Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(47) The Lost Generation and the Jazz Age: Experiment, Myth, and Tradition.

(F. S. Fitzgerald, E. Hemingway, and J. Dos Passos).


T h e  J a z z  A g e

[See "Background for Topic 47..."]


F r a n c i s  S c o t t  F i t z g e r a l d  ( 1 8 9 6 – 1 9 4 0 )

L i f e :

- his father b. into a poor, though socially prominent family x his mother b. into ‘new money’

- felt a ‘poor boy’, though middle class > a deep ambivalence twd both money and social status

- left uni (Princeton) without degree, sacrificed academic achievement to social success, and equated social celebrity and success to lit. – see his “The Crack-up” (1936)

- received a military training

- fell in love with Zelda, worked desperately at his novel This Side of Paradise to win lit. and financial success to persuade Z. to marry him

- married Z. (1920): led a glamorous, extravagant, and emotionally stormy life style

- spent 2 y. at a Fr. Riviera seaside resort (1922 – 24): drank to excess, spent more than earned, and tried his hand at an unsuccessful play The Vegetable (1923)

- undertook a 2-y. extended Eur. trip (1924 – 26): met G. Stein and E. Pound, and began a tense competitive friendship with E. Hemingway

- experienced an abrupt reversal of fortune (1931): the deepening of the Great Depression, his deepening debts and alcoholism, and Z.’s mental breakdown and placement to a mental home

=> declared the end of the Jazz Age

- continued drinking, tried scriptwriting to cover his debts x but: achieved no success, and died at 44 of a heart attack

W o r k :

- sensitiveness to social class

- a divided consciousness: simultaneously attracted x repulsed, enchanted x offended by sexual love and great wealth

- a new concept an archetypical Am. hero: a poor man gains money x but: not happiness => money does not equal to happiness

- conc. with the Am. expatriate characters

F i c t i o n :

- his short stories publ. regularly in magazines with both commercial and critical success

Flappers and Philosophers (1920), Tales of the Jazz Age (1922), and All the Sad Young Men (1926):

- coll. of short stories

- introd. the word ‘flapper’ = a challenging, self-confident, and educated woman

> “The Rich Boy”: the lead story of All the Sad Young Men

This Side of Paradise (1920):

- an autobiog. novel about a young Princeton college student and his loves

- an immediate sensation

- F. became an overnight celebrity, a week after the publ. married Z., and became a cultural hero to the ‘flappers and philosophers’ of the era he named (= the Jazz Age)

The Beautiful and the Damned (1922):

- a young couple’s moral and sexual dissolution in parties, alcohol, and drugs

- his own experience of his marriage

- a failure

The Great Gatsby (1925):

- his finest novel about his favourite themes of love and money

- language: rich in vocabulary, original in figures of speech, and masterly in party descriptions and quick one sentence descriptions

- setting: the new money West Egg (Gatsby) x the old money East Egg (the Buchanans)

- theme: a poor man gains money x but: not happiness – G. succeeds in getting rich, throws parties hoping Daisy will show up x but: fails in winning her, fails to win even little respect by his guests

- a different social class produces a different temperament – D. shares many of her character features with Tom, none with G.

Tender is the Night (1934):

- the title: from J. Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale”

- an alcoholic Am. psychiatrist disastrously marries one of his wealthy patients, modelled after Zelda

- received poorly

The Last Tycoon:

- a self-made Hollywood producer

- remained unfinished

N o n - f i c t i o n :

“The Crack-up” (1936): his life <=> the 1920s decade = a youthful enthusiasm and euphoria >> tension and trauma


E r n e s t  H e m i n g w a y  ( 1 8 9 9 – 1 9 6 1 )

L i f e :

- b. in a Chicago suburb (IL)

- enjoyed organised sports, football, and boxing

- wrote for his high school’s newsp and lit. magazine

- learnt the ritual of the hunt, the code of the hunter, and the importance of physical endurance and courage while hunting and fishing with his father at his Michigan cottage

- became a reporter for the KS City Star

- tried to enlist in the WW I x but: rejected because of an eye defect => volunteered for the Red Cross ambulance corps, and served in active duty in Ita.

- severely wounded many times in his life: WW I, car / plane crashes, shooting mishaps, fires, etc.

