Chapter 5 The Modern Period
Section 1 The 1920s
The 1920s is a flowering period of American literature. It is considered “the second renaissance” of American literature.
The nicknames for this period:
(1) Roaring 20s – comfort
(2) Dollar Decade – rich
(3) Jazz Age – Jazz music
a) First World War – “a war to end all wars”
(1) Economically: became rich from WWI. Economic boom: new inventions. Highly-consuming society.
(2) Spiritually: dislocation, fragmentation.
b) wide-spread contempt for law (looking down upon law)
1. Freud’s theory
III. Features of the literature
Writers: three groups
(3) Bohemian (unconventional way of life) – on-lookers
(1) Failure of communication of Americans
(2) Failure of the American society
Imagism was influenced by French symbolism, ancient Chinese poetry and Japanese literature “haiku”
II. Development: three stages (来源：http://www.EnglishCN.com)
1. 1908~1909: London, Hulme
2. 1912~1914: England -> America, Pound
3. 1914~1917: Amy Lowell
III. What is an “image”?
An image is defined by Pound as that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time, “a vortex or cluster of fused ideas” “endowed with energy”. The exact word must bring the effect of the object before the reader as it had presented itself to the poet’s mind at the time of writing.
1. Direct treatment of the “thing”, whether subjective or objective;
2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation;
3. As regarding rhythm, to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of a metronome.
1. It was a rebellion against the traditional poetics which failed to reflect the new life of the new century.
2. It offered a new way of writing which was valid not only for the Imagist poets but for modern poetry as a whole.
3. The movement was a training school in which many great poets learned their first lessons in the poetic art.
4. It is this movement that helped to open the first pages of modern English and American poetry.
VI. Ezra Pound
2. literary career
(3) Hugh Selwyn Mauberley
4. point of view
(1) Confident in Pound’s belief that the artist was morally and culturally the arbiter and the “saviour” of the race, he took it upon himself to purify the arts and became the prime mover of a few experimental movements, the aim of which was to dump the old into the dustbin and bring forth something new.
(2) To him life was sordid personal crushing oppression, and culture produced nothing but “intangible bondage”.
(3) Pound sees in Chinese history and the doctrine of Confucius a source of strength and wisdom with which to counterpoint Western gloom and confusion.
(4) He saw a chaotic world that wanted setting to rights, and a humanity, suffering from spiritual death and cosmic injustice, that needed saving. He was for the most part of his life trying to offer Confucian philosophy as the one faith which could help to save the West.
5. style: very difficult to read
Pound’s early poems are fresh and lyrical. The Cantos can be notoriously difficult in some sections, but delightfully beautiful in others. Few have made serious study of the long poem; fewer, if anyone at all, have had the courage to declare that they have conquered Pound; and many seem to agree that the Cantos is a monumental failure.
He has helped, through theory and practice, to chart out the course of modern poetry.
7. The Cantos – “the intellectual diary since 1915”
(1) Language: intricate and obscure
(2) Theme: complex subject matters
(3) Form: no fixed framework, no central theme, no attention to poetic rules
VII. T. S. Eliot
l The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
l The Waste Land (epic)
l Hollow Man
l Ash Wednesday
l Four Quarters
l Murder in the Cathedral
l Sweeney Agonistes
l The Cocktail Party
l The Confidential Clerk
(3) Critical essays
l The Sacred Wood
l Essays on Style and Order
l Elizabethan Essays
l The Use of Poetry and The Use of Criticisms
l After Strange Gods
3. point of view
(1) The modern society is futile and chaotic.
(2) Only poets can create some order out of chaos.
(3) The method to use is to compare the past and the present.
(1) Fresh visual imagery, flexible tone and highly expressive rhythm
(2) Difficult and disconnected images and symbols, quotations and allusions
(3) Elliptical structures, strange juxtapositions, an absence of bridges
5. The Waste Land: five parts
(1) The Burial of the Dead
(2) A Game of Chess
(3) The Fire Sermon
(4) Death by Water
(5) What the Thunder Said
VIII. Robert Frost
2. point of view
(1) All his life, Frost was concerned with constructions through poetry. “a momentary stay against confusion”.
(2) He understands the terror and tragedy in nature, but also its beauty.
(3) Unlike the English romantic poets of 19th century, he didn’t believe that man could find harmony with nature. He believed that serenity came from working, usually amid natural forces, which couldn’t be understood. He regarded work as “significant toil”.
3. works – poems
the first: A Boy’s Will
collections: North of Boston, Mountain Interval (mature), New Hampshire
4. style/features of his poems
(1) Most of his poems took New England as setting, and the subjects were chosen from daily life of ordinary people, such as “mending wall”, “picking apples”.
(2) He writes most often about landscape and people – the loneliness and poverty of isolated farmers, beauty, terror and tragedy in nature. He also describes some abnormal people, e.g. “deceptively simple”, “philosophical poet”.
(3) Although he was popular during 1920s, he didn’t experiment like other modern poets. He used conventional forms, plain language, traditional metre, and wrote in a pastured tradition.
IX. e. e. cummings
“a juggler with syntax, grammar and diction” – individualism, “painter poet”