20TH CENTURY HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The 20th Century in Britain began bath the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, she was succeeded by her son Edward VII (1901-1910) and this marked the beginning of the Edwardian Period of peace and prosperity; however, this was not too last for long, Edward died in 1910 and his successor George V (1910-1936) saw the outbreak of the first World War in history which lasted 1914 to 1918 and which cost Britain a great deal, consequently the 1920's were a period of general depression, both social and economical which culminated in the Wall Street Crash in the USA in 1929 and let to world wide economic chaos.
The 1930's were not only a period of economic tension, but also vast political changes, Stalin came to power in Russia and Germany saw the development of Nazism ant the Hitler. These two factors were also in part responsible for the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). This war influenced many English intellectuals who came to Spain to fight for the republicans and to demonstrate their opposition to the Fascism. Almost as soon as the war in Spain has ended with Franco's victory, Britain, on the 3rd of September in 1939 was forced to go to war with Germany after she invaded Poland. This war, the Second World War lasted almost 6 years and saw various changes in Britain. The principal being the resignation of prime minister Chamberlain to make way for Winston Churchill in 1940, he was responsible for leading Britain and the allies to victory in 1945, however, despite this succeed Britain was almost economically ruined, and her people voted for a labour government headed by Attle, who proceeded to carry our the party program for a better world. By the time, Elizabeth the Second came to the throne in 1952, British life had already improved considerably and continue to do so until the end of the 1960's.
THE 20TH CENTURY LITERARY BACKGROUND
It is fairly difficult to known how to define 20th Century literature, as of course, many writers were already producing work at the end of the 19th Century and continued into the next one. The works of Thomas Hardy, A.E.Houseman, Robert Bridge (the poets) and Golsworthy and Arnold Bennett (the novelist) can be classified as belonging to the 20th century, and many of these were at the beginning of Edwardian Period (1901) hardly reflected the ideal of peace and prosperity, but was certainly inactive of English society which was still dominated by the social classes. Life, for the rich, was full of possibilities but also of restrictions and these restrictions are demonstrated in the early novels of E.M. Foster, also the complex Victorian laws of Christian faith, became more problematic, as did the different versions of Socialism, and these two factors were a great influence upon literature, many intellectuals were concerned with finding something to believe in and out of this grew a movement called Vortex.
This was founded by T.E. Hulme (artist) Ezra Pound and Whyndham Lewis (writers) and had some of the aims of Futurism, a movement launched in 1909 by Marinetti, an Italian intellectual who called for recognition of modern technology, speed and noise in the art and an abolition of syntax in poetry. Futurism let to “Dada” in 1916 a movement that denied amongst other things progress, the past and all that was not the immediate product of spontaneity; this was naturally a tremendous influence upon all art and literature.
The coming of the first World War in 1914 also produced and expertly good poetry, there were some who saw the war in a romantic and sentimental light, like Rupert Brooke and others who reflected the harsh reality, brutality and furtivity of war; Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sasson are excellent example of this.
Postwar depression and the rise of Communism were abundant in the 1920's and Modernism was a product of this. The Modernism movement is generally categorized as having existed between 1922-1925 and it was a reaction against the past, Newness became essential as beat the necessity for change; this is reflected in the work of James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Virginia Woolf amongst other.
There was not direct link between politics and literature but the leaders of the modernism movement were biased towards the Right, although in different ways. W.B.Yeats' politics focus on Ireland, Lawrence referred to the need for aristocracy and the threat of the Jews; TS Eliot was an Anglo-catholic Tory and Ezra Pound identified with Italian Fascism. For the first time there seemed to be a unity between all modernist novels and poetry.
Another aspect of novels during this period was the satirisation of English society, particularly the social class system. This can be seen to its effects in the works of Aldows Thuxley and later Evelyn Vaugh.
The 1920's because one of the greatest movements of Literary development in history and ended in 1929 with the economic crisis and the continued depression. During the 1930's the intelligence on the hole began to move towards the Left, this was dude in many ways to the depression and the rights of Fascism and was heightened by the Spanish Civil War which, for the first time, demonstrated the confrontation between Left and Right. Many intellectual, the most famous been George Orwell and American Ernest Hemingway as well as ordinary people came to fight in Spain, the majority for the Republicans.
