The Lost Generation (Jill Tripoli and Jackie Gross)

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The Lost Generation

What is it?
    The Lost Generation is a term used to describe a group of American writers who were rebelling against what America had become by the 1900’s. At this point in time, America had become a great place to, “go into some area of business” (Crunden, 185). However, the Lost Generation writers felt that America was not such a success story because the country was devoid of a cosmopolitan culture. Their solution to this issue was to pack up their bags and travel to Europe’s cosmopolitan cultures, such as Paris and London. Here they expected to find literary freedom and a cosmopolitan way of life. A cosmopolitan culture is one which includes and values a variety of backgrounds and cultures. In the 1920's the White Anglo Saxon Protestant work ethic was the only culture that was considered valued by the majority of Americans. It was because of ethics such as this which made the cosmopolitan culture of Paris so alluring.      American Literature went through a profound change in the post WWI era. Up until this point, American writers were still expected to use the rigid Victorian styles of the 19th Century. The lost generation writers were above, or apart from, American society, not only in geographic terms, but also in their style of writing and subjects they chose to write about. Although they were unhappy with American culture, the writers were instrumental in changing their country's style of writing, from Victorian to modern.

Who was involved in it?
     T.S. Eliot was born into a prominent New England family. His education consisted of Harvard University, the Sorbonne, and the University of Oxford. Eliot was a disciple of the author/editor Ezra Pound who will be discussed later. His permanent residence became London, because Eliot found London more appealing due to its cultural tradition. Eliot's studies and interests stemmed from anthropology, mythology, and religion. His works ranged from subjects such as religion, serenity, the Italian poet Dante, English metaphysical poets, and Elizabethan dramatists. His poetry has no fixed verse, form, or regular pattern, with an occasional rhyme scheme. Eliot's most celebrated work "The Wasteland" is a long poem, which construes his views of the modern society, in comparison of the past. Eliot gave Ezra Pound the poem to edit, and pound and his wife cut through the poem, often emitting large portions that they felt irrelevant. In "The Wasteland" Eliot incorporates many footnotes. Some critics claimed it was Eliot's egocentrism that allowed him to do this, because he felt smarter than the average person did, and they would need the footnote to decode his writings. Others said he was crazy (he did suffer a nervous breakdown while writing "The Wasteland." Eliot was an essential figure in the modernistic times, and his methods of literary analysis, such as he develops in the work "Sacred Wood" influenced literary criticism for future writers. From "The Hollow Men"

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rat's feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Ezra Pound
     Ezra Pound was born in Idaho, and at an early age moved to Pennsylvania with his family. His education consisted of Hamilton College, and the University of Pennsylvania where he meets literary figures such as William Carlos Williams, and Hilda Doolittle. Hilda Doolittle, Pound, and Richard Aldington published an anthology based on their famous teashop conversations called "Des Imgistes: An Anthology." Pound had this published to help further his friend's careers. He entitled the book in French because he felt that they owed a debt to French literature. Pound was an instructor in Romance Languages at Wabash College. Pound's friendship with various authors and poets helped establish the birth of modernism...
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