viernes, 31 de octubre de 2008


The credits of this unplanned update go to today's session DVD mishap

During the years of the Cold War, US literature depicted a steadily growing dissatisfaction concerning institutions and technological progress. Nightmarish visions became common in literature, as seen in Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" (a despotic government creates a false sense of equality in society) and Ellison's "Battle Royal," in which Afro-Americans questioned assimilation and egalitarianism. All social fears, previously mute, rose their voices loud and clear in literary texts that crossed the frontiers of the United States.
(See excepts of BATTLE ROYALE, a Japanese movie inspired by Ellison's text. Here, adults are afraid of the social problem youngsters have become and pass unthinkable laws to rectify the situation)

Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 portrays another dystopian society in which firefighters CAUSE fires (to burn books and veil knowledge). This work questions the point of banishing God from the country. Without God, people are by no means happier in a material world and, hence, they waste their lives in the stupor of ignorance fomented by authoritarian governments. Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains"
deals with the apotheosis of human-provoked destruction: a nuclear event that wipes out people and leaves their technology behind, running senseless as an absurd concert.

The common denominator in those texts seems to be a concern about the value of literature/reading and how it feeds human spirit. However, Bradbury was not perceived as a canonic author because the literary tradition considered science fiction a sub-genre. Prolific 20th Century writers, such as Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, also suffered from the initial stigma created by the label "commercial writing." Their works, nonetheless, manifested the deepest fears of two generations and, as people progressively read less, those literary pieces turned into the horror films that scared the new generation...It was the dawn of the 21rst Century.

jueves, 23 de octubre de 2008

Assignment 2 (Part A): Reaction toward 20th Century Short Stories or Poems

Dear US Literature Survey Course students:

Please use this space to post your comments, reactions, or questions about the 20th Century poems and short stories covered in class. You must post here at least one entry per week (a minimum of three entries) until we finish the course on November 11.

Assignment 2 (Part B): Student Reactions toward 20th Century US Literature

Dear students of LM-1475 (US Literature Survey Course):

This space is destined for you to write your reaction toward the two novellas you read (Crane's Maggie, a Girl of the Streets and Mc Cullers' s The Ballad of the Sad Cafe).

You must write at least two entries here, both as new comments or as replies to something another strudent has written. Feel free to write whatever is on your mind, but also make sure you provide insightful remarks. You can also posit intriguing questions about the texts. Your comments here must be posted before November 11th.

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.