The group of poets of the period was dominated by W.H.Auden whose poem Spain directed everybody's attention there as the center of the world crisis; this group was in favour of a popular front against Fascism, however, the political fervor soon past and the poets went their own ways.
Novelist such as Orwell Greene and Beckett who could not be unified and defined as a specific movement dominated the end of the 1930's.
The Second World War was not particularly prolific in the literary sense, apart from which paper was in short supply and therefore limited the amount of books that could be printed. Nevertheless Elliot's Little Gidding was written in 1941 and the Welsh poet DylanThomas began to obtain more recognition for his work. The best novel of the world period is considered to be Woolf's Between two acts (1941), which was her reaction against the crisis and after which se killed herself. After the Second World War, it maybe observed that there was no specific movement, although novelist and playwriters Reith Waterhouse, John Osborne, Allan Sillitoc, Kingsley Amis, reflected the middleclass revelation and the discontent against the society's hypocrisy of the British establishment.
Drama made a resurgence in the 1950's with dramatist like Pintor, Weskeer and Osbornes. The 1960's had a second wave of modernism in Neo-Dada. But it had little more impact than the movement of the 1950's whose best poet was Philip Larkin.
THE BIRTH OF MODERN LITERATURE
Hardy was born in Dorchester, in the South West of England in 1840, and began his literary career as a novelist. His novels were extremely pessimistic, and were dedicated to the life of his native county of Dorset. They were full of the sense of man's bond with nature and with the past. Man never seems to be free of the forces of time and fate, which control his life. There is rarely any message of hope. His first novel was produced in 1871, and his last in 1896.
This last novel Jude the Obscure received such a hostile reception for its pessimism that Hardy turned from the novel to verse and this coincided with the beginning of the 20th century. Much of his verse, like his novels, expresses the irony of life and the need for resignation in the face of hostile fate. But he also began to express lighter moods, and produced enchanting nature, poems and even love lyrics. His skill at showing nature, and his eye for close detail, which is apparent in his novels, is even better exploited in his verse.
Hardy's greatness in verse is said to lie in his short Lyrics, which present such an anomaly to 20th century poetry as a whole, because they move between so many different classification: narratives, dramatic lyrics and imitations of folksongs and ballads, for example. Many of these poems are personal evocations of sorrow or bitterness, although they also occasionally celebrate or distrust local and international experiments with forms, and uses archaic vocabulary in advanced ways.
Many of Hardy's poems were written during, and about The First World War: Channel Firing, In time of the Breaking of Nations, and reiterate the pessimism of his novels. His ability to produce a verse-composition of epic length is shown in The Dynasts, a vast un-actable drama meant to be presented on the stage of the reader's own imagination. It deals with the Napoleonic Wars as seen from the viewpoint not only of men but also of the Immortal Fates, who watch, direct, and comment. That is to say the gods who control Man's destiny.
Hardy's standing as a poet is considerable, but he will be remembered both as a poet and a novelist.
HENRY JAMES (1843-1916)
Henry James is regarded as one of the two pioneers of the modern novel, the other being Joseph Conrad. He is one of the greatest personalities to be found in English fiction between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
He was born an American, but spent most of his life in Europe, the last 20 being in London, because his native country seemed to immature for the production of great literature, and he preferred the “old world” which was richer in tradition and culture.
His three phases as a writer begin with the idea of the impact of Europe on the American abroad and the conflict between the old world and the new, particularly between Europe's tolerant (and often corrupt) sophisticated civilization, and America's rigid Puritanism and fervent idealism. The Portrait of a Lady (1881) is his best novel in this period.
In the novels of his second phase, James turned away from the international thing and concentrated mainly on English characters and the English scene, in for example, The princess Casamassirna (1886) for The Awkward Age (1899). However, it is James' third and final phase, which is considered to be his greatest. Here, he resumed the thing of his first phase, the international scene, but with greater maturity vision and style. His style is very personal but also occasionally too complicated, this believed was that the holy reason for the existence of the novel is that if should attempt to represent life.
