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3: The Twentieth Century and Beyond

  • Page ID
    41790
    • 3.1: Modernism and Postmodernism as Literary Movements
      Modernism as a literary movement was influenced by thinkers who questioned the certainties that had provided support for traditional modes of social organization, religion, morality, and human identity, or the self. Modernism rebelled against traditional literary forms and subjects. Modernists subverted basic conventions of prose fiction by breaking up narrative continuity, violating traditional syntax, and disrupting the coherence of narration—through the use of stream-of-consciousness.
    • 3.2: Historical Context
      The Victorian idea of human perfectibility, the sense that we are in the best of all worlds in the best of all ways, briefly persisted after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. The accession of Edward VII ushered in the Edwardian Age, deemed a golden age that would see the fruition of scientific and technological advancements. The Edwardian Age, followed briefly by the Georgian Age, however, proved transitional as the hopes of a new world soon gave way to the grim realities of World War I.
    • 3.3: Recommended Reading
      This page contains a list of texts which are recommended by the author for further reading.
    • 3.4: Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
      Joseph Conrad was born in Russian-controlled Ukraine. Starting in 1874, Conrad became a seaman for ten years. In 1890, Conrad asked his aunt to get him a command of a steamship up the Congo. His experiences in the Belgian Congo culminates into Heart of Darkness (1902). The novel evokes uncertainty, of polarities and opposites, of values and principles, and of characters. The novel’s narrative technique builds on this twentieth century sense of uncertainty, meaninglessness, and alienation.
    • 3.5: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
      William Butler Yeats was born into an artistic Protestant family in Dublin, Ireland. Yeats early on interested himself in Irish history, culture, politics, and governmental autonomy. Yeats’s personal interests in Ireland and the occult found beautiful expression in his early and middle periods of writing. Yeats’s later poetry remained personal; however, he developed his own System of symbols that conveyed his spiritualist vision in concrete terms.
    • 3.6: Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
      From her childhood on, Woolf mingled with the many famous authors who were her father’s acquaintances, including Thomas Hardy and Henry James. After her father’s death, Woolf lived in Bloomsbury where she joined a highly intellectual group of writers and artists that came to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. The resistance to patriarchy also informed her rejection of such expected roles for women as the subservient wife and mother. This belief became the foundation of many of her literary works.
    • 3.7: James Joyce (1882-1941)
      James Joyce was born in Dublin into a middle-class, Catholic family. Although he lived on the Continent, Joyce’s writing consistently drew from his life in Dublin. His own intellectual and artistic growth shaped and gave focus to his work, as did conflicts arising from Joyce’s views on Roman Catholicism and Irish self-governance. In Ulysses, the use of symbolism ultimately casts doubt on a concrete, logical sense of history, casts doubt on linear time so that reality becomes protean.
    • 3.8: D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
      David Herbert Lawrence was born in Nottinghamshire. His mother Lydia Lawrence, a well-educated and literary woman from a middle-class family, inspired Lawrence’s interest in literature. Like T. S. Eliot, Lawrence deplored the tendency of modern human beings to put their energies into their heads, to experience their sexuality vicariously rather than directly. He advocated instead connections, of the reason and the unconscious, mind and body, man and woman, human and nature, sky and earth.
    • 3.9: T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
      Thomas Stearns Eliot was born into a large, upper-middle-class family in St. Louis, Missouri. His poetry expressed a parallel search for stability and personal, spiritual, and cultural meaning and coherence. As a modernist, his experiments in form, sound, and imagery used fragmentation and multi-vocalism along with the mythic method that gave shape to apparent chaos and spiritual meaning to apparent vacuity.
    • 3.10: Stevie Smith (1902–1971)
      Florence Margaret Smith’s father abandoned his wife and two daughters. Smith lived her entire life in the home that her aunt Maggie provided in Palmer’s Green, a suburb north of London. At the encouragement of Ian Parsons, Smith wrote a novel. Novel on Yellow Paper: Or, Work It Out for Yourself (1936). She published its sequel, Over the Frontier, in 1938, and two collections of poetry before publishing her most famous work Not Waving but Drowning (1958).
    • 3.11: Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
      Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin to a Protestant family. After the war, Beckett was decorated with the Croix de Guerre and the Medaille de la Resistance by the French government. He returned to Paris where he wrote, in French, the novel Malloy (1951), which garnered him critical attention, followed by the play Waiting for Godot (1953), also written in French, which earned him international fame. In 1969, Beckett won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died of respiratory disease in 1989.
    • 3.12: Doris Lessing (1919-2013)
      Doris Lessing was born in Persia (now Iraq). At the age of fifteen, Lessing left home to work as a nursemaid and started writing professionally. Lessing continued to use her experiences in and views of Africa, particularly her opposition to apartheid, as material for her writing. In a series of psychological novels, The Children of Violence (1952-1969), she followed the developing consciousness of Martha Quest and the dystopian future of England. In 2007, she won the Novel Prize for Literature.
    • 3.13: Fleur Adcock (1934 - )
      Kareen Fleur Adcock was born in Papakura, New Zealand. In 1971, she published Tigers, a collection of new poems combined with poems that previously appeared in The Eye of the Hurricane (1964), which was published in New Zealand. It was soon followed by a series of collections, including High Tide in the Garden (1971), The Scenic Route (1974), and The Inner Harbour (1979), a book that received especial acclaim. A collected edition of her poetry, Poems 1960-2000, appeared in 2000.
    • 3.14: Anita Desai (1937 - )
      Born in British India, Anita Desai’s parents were Dhiren Mazumdar, an Indian businessman, and Antoinette Nim, a German. After she graduated, Desai worked at the German Cultural Institute. She continued her writing, publishing her first novel, Cry, the Peacock, in 1963. Desai gained recognition as a writer of profound psychological insight on the displaced and the alienated. She has taught at various prestigious universities around the world, and is professor emeritus at MIT.
    • 3.15: Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)
      Seamus Heaney was born into a farming family in Northern Ireland to Patrick Heaney and Margaret Kathleen. Heaney then lectured at St. Joseph’s, where he joined a coterie of young Irish poets, and published his first book, Eleven Poems (1965), for the Queen’s University Festival. Besides poetry, Heaney published critical essays; translations of the Aeneid and Beowulf, among others; and plays.
    • 3.16: Salman Rushdie (1947- )
      Ahmed Salman Rushdie was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India in an affluent Muslim family. He also wrote and published Grimus (1975), a novel that met with poor success, followed by Midnight’s Children (1981), a magic realist novel for which he won the 1981 Booker Prize. Consequently, Rushdie went into hiding until 1998, when the Iranian government lifted the fatwa. He now lives in New York City, New York.

    Thumbnail: James Joyce in Zürich, in 1915. (Public Domain; Alex Ehrenzweig via Wikipedia)

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