempt to become a pilot (was wounded in the
WWI), he did different odd jobs, worked in a bank, had a published
collection of poems. He wrote a couple of books imitating lost generation
novels. He produces novels “Soldier’s Pay”, “Mosquitoes”. Though published
they were not welcomed by critics. Their words were rather hush: “Faulkner
has no voice of his own, he has nothing to say.” So he decided to write in
a unique style, did not bother himself with any literary tradition. If you
don’t like it – it is your problem. All his life he lived in that small
town &it became a background for most of his books. It is known as
But he found writing to be a pleasure for him. In 1929 he wrote “The
Sound & the Fury”, “Sartoris”. This year was a turning point for him. He
wrote as he pleased disregarding traditions. His perspective was to make
things clear to himself. He began to write about the things that he knew
firsthand. Both these novels look into the decay of south’s families.
Faulkner mercifully exposes the degradation of the South. There are moral
reasons for this: here the topic of slavery springs up, topic of incest,
moral impurity of people living there, their sins. At the same time one can
feel Faulkner’s anxiety even hatred about the civilization, contemporary
life. The civilization did only harm. The alternative is a patriarchal way
of living. Much as he scorned the past he still longed for those times.
He needn’t invent anything – “The Sound & the Fury” is taken from
Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. He alluded to the words that Macbeth said before
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts & frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound & fury,
It seems that the same feeling of confusion is familiar to Faulkner. The
story is about the decay of the Compson’s family. The novel consists of
four parts. The first is told by Benjamin Compson who is mentally
handicapped. He is that very idiot who tells the story of life’s confusion.
Events are given as fragments of his perception as if through the stain
glass. He doesn’t know what’s going on, he is subconsciously aware of the
conflict in the family. Everything is blurred, mixed, no chronology. We can
indicate time by the hints the characters drop now & then. He uses device
of interrelated temporal plains. The second part is told by Quentin. He is
a romantic type of a person who feels deeply & suffers deeply. He is too
fragile, too frail. He cannot cope with the harsh world (committed a
suicide). The third – by Jason Compson. He is practical, persistent,
knowing what he waits from life, a tenacious man. The fourth is told by
Faulkner himself. He tries to be objective, was to put everything their
places. Everything is centred round their sister Caddy. Use of subjective
viewpoint, inner monologue, stream of consciousness – achieved a striking
effect – highly individual characters become universal types: Bengy –
childish perception, Quentin – adolescent consciousness, Jason – pragmatic.
All of them are contrasted to authors representation of things – combining
particular & general. The degradation of one family is the symbol of the
decline of the South in general. He shows that the family gradually
collapses, people are driven to death & despair. Life is chaos of sound &
fury. Another message was that Faulkner himself didn’t put up with darkness
& gloom. Positive note is present in the book. His intentions are realized
in the fourth part.
The following works treated the same topic. In 1945 he produced the
chronological supplement to the work “Light in August”, “Absalom!
Absalom!”, “The Sanctuary”, “ As I Lay Dying”.
The decline of the South, race conflict & the constant overlap of the
past & the present, loss of human values are the themes of his works. A
line of descendants of formerly rich South families. The values of the past
generation became corrupted in the modern world. Atmosphere of doomed
despair. He got a Nobel prize in 1950. The values for him are courage,
honour, pride, hope, sympathy, self-sacrifice, compassion.
In 30’s his style changed. These works are easy to read. He turns to
another topic – the trilogy “The Hamlet”, “The Town”, “The Mansion”. He
thought he had spotted a disease in American society called “snopecism”
(from Flem Snopes – the main character of one of the parts of the trilogy).
Snopecism is evil, the product of capitalist civilization, lust for money,
put on the pedestal of American society. Money dominates American life. It
is people’s God. The trilogy is written in a realistic key. It deals with
the snopes – former poor white people. Flem is the first in the rank who by
cunning, corruption, bribe, general unscrupulousness elevated himself to a
ruling financial class. It is shown how this lust for money leads Flem to
come over his friends, family to power. Faulkner shows that a collision
with Snopes ruins people, especially if they are not of his kind. He is to
blame for many deaths. He didn’t do it with his own hands but he drove them
to such circumstances. He is not human. Makes him socially dangerous.