He was a great observer both of social scene and of the inner life of man. His masterpieces of this period were The wings of the Dove (1902); The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1905). James is also famous as a writer of short stories and as a critic. His favorite method was the dramatic method, the direct presentation of events and the minds of the characters without comment explanation.
He died in London in 1916, shortly after becoming a naturalized British subject.
JOSEPH CONRAD (1857-1924)
Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski was the real name of Joseph Conrad. He was a Pole born in Ukraine, and in love with the Sea from an early age. He studied at the University of Cracow but also travelled extensively through the world. First in the French and the in the British merchant marine, and this gave him the material for most of his books. He gave up the sea at the age of 37, in 1894, and began his career as a novelist.
Conrad is a unique case of a foreigner writing in English, a language that he had not learnt until his twenties, and acquiring such a knowledge of the language as to come to be regarded as one of the supreme masters of English prose fiction. He entered his best creative period with The Nigger of Narcism (1898) which was the first of a lacy series of short or medium length narratives, dealing mainly with life at sea and which also includes Heart of Darkness (1902). His first great novel was Lord Jim (1900). This play is about the well-known story of a young English officer who, in a moment of panic, deserts his ship, which he believes to be sinking, and finally finds redemption in an honorable death. Lord Jim was followed by Conrad's great trio of political novel Nostromo (1904) The secret agent (1907) and Hunder western eyes (1911)in which he describes the gloomy world of revolutionaries. He turned again to stories of the sea in novels such as Chance (1914), Victory (1915), The shadow line (1917) and the last novels The arrow of gold (1919), The rescue (1920) and The Rover (1929).
Clearly show at decline in his creative power and cannot stand comparison with the great novels of his central period. Generalization of Conrad's work is difficult but two things may be said: The first, Conrad's fiction is related with unusual closeness to his own experience; and the second, he was from the beginning an artist, never accepting conventional forms, or conventional judgments. No writer did more to establish in the English novel the strict necessity to find new forms for every act, and he shared with James the central position in the development of the modern novel In his most interesting experiments in technique he gave up the traditional third person narrator and position of omniscient novelist, who knows everything about the characters and events. Instead, he made use of a multiplicity of points of view, so that, one and the same event is seen from different angles and the complete design of the story is put together through the intervention of several witnesses, each of whom knows only a fragment of the whole.
HG WELLS. (Herbert George, 1866-1946)
Wells was deeply preocupated by the social and political problems of his time. Hi is considered t be a brilliant and highly imaginative writer who published about 50 novels.
These can be arranged in three groups:
The first of which contain his Scientifics fantastic romances. For example, The time machine (1895), The invisible man (1897) and The war of the worlds (1898) were all outstanding in their ideas of extremely advanced for their era.
The second group were comic novels such as Ripps (1905) and The history of Mr. Polly (1905). This also attained success and popularity, and continued to do so.
The final group failed to achieve the success of the other two, and its novels such as The New Machiavelle (1911), Mr. Brithing sees it through (1916), The world of William Chissold (1926) contained ideas which haven't the topical value that the have when they first appear at the beginning of the 20th century.
On the whole hand, Wells is probably the most famous and respected for his first group of novels which explored the effects of Modern Science an Technology on men's lives and thoughts, although his humorous and often satirical novels of realistic contemporary life are also widely acclaimed.
POETS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR
At the beginning of the First World War, most people thought that English youths would demonstrate their heroism and fight for what was good and right. However, as the war progressed and reports began to come back of the horrendous among of deaths and casualties of the terrible conditions in the trenches and of the stupidity of general which lead to flew victories and tremendous loss, many became more pessimistic.
SIEGFRIED SASSOON (1886-1967)
s. Sassoon was one of these people, at the beginning of the wart he had written several idealistic poems bur after he had been injured three times and had returned to battle, he began to demonstrate his critical view of event. Firstly, by throwing his military cross Medal into River Mersey and secondly, through his poetry.
Sassoon's poems show the physical details and horror of war, and his feelings of uselessness of violence and death.
He regrets that he cannot return to the past, laments for lost friends and displace contempt for those who have not seen the terribleness of combat and who speak of heroism.
His most famous reactions to the war are a series of bitter satires against such people.
