The development of the novel in the 20th century

Topics: Novel, Literature, Fiction Pages: 5 (1423 words) Published: December 29, 2003
4. The novel from 1881 to 1914

Over the eighteen eighties there was a split in fiction. The first indication towards it was Henry James' essay "The Art of Fiction" (1884), which referred to the novelist's calling as a "Sacred office". Besides, there appeared a stratification of fiction due to primary education for all. Parallel to this, novelists saw themselves apart from the public, as dedicated men. This new modern conception involved dignity and a sense of glory. Another change was from the three-volume novel to the one volume one. Together with the demands of the new publics, this shortening divided the Victorian novel into the categories of fiction we know today. The key name in the eighties is Henry James, who strove to give the novel the aesthetic intensity of poetry or painting. The two dominant themes in his work are the "international subject" and that of the innocent. After the eighties the novel became the dominant prose form.

4.1. The Turn of the Century: the Modern British Novel

The turn of the century meant the end of the Victorian Era with the Queen's death in 1901. The legacy of Darwin, the Victorian loss of Christian Faith, Socialism and the awareness of threat against England's wealth increased the existing social discomfort. Apart from this, new discoveries such as Einstein's Special theory of Relativity (1905) and Freud's works Interpretation of Dreams (1900) and The Psychopathology of Everyday life (1901) were also important. As concerns Visual Arts, after the Post-Impressionist movement a great crisis of the subject followed. This crisis led to Cubism and Dadaism. Arts were then called to recognition of modern technology, which was expressed in poetry through the introduction of free verse and broken syntax. Therefore, the Modern shows its discontinuity with the past, though not completely.

4.2. Modernism and Its Alternatives

Modernism implies a sense of historical discontinuity, either liberation from inherited patterns or deprivation. Modernism runs up to the mid twenties and leaves behind names like Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Foster, Ford Maddox Ford, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein and Djurna Barnes in novel. Paradoxically, its first recurrent theme was the return to the past, to the primitive, which took the form of the return to the myth of the ancient world and non-European societies. Another recurrent theme was the human mind. The recent development of psychology provided explanations to somehow understand human consciousness and the irrationality of human beings. The most immediate evidence of psychology's influence is "the-stream-of-consciousness-technique" in literature, introduced by Henry James' brother and psychiatrist William James.

Contemporary with Henry James, Joseph Conrad is a Polish man who sailed for France and Britain. Not surprisingly, his most recurrent theme is the man against himself and his environment, about what happens when human beings encounter what see or experience as "Otherness". Nostromo (1904) is considered one of the most organized works in English. After him, the next group of writers to mention is E.M. Foster and D. H. Lawrence. Both explored the deep drives in human nature, as for instance in A passage to India (1924) by the former and Lady Chaterley's Lover (1928) by the latter.

In a different group, we find Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and James Joyce sharing a reaction against their naturalistic forebears and experimenting with a new approach to fiction. James Joyce experimented with "the-stream-of-consciousness" technique in his Ulysses. Later on, he tried techniques of verbal ambiguity and levels of complexity in Finnegans Wake (1939). Meanwhile, Mansfield and Woolf have been said to develop a post impressionistic principle of suggetiveness from a feminine approach. However, Virginia Woolf sought to represent the unconsciousness, as in Mrs. Dalloway (1925), and discontinuity; whereas Katherine Mansfield...
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