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PROSE WRITING, 1914-1945: AMERICAN REALISM

PROSE WRITING, 1914-1945: AMERICAN REALISM - Лекция, раздел Лингвистика, Курс лекций по предмету романо-германская филология A Lthough American Prose Between The Wars Experimented W...

A lthough American prose between the wars experimented with viewpoint and form, Americans wrote more realistically, on the whole, than did Europeans. Novelist Ernest Hemingway wrote of war, hunting, and other masculine pursuits in a stripped, plain style; William Faulkner set his powerful southern novels spanning generations and cultures firmly in Mississippi heat and dust; and Sinclair Lewis delineated bourgeois lives with ironic clarity.

The importance of facing reality became a dominant theme in the 1920s and 1930s: Writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and the playwright Eugene O'Neill repeatedly portrayed the tragedy awaiting those who live in flimsy dreams.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald's life resembles a fairy tale. During World War I, Fitzgerald enlisted in the U.S. Army and fell in love with a rich and beautiful girl, Zelda Sayre, who lived near Montgomery, Alabama, where he was stationed. Zelda broke off their engagement because he was relatively poor. After he was discharged at war's end, he went to seek his literary fortune in New York City in order to marry her.

His first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), became a best- seller, and at 24 they married. Neither of them was able to withstand the stresses of success and fame, and they squandered their money. They moved to France to economize in 1924 and returned seven years later. Zelda became mentally unstable and had to be institutionalized; Fitzgerald himself became an alcoholic and died young as a movie screenwriter.

Fitzgerald's secure place in American literature rests primarily on his novel The Great Gatsby (1925), a brilliantly written, economically structured story about the American dream of the self-made man. The protagonist, the mysterious Jay Gatsby, discovers the devastating cost of success in terms of personal fulfillment and love. Other fine works include Tender Is the Night (1934), about a young psychiatrist whose life is doomed by his marriage to an unstable woman, and some stories in the collections Flappers and Philosophers (1920), Tales of the Jazz Age (1922), and All the Sad Young Men (1926). More than any other writer, Fitzgerald captured the glittering, desperate life of the 1920s; This Side of Paradise was heralded as the voice of modern American youth. His second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), continued his exploration of the self-destructive extravagance of his times.

Fitzgerald's special qualities include a dazzling style perfectly suited to his theme of seductive glamour. A famous section from The Great Gatsby masterfully summarizes a long passage of time: "There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars."

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

Few writers have lived as colorfully as Ernest Hemingway, whose career could have come out of one his adventurous novels. Like Fitzgerald, Dreiser, and many other fine novelists of the 20th century, Hemingway came from the U.S. Midwest. Born in Illinois, Hemingway spent childhood vacations in Michigan on hunting and fishing trips. He volunteered for an ambulance unit in France during World War I, but was wounded and hospitalized for six months. After the war, as a war correspondent based in Paris, he met expatriate American writers Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. Stein, in particular, influenced his spare style.

After his novel The Sun Also Rises (1926) brought him fame, he covered the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the fighting in China in the 1940s. On a safari in Africa, he was badly injured when his small plane crashed; still, he continued to enjoy hunting and sport fishing, activities that inspired some of his best work. The Old Man and the Sea (1952), a short poetic novel about a poor, old fisherman who heroically catches a huge fish devoured by sharks, won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1953; the next year he received the Nobel Prize. Discouraged by a troubled family background, illness, and the belief that he was losing his gift for writing, Hemingway shot himself to death in 1961.

Hemingway is arguably the most popular American novelist of this century. His sympathies are basically apolitical and humanistic, and in this sense he is universal. His simple style makes his novels easy to comprehend, and they are often set in exotic surroundings. A believer in the "cult of experience," Hemingway often involved his characters in dangerous situations in order to reveal their inner natures; in his later works, the danger sometimes becomes an occasion for masculine assertion.

Like Fitzgerald, Hemingway became a spokesperson for his generation. But instead of painting its fatal glamour as did Fitzgerald, who never fought in World War I, Hemingway wrote of war, death, and the "lost generation" of cynical survivors. His characters are not dreamers but tough bullfighters, soldiers, and athletes. If intellectual, they are deeply scarred and disillusioned.