Sassoon's work was original in its content but had nothing to offer in its style of form. Sassoon wrote angry poems about the war, Connter Attack, War Poems and Vigils are among his work.
Today, his poems are not very well-known although on his own time he was the first poet of his kind. However, he's important because he had already had a lot of works published and it was he who encouraged Wilfred Owen to write poetry.
WILFRED OWEN (1893-1918)
W.Owen was born in Shropshire and studied al London University. He enlisted in 1915. Early the following year he was ended and convalesced in Scotland and England. It was during this convalescence that he met S. Sassoon who recognize his potential as a poet and helped him with his first poems: Dulce et Decorum (1917) being the most notable, however Owen went on to became a greater poet that Sassoon. Indoubtly the greatest to have been produced by the First World War. His poetry is at time classical in its for but he was also responsible for the development of para-rhymes (half Rhymes) which were a great influence upon the poets of 1930's. This can be seen in a strange meeting 1918 with rhymes such as hall and hall years and yours or mystery and mastery. His poetry also provided the prototype for subsequent visions of modern warfare, the reveals an ironic lack of trust of all the traditional ideologies which have kept soldiers fighting, but this lack of trust is expressed with the direct experience of pain, death and the sophisticated horror; For example, the use of gas.
He tramits the horror and futility of war to the reader in a direct shocking manner, much more effected through poetry than prose. Strange meeting is not only unique in its rhyme scene, but also in its surreal dream-like quality, which would also become one of the themes and or the influences of later writers and artist. His fire main themes are:
Man's separation from nature
The physical and psychological effects of war on soldiers.
The inaccuracy of conventional religious attitudes
Absence of separation from the people at home.
The growth of camaraderie among the troops.
His work is dramatic and forceful and no one could read it without feeling something of his terrible experiences in the trenches.
He was killed a week before the end of the war at the age of 25, and it is ironic that the greatest poet of this period should only have had four poems published during his short life. Had he lived he would certainly have been capable of greater themes.
RUPERT BROOKE (1887-1915)
R. Brooke stands in contrast to Owen and Sassoon in that his poetry reflected the typical romanticism of war that he later to dested and satirized.
He was popular during the war, precisely because of this romanticism and also because of his extreme physical beauty and early death.
His poetry was unquestionable patriotic as in, for example, The Soldier (1914). His popularity has now diminished but perhaps had he lived he too would had develop to critize and satirize war as Owen and Sassoon did.
His best poetry, however is perhaps to be seen in the self-exploring poems that he wrote first before the war, which give evidence of his search for a more realistic and colloquial language.
THE INTERWAR YEARS (THE 1920's)
E.M. FOSTER (Edward Morgan, 1879-1970)
Foster was born in London and he was educated at Tonbridge public school. Most of his novels were written before the 1st World War, and very much reflected the Edwardian way of life. They exam characters in social settings and situations, and show a sensitive acute and complete psychological awareness of the inner beings of his characters.
He was concerned with the details that go to produce middle class' life. His constant thematic concerned is the importance in human life of personal relationship, the necessity that men connect personally with each other and the conviction that the tragedy of modern man is essential loneliness and these things can be seen in novels like A room with views (1918) and Howard's End (1910).
It is difficult to associate Foster with any specific movement, his influence on the construction of the novel has been great, but he has no real message except about the value of individual life. He was, however, a highly influential member of the intellectual Blomsbury Group of London in 1920's which included among others, Virginia Woolf and philosopher Bestrand Russell.
In 1924 Foster published A Passage to India which deals with the East and West duality and if the two can really meet. After a long analysis of the differences he comes to the conclusion that they cannot- At least not then.
One of Foster's great preoccupations is that of homosexuality and that sexual relations between two people of the same sex should not be forbidden by law. This book Maurice (1913) is based on this theme, although it was not published until 1971. Foster's homosexuality is evident in his novels, in that he portraits female characters with tremendous compassion and understanding.
Between the 1920's and his death in 1970 he produced Abinger Harvest (1936) and Two cheers for Democracy (1951) but neither achieved any great literary fame.
VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1941)
The main line of development of the early 20th century novel represents a break with the naturalism school and a movement towards a more subtle and complex vision of man and his world.
