miércoles, 22 de octubre de 2008
US Literature in the 20th Century
The Context of 20th Century Literature: A Brief Summary
The 20th Century was marked by significant changes in the conception of life. Ideas taken from influential 19th Century thinkers, such as Darwin and Marx , helped to question paradigms in multiple arenas, among which one can mention anthropology, politics, religion, and philosophy. In addition, major historic events generated both high expectations and anxiety.
It was in the early 1900's that the movie industry moved to California because of the benign weather and convenient landscapes (extra-officially, to avoid lawsuits coming from Edison's electricity and motion picture rights.) The settlement of the movie industry in Hollywood propelled the inclusion of minorities and later disseminated stereotypical visions of the same groups and political adversaries during the cruel World War II.
The wounds produced by World War I (1914-1918) received the balm of the promise of a new beginning brought about by the Harlem Renaissance (1920-1928), expectation that was torn apart by the stock market crash (1929) and followed by the bitter Great Depression in the 30's. Yet, economic hardship prompted more literary creations and Modernists experimented with new techniques derived from psychology, like Porter's use of stream of consciousness in "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall."
The initial recovery from the Great Depression was marked by the Band Age of 1935, which also revived Jazz music. The most conservative groups of society rejected jazz and generation gaps became wider. In 1939, the world was seized by World War II, which, once again, fragmented the illusion of happiness and replaced hope with despair. In poetry, the Modernists took hold of the possibilities given by free verse, dramatic monologues, and polyphony, the two latter resources mastered by T.S. Eliot in his poems. (See "The Hollow Men" and an excerpt from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock")
Literature later recorded the undercurrent of racism against Mexican-Americans of the infamous LA Pachuco riots (1942) in Luis Valdez's play "Zoot Suit."
Sarcasm also found its peak in the 20th Century. Thurber's graphic work, full of sarcasm, served as the foothold of the use of pictures in literature. (See "The Unicorn in the Garden" and "The Last Flower")
Graphic art thus inspired the creation of the superheroes during World War II.
A vast production of movies, adaptation of plays for the large screen, and cartoons, mixed with artistic techniques of the avant-garde (impressionism, Dadaism, and abstractionism) gave birth to Pop Culture.
When World War II was finally over, in 1945, climaxed by the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US experienced economic growth. Families took prosperity for granted, but the US Government saw a new menace coming from the ashes of the war: political division. Communism and capitalism clashed and the fear of nuclear attacks escalated into a tension of global proportions named "the Cold War."
The conception of future became bleaker than ever. Apocalyptic visions, hence, manifested themselves in US literature, especially in the revived genre of science fiction, a kind of literature that instilled a new vigor to movie productions.