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 influences:
The First World War
Bergson’s philosophy of subjective idealism
Einstein’s theory of relativity
Economic crises 1919-1921 & consequent upheaval of social movement
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 behave.
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 nation’s future.
“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 catastrophe.
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 passive.
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 aspects.
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 author himself:
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 styles.
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 pleasures.
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 figuratively.
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. Leitmotif:
В гостиных дамы тяжело
Беседуют о Микеланджело.
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 sophisticated allusions:
Anthropological account of “Grail”(“Грааль”) 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 lyrical style.
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 very important.
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 intense moments.
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”. Modernists:
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 were:
“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. Its features:
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 “неисчерпаемый свод стихотворных форм”. 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-garde movement.
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:
novel - the portraits of literary characters
biographies of historical personalities
news-reel, i.e. news of the day
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”(лови момент) 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 “поэзия отрицательных величин” 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 “Yoknapatawpha County”
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 his death:
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 phenomenon).
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 volumes:
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 intellectuals.
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 “братьев по духу” 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 biological characteristics.
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 national history.
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 lunatic asylum.
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 & others.
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 sustain.
Williams is a prolific writer, he also wrote 2 collections of poems. He combined poetry & realism & this unique combination singles him out from other writers.
“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:
fashionable hotel in which people are bored & degraded
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:
as a literary trend
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 inconsistent.