Two facts seem to be responsible for this, the total disruption after 1st World War of social, moral and intellectual values and new development in psychology, particularly Freud.
Virginia Woolf was one of the people to state most fiercely the aims of the new writers, a stream of consciousness which shows the continuous flow of mind with its free play of images and associations. The reader is taken inside the mind of the character and follows these thoughts often not logical or lineal as they happened.
Woolf was the daughter of the disthingued philosopher Sir Leslie Stephen and was married to Leonard Woolf, a central figure of the Bloomsbury Group, she grew up in an atmosphere of great cultural refinement, although she had an extremely fragile nervous system, and therefore never received a regular education.
Her first novels The Voyage Out (1915) and Night and Day (1919) were firmly traditional, but two years later she was beginning to experiment with the stream of consciousness technique, with she develop to produce her best novels, including Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the lighthouse (1927). Woolf is not only known as a novelist but also as a critic deeply concerned with the problems of the writer what mattered to her was not external reality but the life of the mind, therefore she rejected the traditional form of the novel and we can see in her work that plot and external description are of little importance to her. Her prose is often more similar to poetry in its form.
Her final work was Between the Acts (1941) which reflected the crisis of the 2nd World War and after which she committed suicide.
DH LAWRENCE ( David Herbert 1885-1930)
DH Lawrence was born in the mining village of Eastwood, Nottingham (Central England). His father was an illiterate miner but his mother was of a higher class and had once been a schoolteacher.
Lawrence was a weak child owing to the tuberculosis that eventually killed him and thus expent little time with other children and expent his days with books or in the countryside close nature.
He eventually qualified for a teacher's certificate an Nottingham University in 1908, meanwhile he maintained a relationship with a girl from his village called Jesse Chambers, which he later broke off. His relationship with his mother was also extremely closed and important to him, and this two relationship with mother and fiancée became the subject to his first major novel Sons and lovers (1913). However Lawrence eventually came to reject and escape from his mother's suffocating love.
In 1914 he married a divorced German woman, cousin to the Red Baron, the German fighter pilot; this was seen in a very bad light considering that Britain was at war with Germany. This reaction was partly the cause of Lawrence's leaving Britain to expent his life first in Europe and the in Australia and America.
Before all this, however, Lawrence had began working on another novel, it began as The Sisters but was eventually published as two books, which can be read together or separately, The Rainbow (1915) and Women in Love (1920). Both novels deal with the central characters of two sisters Ursula and Gudrun, but it is in the second that Lawrence displays his talent as a novelist.
He invented a new kind of novel and a new way of treating human personality; he saw the only means for human reduction as been though a full sexual relationship achieved only through marriage.
He rejected Liberalism and civilization and wanted Man to go back to the natural world of instinct, many of his novels are concerned with the relationship between men and women which he regards as a source of vitality and integration, he was also against science and religion, nobody has ever presented human passion, man's relation with nature or the sense of the presents of life in all things like Lawrence. He saw love in the union of man and woman n the sexual act as a mystic experience and a liberating force that could free human kind from the mechanism and humanize life of the modern world.
Between 1918-1928 Lawrence wrote several novels based upon his travels: The Plumed Serpent (1923, Mexico), Kangaroo (1923, Australia)... But it is in 1928 that his most controversial novel Lady Chatterley's lover was written; It is a portrayal of the sexual act and its use of bad language was considered so shocking that it was not published in Britain until 1960, but in Lawrence's opinion he had tried to make the sex relation valid and precious instead of shameful.
Lawrence was finally killed by this tuberculosis in the South of France in 1930, by which time he had produced a great number of works. He belongs to modernism although his style is closer to Hardy than Joyce. His works were spontaneous and he hardly ever bothered to correct what he had written, he trusted to inspiration and instinct to produce his writings rather than technique and it is for this reason that his best books made a unique and permanent contribution to the history of English fiction.
