Modernism

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  • Topic: World War I, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway
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Modernism
Modernism and Its Presentation
 
With the rapid pace of discoveries and innovations came global changes. By 1914, the world was at war. WWI had a profound effect on society--and on the arts. In fact, the many events and changes in the world of the early twentieth century ushered in a new world of art calledModernism. Modernism will be our focus for much of the course. As we begin to understand the basic characteristics of the movement and how they are applied to literature, let's first look at Modernism in the visual arts.    

See an influential painting by Pablo Picasso called Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907. We'll be discussing it shortly.  
Pablo Picasso, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon:"
 
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Art Presentation in Modernism

When Pablo Picasso showed his painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon to a small group of artists and art critics, he shocked the art world. As you look at the painting, note the flatness of the painting, the distorted figures, the use of sharp angles and geometric shapes, the influence of African art in what appears to be masks on the figures to the right of the canvas. Note too that the female figures are supposed to be prostitutes, and they are confronting the viewer; that is, they are staring directly at us. Although there had certainly been much experimentation in the arts before this painting, Picasso's work went even further. And although some artists rejected Picasso's work, it would still have a major effect on the world of modern art.  

Learn more about the critical reception of Picasso's painting, at the PBS website Culture Shock, Visual Arts, Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907.  
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Art Presentation in Modernism, continued

The movement in the arts called Modernism is characterized by many things, among them experimentation and a breaking from the traditions of the past as we saw in Picasso's painting. Experimentation and a break from tradition are reflected in Modernism in the visual arts, music, and literature. As the world changed more rapidly (and certainly later with WW I), there seemed to be no going back to old forms. People reacted to world events with a growing sense of disillusionment and alienation from society, a loss of faith in traditions and norms that had previously helped them organize and explain their world.

Art Presentation in Modernism, continued

As you read the literature of the period, keep in mind certain common characteristics and themes:  
•         a loss of faith in God and in the traditions of family and marriage •         a breakdown in communication as people become more isolated from one another (operating in James Joyce's story "The Dead") •         a growing sense of despair

•         an interest in the state of the mind (largely influenced by the rise of psychoanalysis and the work of Freud and Jung) •         the world as wasteland
•         fragmentation
•         a belief in the meaninglessness of life •         a strong restlessness
•         the use of the city as backdrop
•         experimentation in form and style

Poetry Presentation in Modernism
 
Read T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land in your textbook.
 
We are going to look briefly at Part I of The Waste Land called "The Burial of the Dead" to introduce you to one of the pivotal images in modern literature, that of the modern world as a wasteland. Eliot's poem is quite intricate and full of allusions from history, myth, and religion. In fact, after the publication of the poem, Eliot published elaborate notes to the poem explaining many of the allusions, sometimes helping and sometimes confusing readers further. These notes are commonly published with the poem. Our brief study, however, is more focused and we will not explicate the poem for all its allusions and images. Instead, we'll look at a few features of "The Burial of the Dead" specifically to help you understand some of the...
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