People fall victims of his thirst for money. The character who opposes Flem
is his stepdaughter Linda. Faulkner makes her a communist (probably he saw
no other force in the society that could oppose snopecism as a social
The change in Faulkner’s outlook resulted in the structure of the novel.
Chain of associations is not so unruly as previously.
Faulkner is also famous for his short stories collected into two
Their theme is decline & deterioration o South. Here we meet the same
heroes or allusions to the characters & events of earlier novels. Every
book is interrelated. “The Bear” is a perfect example of Faulkner’s style.
It illustrates his concerns. Faulkner had a reputation of a writer for
Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953)
He laid the foundation forAmerican drama. He comes form actor’s family,
education was not systematic, he did different odd jobs – gold digger in
Gonduras, sailor, journalist, etc. This enriched him with knowledge of life
firsthand. He developed interest for drama when he treated his tuberculosis
in sanatorium. He read Ibsen. Then after he took a course in theory of
drama in Harvard. 1914 is his literary debut “Thirst & Other One-Act
Plays”. From 1919 O’Neill collaborated with Provincetown players company.
They staged his first works, & with this company his success is associated.
He worked with them up to 1924. The plays of this period:
“The Emperor Jones”
“The Hairy Ape”
“All God’s Chillun Got Wings” (chillun = children)
These plays voiced his protest against racism & exploitation. His plays
differed from typical Broadway production. They are very experimental. On
the one hand, they are realistic dramas, showing the life of people who
never before were the subject of writers’ interest. On the other hand, his
plays exhibit his search for the adequate form to treat this topic.
Traditional realism is combined with the elements of expressionist drama,
touch of Ibsen’s influence; innovative approach to the use of the elements
of classical drama & biblical motives. [Ibsen introduced the drama of
ideas, where not the events were important but ideas that were discussed &
disclosed by these events. He is very close to Chekhov]
“The Hairy Ape” is a story of a young proletariat Robert Smith whom
everybody calls Jank. He was offended by a daughter of a certain man of
property & so he is expressed his …to such a degree that he was put to jail
where he absorbed certain socialistic ideas. But when he is released he
tries to find his “áðàòüåâ ïî äóõó” he is taken for provocateur. He is very
much shocked and baffled so he goes to the zoo where he lets an ape out of
the cage. Eventually this ape kills him & he dies in the ape’s cage.
His remarks to the play are very important & he pays great attention to
the setting. First scene shows the worker’s dwelling. It must remind a cage
by O’Neill. Then the scene shifts to a stove-hall is shown. There must be a
flame: the fire symbolizes the hell of capitalists exploitation. The next
scene shows the fashionable hotel – the paradise of the rich. The last
scene is also an ape cage. It finishes the cycle.
The naturalistic symbolism conveys the idea of inhumanity of exploiters,
shifts the accents from the conditions, turning man to a beast to the
In his work of 30-40’s experiment takes to realism.
“The Great God Brown”
He resorted to various techniques of modern theatre – psychoanalysis,
inner monologue, mask theatre.
His masterpiece is trilogy “Mourning Becomes Electra”. Here he develops
classical notion of the tragic & transfers it to American soil of the civil
war period. He takes an eternal conflict & puts it to America. Histories of
O’Neill’s characters are compared to the lives of Electra, Orestas,
Clitemnestra. But the environment is different.
Later he intended to write a saga about wealthy people. It materialized
in two plays:
“A Touch of the Poet”
“More Stately Mansions”
O’Neill showed how several generations of American families gradually
lose their values, their destines mingle. Individual lives become part of
The plays crowning his career are “A Moon for the Misbegotten”, “Long
Day’s Journey into Night”. The latter is the most autobiographical.
Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)
He is a southerner born in Columbus, Missouri, where his grandfather was
the Episcopal clergyman. When he was 12 his father who was a travelling
salesman moved with his family to St. Louis, & both he & his sister found
it impossible to settle down to the city life. He entered college during
the Depression & left after a couple of years to take a clerical job in a
shoe company. He stayed there for two years, spending the evenings writing.