His hallmark is a clean style devoid of unnecessary words. Often he uses understatement: In A Farewell to Arms (1929) the heroine dies in childbirth saying "I'm not a bit afraid. It's just a dirty trick." He once compared his writing to icebergs: "There is seven-eighths of it under water for every part that shows."

Hemingway's fine ear for dialogue and exact description shows in his excellent short stories, such as "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." Critical opinion, in fact, generally holds his short stories equal or superior to his novels. His best novels include The Sun Also Rises, about the demoralized life of expatriates after World War I; A Farewell to Arms, about the tragic love affair of an American soldier and an English nurse during the war; For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), set during the Spanish Civil War; and The Old Man and the Sea.

William Faulkner (1897-1962)

Born to an old southern family, William Harrison Faulkner was raised in Oxford, Mississippi, where he lived most of his life. Faulkner created an entire imaginative landscape, Yoknapatawpha County, mentioned in numerous novels, along with several families with interconnections extending back for generations. Yoknapatawpha County, with its capital, "Jefferson," is closely modeled on Oxford, Mississippi, and its surroundings. Faulkner re-creates the history of the land and the various races -- Indian, African-American, Euro-American, and various mixtures -- who have lived on it. An innovative writer, Faulkner experimented brilliantly with narrative chronology, different points of view and voices (including those of outcasts, children, and illiterates), and a rich and demanding baroque style built of extremely long sentences full of complicated subordinate parts.

The best of Faulkner's novels include The Sound and the Fury (1929) and As I Lay Dying (1930), two modernist works experimenting with viewpoint and voice to probe southern families under the stress of losing a family member; Light in August (1932), about complex and violent relations between a white woman and a black man; and Absalom, Absalom! (1936), perhaps his finest, about the rise of a self-made plantation owner and his tragic fall through racial prejudice and a failure to love.

Most of these novels use different characters to tell parts of the story and demonstrate how meaning resides in the manner of telling, as much as in the subject at hand. The use of various viewpoints makes Faulkner more self-referential, or "reflexive," than Hemingway or Fitzgerald; each novel reflects upon itself, while it simultaneously unfolds a story of universal interest. Faulkner's themes are southern tradition, family, community, the land, history and the past, race, and the passions of ambition and love. He also created three novels focusing on the rise of a degenerate family, the Snopes clan: The Hamlet (1940), The Town (1957), and The Mansion (1959).

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Early American and Colonial Period to 1776
  American literature begins with the orally transmitted myths, legends, tales, and lyrics (always songs) of Indian cultures. There was no written literature amon

THE LITERATURE OF EXPLORATION
Had history taken a different turn, the United States easily could have been a part of the great Spanish or French overseas empires. Its present inhabitants might speak Spanish

THE COLONIAL PERIOD IN NEW ENGLAND
It is likely that no other colonists in the history of the world were as intellectual as the Puritans. Between 1630 and 1690, there were as many university graduates in the nor

LITERATURE IN THE SOUTHERN AND MIDDLE COLONIES
Pre-revolutionary southern literature was aristocratic and secular, reflecting the dominant social and economic systems of the southern plantations. Early English immigrants were drawn to th

Democratic Origins and Revolutionary Writers, 1776-1820
  The hard-fought American Revolution against Britain (1775-1783) was the first modern war of liberation against a colonial power. The triumph of American indepen

THE AMERICAN ENLIGHTENMENT
The 18th-century American Enlightenment was a movement marked by an emphasis on rationality rather than tradition, scientific inquiry instead of unquestioning religious dogma,

NEOCLASSISM: EPIC, MOCK EPIC, AND SATIRE
Unfortunately, "literary" writing was not as simple and direct as political writing. When trying to write poetry, most educated authors stumbled into the pitfall of e

WRITERS OF FICTION
The first important fiction writers widely recognized today, Charles Brockden Brown, Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper, used American subjects, historical perspectiv

WOMEN AND MINORITIES
Although the colonial period produced several women writers of note, the revolutionary era did not further the work of women and minorities, despite the many schools, magazines

