Largely created from the destruction of World War I and II.
Romanticism no longer had a place in the modern world.
Gothicism was no longer needed with the current devastation
Realism and Naturalism also changed.
Existential tenets, such as fear, anxiety, and dread dominated
“Truths” still existed, but the difference is that a select few authors, like Pound, Eliot, and Hemingway, felt themselves capable of extending “truth” to the general public.
The individual in Modernist literature is often scarred in some way.
Many authors actually served in the war, so graphic images of the trench experience were commonplace.
Rats thrived in their millions among trenches in most fronts of the war. Trench conditions were ideal for rats. The rats grew in boldness, stealing food and crawling across the faces of sleeping men.
Many rats reportedly grew to the size of cats.
However the feature which caused the most revulsion among soldiers was the knowledge that rats openly fed on the decaying remains of comrades who were killed.
No Man’s Land
THE INFLUENZA EPIDEMIC
In the summer of 1918 a severe form of influenza broke out which eventually claimed up to 70 million lives around the world until it finally, unexpectedly, disappeared in 1919.
The virus claimed far more lives than the war itself claimed during 1914-18.
In particular around 450,000 deaths occurred in the United States, the majority among otherwise healthy people under the age of 40. In Britain some 228,000 civilian casualties died; 400,000 in Germany. Hardest hit however was India with a reported 16 million casualties alone.
THE GREAT DEPRESSION
WORLD WAR II
* Individualism – one must find one’s own subjective “truth” without the aid of universal, objective standards, outside of religion, society, tradition, government, etc.
* “truth” is therefore subjective and always changing. It is also concrete. Many Existentialists point to small, daily routines as “truths:” the smell of coffee brewing, playing with a dog, etc.
“God is Dead,” a phrase often quoted from Nietzsche, simply means that moral and ethical responsibility is put in the hands of each individual; therefore, everyone is responsible for his/her actions.
Choice is central to human existence. One always has a choice, even the refusal to choose is a choice – Sisyphus.
Though, with this new found individualism, comes extreme dread and anxiety; it is freeing but terrifying.
“MAKE IT NEW”
Name given to a movement in poetry, originating in 1912 and represented by Ezra Pound, Eliot, and others, aiming at clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images.
From an Imagist manifesto:
1. To use the language of common speech, but to employ the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.
2. We believe that the individuality of a poet may often be better expressed in free verse than in conventional forms. In poetry, a new cadence means a new idea.
3. Absolute freedom in the choice of subject.
4. To present an image. We are not a school of painters, but we believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to us to shirk the real difficulties of his art.
5. To produce a poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.
6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.
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