American Literature:Modernism 1915-1945

A.Historical Context

  • Overwhelming technological changes
  • WWI – first war of mass destruction
  • Grief over loss of past, fear of eroding traditions
  • Rise of youth culture


  • Dominant mood: alienation, disconnection
  • Writing highly experimental: use of fragmentation, stream of consciousness, interior dialogue
  • Writers seek to create a unique style

C.Major Writers

Ernest Hemingway 1899-1961

  • Writing style: concise, direct, spare, objective, precise, rhythmic
  • Major works: The Old Man and the Sea
  • Won Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature

F.Scott Fitzgerald 1896-1940

  • The Great Gatsby – ironic and tragic treatment of the American success myth
  • His work and life illustrate American culture of 1920’s

William Faulkner 1897-1962

  • The Sound and The Fury
  • The most original writer of his time
  • Primary subject was his heritage: Southern memory, myth

G.Bernard Shaw

D.Major 20th century poets

Pound and Eliot were the 2 most influential poets and critics of their era. They set the tone, direction and subject matter for a generation of poets.


  • What is our place in the universe; how can anyone love and communicate with anyone else
  • The Waste Land – the failure of Western civilization, illustrated by WWI

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