Other Women Writers
A number of accomplished revolutionary-era women writers have been rediscovered by feminist scholars. Susanna Rowson (c. 1762- 1824) was one of America's first professional novelists. Her seven nov

The Romantic Period, 1820-1860: Essayists and Poets
  The Romantic movement, which originated in Germany but quickly spread to England, France, and beyond, reached America around the year 1820, some 20 years after

TRANSCENDENTALISM
The Transcendentalist movement was a reaction against 18th century rationalism and a manifestation of the general humanitarian trend of 19th century thought. The movement was b

THE BRAHMIN POETS
In their time, the Boston Brahmins (as the patrician, Harvard-educated class came to be called) supplied the most respected and genuinely cultivated literary arbiters of the Un

TWO REFORMERS
New England sparkled with intellectual energy in the years before the Civil War. Some of the stars that shine more brightly today than the famous constellation of Brahmins were

The Romantic Period, 1820-1860: Fiction
  W alt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, and the Transcendentalists represent the first great literary generation

THE ROMANCE
T he Romance form is dark and forbidding, indicating how difficult it is to create an identity without a stable society. Most of the Romantic heroes die in the end: All the sai

WOMEN WRITERS AND REFORMERS
American women endured many inequalities in the 19th century: They were denied the vote, barred from professional schools and most higher education, forbidden to speak in publi

The Rise of Realism: 1860-1914
  T he U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) between the industrial North and the agricultural, slave-owning South was a watershed in American history. The innocent optimism

FRONTIER HUMOR AND REALISM
T wo major literary currents in 19th-century America merged in Mark Twain: popular frontier humor and local color, or "regionalism." These related literary approaches

LOCAL COLORISTS
L ike frontier humor, local color writing has old roots but produced its best works long after the Civil War. Obviously, many pre-war writers, from Henry David Thoreau and Nath

MIDWESTERN REALISM
F or many years, the editor of the important Atlantic Monthly magazine, William Dean Howells (1837-1920), published realistic local color writing by Bret Harte, Mark Twa

COSMOPOLITAN NOVELISTS
Henry James (1843-1916) Henry James once wrote that art, especially literary art, "makes life, makes interest, makes importance." James's fiction and criticism i

NATURALISM AND MUCKRAKING
W harton's and James's dissections of hidden sexual and financial motivations at work in society link them with writers who seem superficially quite different: Stephen Crane, J

THE "CHICAGO SCHOOL" OF POETRY
T hree Midwestern poets who grew up in Illinois and shared the midwestern concern with ordinary people are Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, and Edgar Lee Masters. Their poetry of

TWO WOMEN REGIONAL NOVELISTS
N ovelists Ellen Glasgow (1873-1945) and Willa Cather (1873-1947) explored women's lives, placed in brilliantly evoked regional settings. Neit

THE RISE OF BLACK AMERICAN LITERATURE
T he literary achievement of African-Americans was one of the most striking literary developments of the post-Civil War era. In the writings of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du

Modernism and Experimentation: 1914-1945
  M any historians have characterized the period between t

MODERNISM
T he large cultural wave of Modernism, which gradually emerged in Europe and the United States in the early years of the 20th century, expressed a sense of modern life through

POETRY 1914-1945: EXPERIMENTS IN FORM
Ezra Pound (1885-1972) Ezra Pound was one of the most influential American poets of this century. From 1908 to 1920, he resided in London, where he associated with many wr

BETWEEN THE WARS
Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962) Numerous American poets of stature and genuine vision arose in the years between the world wars, among them poets from the West Coast, women, and

NOVELS OF SOCIAL AWARENESS
S ince the 1890s, an undercurrent of social protest had coursed through American literature, welling up in the naturalism of Stephen Crane and Theodore Dreiser and in the clear

THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE
D uring the exuberant 1920s, Harlem, the black community situated uptown in New York City, sparkled with passion and creativity. The sounds of its black American jazz swept the

LITERARY CURRENTS: THE FUGITIVES AND NEW CRITICISM
F rom the Civil War into the 20th century, the southern United States had remained a political and economic backwater ridden with racism and superstition, but, at the same time

