Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(41) Modernism in American Literature: American Literary Expatriates in Europe and Elsewhere.

(H. James, G. Stein, T. S. Eliot, E. Pound, L. Hearn, etc.).


A m e r i c a n  M o d e r n i s m  ( 1 9 2 0 s – 3 0 s )

[See "Background for Topics 41-44..."]


H e n r y  J a m e s  ( 1 8 4 6 – 1 9 1 6 )

L i f e :

- b. in a rich and prominent family

- his father Henry J.: a philos., relig. visionary, lecturer, and writer

- his brother William J.: a philos. and psychologist, coined the term ‘stream of consciousness’

- received the best education in En., Fr., Ger., and Switzerland

- consid. US too fast-paced and lacking the proper setting for his fictional needs (the right characters available anywhere) >> En.

- studied H. Balzac, G. Eliot, & oth; acquainted with G. Flaubert, E. Zola, and G. de Maupassant

- became a Br. citizen (1915) as the result of the shock of the WWI

W o r k :

- the counterpart of his contemp. M. Twain (low South culture, Tall-Tale, oral story-telling, and spoken slang), disliked his work, and vice versa

- initiated the psychological realism, introd. the 20th c. fiction as a drama of consciousness x the 19th c. novel based on external plots

- pioneered the international theme of Am. coming to Eur., and finding there old and strange customs

- wrote btw cultures: his work Am. in quality x but: international in scope

- one of the 1st major Am. critical theorists conc. with how to create prose fiction to make sense of life x E. A. Poe, N. Hawthorne, W. D. Howells, and W. Whitman’s conc. with the composition

J a m e s  I  –  t h e  ‘A m e r i c a n - E u r o p e a n  L e g e n d ’ :  ( 1 8 7 0 s – e a r l y  1 8 8 0 s )

= the international theme

- his earliest work incl. travel sketches, romantic tales, and reviews for the country’s leading journals: The North American Review, The Atlantic Monthly, & oth.

The Passionate Pilgrim and Other Tales (1875): a coll. of short stories

Roderick Hudson (1875): 1st publ. in instalments in The Atlantic Monthly

The American (1877):

- the protagonist = Christopher Newman, a young naive Am. sculpturer

- the setting = Ita.

- conc.: the clash of the New x Old World

< N. Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun > J. also called it a romance

The Europeans (1878)

Daisy Miller (1879)

- style: very formal and literary, the 3rd POV x but: close to Winterbourne’s consciousness

- avoids action in favour of description and dialogue

- language: formal and sophisticated, as if written by W.

- characters: the lively Daisy [= a flower] x the stiff, detached, and boring W. [= ‘born in winter’]

- themes:

(a) an innocent Am. in the decadent Eur.: the naive D. pays for her innocence with her life

(b) the expatriate characters: the Millers only enjoy themselves in Eur. x Mrs Costello settles here

(c) the clash of social classes: the would-be-upper class Millers, not working, just existing in the most expensive places

Hawthorne (1879): a critical study on N. Hawthorne (his chief infl.)

Washington Square (1880): an ironic treatment of the NY of his youth

The Portrait of a Lady (1881):

- the culmination of the early period, the 1st masterpiece on the international theme, and the 1st portrayal of complex inner life

- the protagonist = Isabel, a young innocent Am. girl determined to gain experience in Eur.

- conc.: the clash of the Emersonian idealism of I. x the materialism of her expatriate countrymen

- concl.: I. cheated to an unsuccessful marriage, ends a prey to conventions

J a m e s  I I  –  N a t u r a l i s m :  ( l a t e  1 8 8 0 s – 1 8 9 0 s )

(a) Naturalistic Work:

The Bostonians (1886): B. once: a transcendentalist centre x now: a centre of a crisis in sexual relationships caused by the feminist movement

The Princess Casamassima (1886): the anarchistic London

The Tragic Muse (1889)

(b) Early Psychological Work:

- preocc.: the psychology of oppressed children and obsessed adults, troubled artists, ghosts and apparitions, and combinations thereof

“The Art of Fiction”: his central critical work on psychological realism urging his fellow writers to ‘dramatise, dramatise, dramatise’