>> Paris: experienced a liberal moral climate, access to liquor (US Prohibition, 1919), and met the modernists E. Pound, G. Stein, S. Anderson, J. D. Passos, F. S. Fitzgerald, and J. Joyce

>> Canada: a reporter and correspondent reporter for the Toronto Star, cover war conflicts (Gr.-Turkish War, WW II, etc.), crime cases, interviewed Mussolini, etc.

- promoted a ‘masculine’ way of life both in his behaviour and writing

- committed suicide by shooting himself

W o r k :

< E. Pound, G. Stein, and S. Anderson

- content: the violence of the modern world as ritualised in hunting, fishing, and bullfighting; and its consequences in physical wound, psychic suffering, and the question of how to live with pain

- stoicism, even cynicism x but: always a sense of sth wrong, and a sense of betrayal

- form: adapted journalistic techniques to fiction in his impersonal and telegraphic style, emphasis on direct description and dialogue, and avoidance of narrator commentary or interpretation

- language: restrained x but: vigorous; deceptively simple and spare (no ADJ) x but: disciplined and communicating a great deal in btw the lines

- setting: war or its aftermath = his favourite ones

- his style best manifested in his short stories, consid. a greater achievement than his novels, and became a still widely imitated and parodied ‘trademark’

- received the Nobel Prize

- no oth. major Am. writer achieved such pop. success, international celebrity, and world-wide reputation

Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923): his 1st publ. book

In Our Time (1925):

- a sequence of short stories set in the Michigan of his boyhood

- the protagonist Nick Adam’s growing up

- introd. and interspersed with a series of brief inter-chapters about the violence of the Gr.-Turkish War, political execution, and bullfighting

- intended to have the immediacy and impact of journalism

< S. Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio

The Torrents of Spring (1926):

- an insensitive parody of S. Anderson

- an annoyed response to the critical references conc. his indebtedness to him

- one of his weakest efforts

The Sun Also Rises (US) = Fiesta (GB) (1926):

- a group of heavy-drinking, tough-talking, and hard-living expatriates

- Jake Barnes: the narrator, an Am. reporter in Paris, sexually impotent as a result of a war wound x Robert Cohn, his romantically strained friend x Lady Brett Ashley, the sexually liberated femme fatale, both admired and feared

- expresses the post-war mood of the lost generation, and uses the G. Stein’s phrase as an epigraph

=> to learn how to live life can sometimes help us to understand it

- one of his best novels

Men Without Women (1927): a coll. of short stories

A Farewell to Arms (1929):

- an Am. ambulance officer Henry suffers a wound in Ita., falls in love with a Br. nurse Catherine, and deserts with her

- finds a ‘separate peace’ in Switzerland to have it shattered as both C. and his child die at childbirth

- C. = an angel happy to devote herself only to nursing H. x Brett in The Sun also Rises

Death in the Afternoon (1932):

- a now classic novel about bullfighting

=> his life philosophy: fascination with danger and death, and commitment to honour and valour

=> his characteristic style: H.: ‘grace under pressure’

Winner Take Nothing (1933): a coll. of short stories

The Green Hills of Africa (1935):

- his own experience of Af. Safaris

- a blend of travel description, a big-game hunting, and lit. commentary

> “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

> “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”

To Have and Have Not (1937):

- his only novel with the Am. Setting

- a FL fishing boat captain smuggles rum from Cuba to fight against the Depression

=> an appeal to the ‘socially aware’ readers

The Fifth Column (1938): a play about his own journalistic experience of the Sp. Civil War

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940):

- his most political novel about his own journalistic experience of the Sp. Civil War

- the title: from J. Donne

- an Am. academic heroically sacrifices his life in what proves to be a lost cause (against General Franco, for peasants)

- Maria, a fantasy figure of girlish submission x Catherine in A Farewell to Arms x Brett in The Sun also Rises

Across the River and into the Trees (1950):

- an idyllic romance, poorly received

Islands in the Stream (1970, posthum.):

- a ‘sea novel’, much troubled when writing it, and eventually publ. posthum.

> The Old Man and the Sea (1952), a long self-contained individually publ. section: a parable-like tale of an old Cuban fisherman succeeding in catching a giant marlin x but: failing to keep the sharks from eating it – won him the Pulitzer Prize, and led to the Nobel Prize

A Moveable Feast (1964, posthum): a coll. of reminiscences drawing on his notes and journalistic writings


J o h n  D o s  P a s s o s

[see P. under ‘44 Modernist Experiments in Fiction’]


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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