TH-CENTURY AMERICAN DRAMA
A merican drama imitated English and European theater until well into the 20th century. Often, plays from England or translated from European languages dominated theater season

American Poetry Since 1945: The Anti-Tradition
  A shift away from an assumption that traditional forms, ideas, and history can provide meaning and continuity to human life has occurred in the contemporary lit

TRADITIONALISM
T raditional writers include acknowledged masters of traditional forms and diction who write with a readily recognizable craft, often using rhyme or a set metrical pattern. Oft

IDIOSYNCRATIC POETS
P oets who have developed unique styles drawing on tradition but extending it into new realms with a distinctively contemporary flavor, in addition to Plath and Sexton, include

EXPERIMENTAL POETRY
T he force behind Lowell's mature achievement and much of contemporary poetry lies in the experimentation begun in the 1950s by a number of poets. They may be divided into five

The Black Mountain School
The Black Mountain School centered around Black Mountain College an experimental liberal arts college in Asheville, North Carolina, where poets Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, and Robert Creeley taug

The San Francisco School
The work of the San Francisco School -- which includes most West Coast poetry in general -- owes much to Eastern philosophy and religion, as well as to Japanese and Chinese poetry. This is not surp

Beat Poets
The San Franciso School blends into the next grouping -- the "Beat" poets, who emerged in the 1950s. Most of the important Beats (beatniks) migrated to San Francisco from the East Coast,

The New York School
Unlike the Beat and San Franciso poets, the poets of the New York School are not interested in overtly moral questions, and, in general, they steer clear of political issues. They have the best for

Surrealism and Existentialism
In his anthology defining the new schools, Donald Allen includes a fifth group he cannot define because it has no clear geographical underpinning. This vague group includes recent movements and exp

WOMEN AND MULTIETHNIC POETS
W omen's literature, like minority literature and surrealism, first became aware of itself as a driving force in American life during the late 1960s. It flourished in the femin

Chicano/Hispanic/Latino Poetry
Spanish-influenced poetry encompasses works by many diverse groups. Among these are Mexican-Americans, known since the 1950s as Chicanos, who have lived for many generations in the southwestern U.S

Native American Poetry
Native Americans have written fine poetry, most likely because a tradition of shamanistic song plays a vital role in their cultural heritage. Their work excels in vivid, living evocations of the na

African-American Poetry
Contemporary black Americans have produced many poems of great beauty and considerable range of themes and tones. It is the most developed ethnic writing in America and is extremely diverse. Amiri

NEW DIRECTIONS
R ecent directions in American poetry include the "language poets" loosely associated with Temblor magazine. Among them are Bruce Andrews, Lyn Hejinian, Dougla

American Prose Since 1945: Realism and Experimentation
  N arrative since World War II resists generalization: It is extremely various and multifaceted. It has been vitalized by international currents such as European

THE REALIST LEGACY AND THE LATE 1940s
A s in the first half of the 20th century, fiction in the second half reflects the character of each decade. The late 1940s saw the aftermath of World War II and the beginning

THE AFFLUENT BUT ALIENATED 1950s
T he 1950s saw the delayed impact of modernization and technology in everyday life, left over from the 1920s -- before the Great Depression. World War II brought the United Sta

THE TURBULENT BUT CREATIVE 1960s
T he alienation and stress underlying the 1950s found outward expression in the 1960s in the United States in the Civil Rights Movement, feminism, antiwar protests, minority ac

THE 1970s AND 1980s: NEW DIRECTIONS
B y the mid-1970s, an era of consolidation began. The Vietnam conflict was over, followed soon afterward by U.S. recognition of the People's Republic of China and America's Bic

THE NEW REGIONALISM
T here is nothing new about a regional tradition in American literature. It is as old as the Native American legends, as evocative as the works of James Fenimore Cooper and Bre

List of Books on American Literature
1. W. Irving. Rip van Winkle 2. E.A. Poe.The Fall of the House of Usher 3. M. Twain.The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Exam questions on American literature
1. Early American and colonial period. 2. Revolutionary literature. The American Enlightenment. 3. The creative work of W. Irving. 4. The creative work of J. F. Cooper.

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