Aldows Huxley was born in Surney, South-East of England into a family of renamed intellectuals and scientist. He was great nephew of Matthew Arnold (the poet); He studied at Balliot College Oxford and in 1915 he emerged with a degree in literature, he began to write poetry, and by 1921 his first novel Crome Yellow was published. This was the beginning of his use of the novel as a vehicle for his ideas, which he presented in a humorous and satirical way. He was against moral, recklessness and intellectual sophistication as can also be seen in the Antic Hay (1923) and Those Barren leaves (1925) which have little plot but a great deal of brilliant dialogue and show a world without aim o direction, artist, rich people, etc. and a seemingly meaningless existence. Point Counter Point (1928) specially seems to show that man is a creature to mixed and to divide by passion and reason to find much happiness.
Huxley's pessimistic view of society and the future of man is also found in Brave New World (1932) when he stated that Science has no solution showing that if m an became completely happy and society completely efficient he would cease to be human and existence would became intolerable. He says in a foreword to the novel in 1946 that “I projected it six hundred years into the future, today, after the 2nd World War and atomics bombs it seems quite possible that the horror maybe upon us within a single century”.
Huxley found a faith in brotherly love and non-violence. In later words, he continued in a satirical manner and showed little faith in man's capacity to become a more selfless or more rational creature. He eventually died in California, where he had live with his wife since the 1930's.
James Joyce was born an educated Dublin, but like his contemporary and countryman poet WB Yeats he found that he had to escape from Ireland in order that his imagination might be able to cope with it. Anxious to free himself, of what he regarded as the inhibiting ties of family, country and religion he moved to the Continent, where he lived mostly in Paris and Zurich until his death in 1941.
His life and art where so programmatically connected that it is hard to comment all his biography without referring to his books. His works presented a picture of the spiritedly sterile lives of those people of his hometown Dublin. Although he had already produced a book of verse, Chamber Music (1907) it was with a collection of short stories Dubliners (1914) that he found recognition, the stories presented a series of portraits of pathetic Dublin individuals who have been trapped in their meaningless and empty existence; Joyce said of the book: My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I choose Dublin because the City seemed to me to be the center of paralysis” (Paralysis is the incapacity to move although here Joyce used the term to refer to people who are incapable of doing something), although there is nothing truly revolutionary either in the style or treatment in this stories, the best, specially the last one, The dead already shows his characteristic unification of the naturalistic and symbolistic traditions, which was developed to its full potential in Ulysses (1922)
In 1916 Joyce published A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man a semi-biographical novel based upon his experience during his early years, the hero, Stephen Dedalus, like Joyce, rejects his people and religion to find fulfillment as a “martyr-artist”; The protagonist's name is taken from the first martyr Saint Stephen and the artist of Greek mythology, Dedalus, but the book finally develops away from biography to became an objective and dramatic presentation of the modern artist.
Joyce had already began to use the device of interior monologue, what the character is thinking, and the book develops stylistic as well as symbolically. It has far deeper meanings that it would superficially appear to have; however it was with Ulysses that Joyce demonstrate his true genius as a writer, it is his masterpiece and it's an extremely complex, basically its 800 pages deal with 24 hours in the lives of two Dublin citizens (Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom). Their experiences are common and even trivial, and the novel has not real plot, although it also symbolically follows the adventures of Homer's hero Odysseus in The Odyssey from which the book takes its title, the characters correspond to Ulyses/Odyseus (Bloom); Telemachus, Ulysses' son (Stephen); Penelope (Marian, Bloom's wife); although at the beginning of the novel Bloom and Stephen do not even know each other by the end Stephen is his spiritual son.
The book is a symbolic picture of human history and cannot be read without the help of an introductory exposition and some commentary, despite the fact that the 800 pages only deal with 24 hours, everything that Joyce writes is relevant, that it to said Joyce never puts in anything irrelevant, we are allowed to enter the mind's of the chief character as he employs the stream of consciousness technique also used by Virginia Woolf. If Ulysses seems a difficult concept then Finnegan's Wake (1939) seems virtually impossible; it took Joyce 16 years to write an in it he tried to present the hole of human history in the mind of a Dublin inn-keeper called H.C. Earwicker as he dreams the language moves and changes, and words are joined together as if to suggest the union of images in a dream. This great and difficult world probably marks the limits of experiment in language; his art was great because through it he came to terms with the problems of Ireland and humanity, he is probably the greatest novelist of the 20th century.