What Maisie Knew (1897): an impressionistic psychology of a little girl’s consciousness trying to comprehend the adult world, incl. infidelity

The Awkward Age (1899)

“The Beast in the Jungle”: an obsessive imagination of a future disaster destroying the chances for present love and life

“The Real Thing”: an artistic dilemma

“The Turn of the Screw”: a household (incl. 2 young children) terrorised by ‘ghosts’

“The Jolly Corner” and “The Story of It”: intensely felt short stories / novellas

(c) Dramatic Work:

- unsuccessful plays for the Br. theatre

- a failure of his ambition for fame and financial success as a dramatist

J a m e s  I I I  –  P s y c h o l o g i c a l  R e a l i s m :  ( 1 9 0 0 s + )

= the cosmopolitan theme

- examines the techniques to reveal psychological complexities

- style: carefully chronological, subtle, symbolic, and metaphoric

- restricted POV: employs the method of showing rather than telling, gives the narrative over to one particularly alert character, and this POV forms the story’s drama

> intensifies emotions, and offers the opportunity for ambiguity

- presents characters rather than action, plots careful dialogues, and reveals the nature of a personality in conversation

- language: complicated, with complex syntax, and ambiguous verbal meanings

- characters: leisure class protagonists lingering with their consciousness

> enables him to get closer to the essential and universal social and psychological conc.

- conc. with the freedom through perception = only awareness of one’s own character and oth. people’s characters enables a full life

> anticipates the Modernist conc.

The Sacred Fount

The Wings of Dove

The Ambassadors: the protagonist Strether = the only of his protagonists to reach freedom through perception

The Golden Bowl: a half-broken bowl = the central symbol of the state of art and society

Also wrote:

- biographies, memoirs, and analysis of the social scene

The American Scene: conc.: the ‘Age of the Mistake’ [= Gilded Age]

A Small Boy and Others


G e r t r u d e  S t e i n  ( 1 8 7 4 – 1 9 4 6 )

L i f e:

- b. in a cultured and sophisticated family of Ger . / Jewish orig.

- travelled Eur., received uni education (Radcliffe College), studied medicine and psychology x but: abandoned these for lit. (and an unmanageable love affair with 2 women – see her Thing as They Are)

- moved with her brother Leo to Paris = the centre of post-impressionism and cubism, coll. paintings, and made P. her adopted home and their apartment a meeting place for painters and writers

- a long-time lover of Alice B. Toklas – see her The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

W o r k :

- a famous hostess, entertainer, coll., writer, and author of clever aphorisms: ‘You are all a lost generation.’

- the 1st Jewish writer to have a large impact on Am. lit.

< modern painting

< W. James, her college professor of psychology

< R. W. Emerson > matches nature, linguistics, and psychology

- style: a lit. cubism = non-mimetic, abstract, emphasised the method rather than the theme

- language: experimental, playful, broke most rules governing punctuation and syntax, and many governing diction

- made the reader pay attention to even the simplest, familiar, often monosyllabic words

- dismissed the sentence, abolished the paragraph x paid attention to the word, rejected the noun, and made gerund her favourite form

- celebrated the ‘thing seen at the moment it is seen’, presented the ‘continuous present’

- delighted in rhythmical repetition of images

=> her portraits of people and objects often whimsical in the extreme

F i c t i o n :

Three Lives (1905):

- 3 stories of 3 very different Baltimore woman-servants

- stylistic innovations: present tense narrative = the method of ‘continuous present’

The Making of Americans (1908):

- intended to tell ‘everybody's history’

- drew on the history of her family x but: minimised action and avoided dialogue

Tender Buttons (1914):

- a series of paragraphs

- some playful and witty x oth. brief prose poems on different subj.

A u t o b i o g r a p h y :

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933)

Everybody’s Autobiography (1937)

- her students (incl. E. Hemingway, S. Anderson, & oth.) and lit. critics responded to this in their Testimony Against Gertrude Stein expressing their ambivalent feelings twd the work

C r i t i c i s m :

- a series of lectures at Oxford, Cambridge, and US uni

- her theories on visual space, language, and lit.

