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The British Novel: 20th Century

  • The great overshadowing events of the 20th century include:
    • World War I
    • The Great Depression
    • World War II, including the Holocaust and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima
    • The Cold War
    • The launch of Sputnik and advent of space flight
    • The end of colonialism and the rise of Third World countries
    • The reshaping of the face of world Communism
    • The twentieth-century novel experienced three major movements. High modernism, lasting through the 1920s, celebrated personal and textual inwardness, complexity, and difficulties. High modernists like Woolf and Joyce wrote in the wake of the shattering of confidence in old certainties. The 1930s through the 1950s saw a return to social realism and moralism as a reaction against modernism. Writers like Murdoch and Golding were consciously retrospective in their investment in moral form. By the end of the century modernism had given way to the striking pluralism of postmodernism and postcolonialism.
    • Although there were major innovations in Continental drama in the first half of the twentieth century, in Britain the impact of these innovations was delayed by a conservative theater establishment until the late 1950s and 1960s. Samuel Beckett played a leading role in the anglophone absorption of modernist experiment in drama. In the shadow of the mass death of World War II, Beckett’s absurdist intimation of an existential darkness without redemption gave impetus to a seismic shift in British drama. The Theatres Act of 1968 abolished the power of censorship that had rested in the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. Wole Soyinka and Derek Walcott, two eminent poets from Britain’s former dominions, helped breathe new life and diversity into English drama.
    • Another of the twentieth century’s defining features is radical artistic experiment. The boundary-breaking art, literature, and music of the first decades of the century are the subject of the topic “Modernist Experiment.” Among the leading aesthetic innovators of this era were the composer Igor Stravinsky, the cubist Pablo Picasso, and the futurist F. T. Marinetti. The waves of artistic energy in the avant-garde European arts soon crossed the English Channel, as instanced by the abstraction and dynamism of Red Stone Dancer (1913-14) by the London-basedvorticist sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Other vorticists and modernists include such English-language writers as Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and Mina Loy, who also responded to the stimulus and challenge of the European avant-garde with manifestos, poems, plays, and other writings. This topic explores the links between Continental experiment and the modernist innovations of English-language poets and writers during a period of extraordinary ferment in literature and the arts.
    • Major Authors:
      • VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1935)
        • English novelist and essayist, whose fiction featured stream-of-consciousness technique
        • Major Works:
          • Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
          • To the Lighthouse (1927)
          • A Room of One’s Own (1929) a book-length essay about a woman’s need to find a space to do her own creative work





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~ by renyvarughese on March 16, 2011.

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