He entered the University of Iowa in 1938 & completed his course, at the
same time holding a large number of part-time jobs of great diversity. He
received a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1940 for his play “Battle of Angels” &
he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 & 1955.
In 1940 he started journey around the country & ended it up in New York.
There he wrote poetry & short stories. 1945 – his first success “The Glass
Menagerie”. Autobiographical elements are very strong in the play. Williams
managed to create a special lyrical atmosphere of the Wickfield family. It
consists of three people – mother, crippled daughter & son. Each of them
lives in his or her own glass menagerie i.e. imaginary world which has
nothing to do with reality. They fear the reality, its hoarse & repulsive
jungle for they cannot adjust to the law of these jungles. Main idea is
that kindness & good feelings are doomed in clash with reality. These
people are too fragile, too sensitive.
The play introduced features of new plastic theatre. The principles of
this theatre Williams formulated in the afterward to the play “Note for
Reproduction”. It is characterized by tense emotional atmosphere, certain
romanticism, masterly music & light effects, attention is given to
cinography & attraction of expressive means of other arts. In stage remarks
Williams is scrupulous about details for they bear important meaning. he
calculated to produce certain effect on the audience.
His second play “A Streetcar Named Desire” gained him a reputation of
leading stage writer & Pulitzer Prize. In this play there is a clash
between realism & imagination; physical forces, brutishness & helplessness;
sexual drive &thirst for poetic love; naked ugly truth & illusion, world of
fantasy. The main character is Blanche du Beau. The action takes place in
New Orleans in French quarters (it is often compared to the “Cherry
Orchard” by Chekhov). Blanche visits her sister’s family after their
parents died & the family estate is sold. Blanche wears old ridiculously
looking dresses as a symbol of the world she lives in. Blanche meets her
sister’s brute of a husband Stan. Her sister gets out of the way to the
hospital to give birth to a baby. Blanche and Stan detest each other. He
hates a woman who lives in Ivory tower & she hates his brutishness. She
denies & longs for him at the same time. In the end he is taken into
Williams plays with human subconsciuosness. But he finds that the core
of the conflict is not inherent in the struggle between masculine &
feminine but a complex interrelation of personal circumstances: social &
Tennessee Williams’ human type is an outcast, lonely, constantly in
search of a relative soul with whom to share a burden of loneliness. But
life is such that the outsider is doomed to defeat. The only salvation is
love (but even this is questionable). Broken & lost people who are not able
to defend themselves & their dreams can find love that will help them to
Williams is a prolific writer, he also wrote 2 collections of poems. He
combined poetry & realism & this unique combination singles him out from
“Camino Real” is an allegoric drama, very experimental. “This is my
conception of contemporary world in which I live,” he said. The scene is
divided into two parts:
V fashionable hotel in which people are bored & degraded
V slums in which people are weak, humiliated, apathetic
The town is in terror, free thoughts are persecuted, people are killed
in the streets, brainwashing is actively underway. All problems are solved
by an old gypsy woman who provides a certain entertainment. The city is
called Camino Real[re’a:l], that is the way of hope & dream. It ends to
sound real[ri:al], that is the way of reality, dead end of civilization.
Killroy is an ordinary American who feels that atmosphere of social
hysteria & he tries to make sense in life. Old literary characters (Don
Quixote, Byron) come to rescue him. The play has an optimistic ending:
Killroy finally finds the way out of the city to terra incognita. Williams
idealized past, his future is uncertain. His past is good but dead, & the
present is abhorrent.
His other plays “Baby Doll”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, “Something
Unspoken”, “Suddenly Last Summer”, “Sweet Bird of Youth”, “The Milk Train
Doesn’t Stop Here Any More”, “The Night of the Iguana”, etc.
Post modernism can be regarded in two aspects:
V as a literary trend
V as a phenomenon which doesn’t belong exclusively to literature – a
certain mentality of post industrial age.
Post modernism appeared after the second WW. In 50’s, especially 60’s
new type of fiction, new writing emerged, drastically different from
previous writers. The idea that permeated this works: there is need to
reevaluate old values, the values that lead Western civilization (idea of
emancipation, enlightenment). But the WWII showed that the belief that a
human is a reasonable creature who can build a reasonable society is