At the beginning of the 20th century, writers, artists and intellectuals attitudes were changing rapidly and people found more difficult to believe in anything, whether it was religion, philosophy, art, science, or progress. In this period an explosion of new ideas changed man's view of himself and of the universe. In 1905, Albert Einstein published his theory of Relativity, which dealt a blow to the belief in objective reality and science. British artists and intellectuals were also deeply influenced by Nietzsche's ideas. A fundamental influence on artists and intellectuals were the new theories about the structure and working of the human mind, generally known as psychoanalysis and developed by Sigmund Freud. Freud studied new areas of the sensibility which came to be known as unconscious, a dynamic force originating in instinct and repressed desires. His theories revealed that human behaviour was in accordance with universal patterns. This gave modernists something to hold on to in the chaos and irrationality of modern life. The term "modernism" indicates 20th-century literature and art, developed as a reaction against 19th-century ideals. The most important characteristics are: the breakdown of traditional literary genres,
fragmentation of the traditional ideas of time and place,
collapse of the traditional plot,
a complex language,
emphasis on psychological truth rather than realistic details an eclectic use of myth
the adoption of free verse.
The principal first-generation modernists are Eliot, Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Much of the best modernist literature in English deals with unconscious in daily life. The most used technique to describe it is the 'stream of consciousness'. Modernism influenced different art forms, and collaboration between artists in different media was frequent. The second generation modernists took part in political matters, usually against Nazism on the political left, like Orwell. THOMAS STEARNS ELIOT
Life He was born in 1888 in St Louis (Missouri) into a family of English descent. He went to Harvard in and gained his MA degree. Then he went to the Sorbonne in Paris to study Bergoson's philosophy. He continued studying philosophy in Germany but in 1914 he was obliged to leave the country because of the outbreak of World War I, and he went to Oxford. All of these influences will later be found in his works. Through the influence of his fellow American poet Ezra Pound, Eliot's first major poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" was published. From 1915, money problems, his exhausting work at the bank, a general dissatisfaction with modern life brought him on the verge of a nervous breakdown and he was treated in Margate and then in a Swiss sanatorium. During this period he finished the first draft of "The Waste Land". He submitted his manuscript to Pound who helped him give the poem its final shape. The Waste Land came out in 1922 and made Eliot the leading modernist poet writing in English. He became a director of publishing house. The 1930s were important years for Eliot who in religion found a way out of nihilism. His gradual acceptance of the Christian faith (in 1927 he was received into the Anglican Church) is reflected in his poems written in this period (Murder in the Cathedral). Eliot's prestige as a literary citic is as great as his prestige as a writer. His social criticism is equally valuable through seldom quoted, perhaps because it is disturbing in its pitiless attack on modern society. The Waste Land It's considered the central work in the modernist tradition, it leaves late Victorian models behind. It will influence future poets. The poem is divided into five sections. It expresses the modern artist's disillusion with the modern world, the desperate need of a new tradition and the culmination of nihilism, the first phase of Eliot's career. The poet sees ruins, representing the decay of western civilization after I World War. The images aren't...
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