Composition as Explanation (1926), Narration (1935)


T ( h o m a s )  S ( t e a r n s )  E l i o t

[see E. under ‘19 T. S. Eliot…’]


E z r a  P o u n d  ( 1 8 8 5 – 1 9 7 2 )

- a poet, lit. critic, social critic, transl, and lit. entrepreneur

- began to transform E lit. immediately after his moving to London = ‘the place for poetry’ (1908)

- initiated the modernist rev. in E poetry and prose

- exported the modernist rev. to Am.: a corresponding ed. for Harriet Monro’s Chicago-based Poetry

- founded the Imagist movement: insisted on the ‘luminous detail’ – see his “In a Station of the Metro”, an unexplained juxtaposition = the immediacy of reality

- founded the Vorticist movement: inspired by the pictographical characters of the Chinese poetry, insisted on the concept of poetry as a succession of these ‘concrete pictures’

- attempted to aid D. H. Lawrence, J. Joyce, T. S. Eliot, W. C. Williams, R. Frost, E. Hemingway, & oth., also ed. T. S. Eliot’s Waste Land

- adopted traditional forms and rendered them in a new way: not to break with the past x but: to modernise the past, ‘make it new’

- claimed a poem must be vitally alive x but: his early poetry often lapsed into ‘literaryism’

< the lit. traditions of the classics, the medieval Eur., the ancient Chinese haiku, and the 18th c. Am.

Canzoni (1911): made F. M. Fox roll on the floor in mock horror at its ‘literaryism’

Personae (1909): possibly his finest coll.

Cathay (1915): a transl. from Chinese

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley: Life and Contacts (1920): a reaction to the death of his friend, the sculptor Henri Gaudier-Bryeska, at the WW I front; calls the ‘civilisation’ ‘an old bitch’

The Cantos:

- an epic to bridge the ancient x modern cultures

- a long, unending, and encyclopaedic poem in open form and free verse

- incl. all from personal anecdotes to lit. allusions: employs the technique of cryptic, fragmented, and highly allusive references

- concentrates on a sentence, avoids the narrative structure, and proves himself an obscure and never boring master of the modern language

<=> W. Whitman (= ‘the pig-headed father’ of his “Pact”):

(a) spent the bulk of his career on a long poem in the Whitmanesque tradition (Cantos)

(b) C. <=> W.’s “Song of Myself”: contain multitudes of ideas, insights, characters, events, etc., etc.

The Pisan Cantos:

- himself consid. his best poems

- composed as a prisoner in an Am. camp for the prisoners of war in Ita. at the end of WW II

- (moved to Ita. in the inter-war period, became obsessed with his missionary role as a social critic against materialism and capitalism, and supported Fascism, incl. anti-Semitism)


L a f c a d i o  H e a r n  ( 1 8 5 0 – 1 9 0 4 )

L i f e :

- b. in Gr., son of a Br. father and a Gr. Mother

- studied to become a clergyman x but: rejected this career and left for Am.

- interest in lit., became a librarian, and a journalist

- not interested in political journalism x but: in history and adventure

- spent 2 y. in the Caribbean as a journalist

- travelled to Japan as a journalist, settled here, married a Japanese woman, and taught E lit. at the Tokyo Uni

W o r k :

- wrote journalistic articles, reviews, travel writings, short stories, and transl. from Sp. and Fr.

Stray Leaves from Strange Literatures (1884)

Some Chinese Ghosts (1887): based on strange Chines legends and tales

Chita (1889): a novel about a girl to survive the flood-tide on an island off the LA coast

C a r i b b e a n  I n s p i r a t i o n :

Two Years in the French West Indies (1890): a travel writing

Youma (1890): a novel about a slave uprising

J a p a n e s e  I n s p i r a t i o n :

Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894): an attempt to capture the Japanese culture and customs

Kwaidan (1904)

M e m o i r s :

My Father and I: Memoirs of L.H. (1935): by his wife and son


Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.

Other Sources

Flajšar, Jiří. Semináře: Americká literatura 2. ZS 2004/05.


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