Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

The Twentieth Century British Literature.

H i s t o r i c a l  B a c k g r o u n d

- WW I (1914 – 18)

- Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poetry publ. (1918)

- T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922)

- period of depression and unemployment begins (1930)

- WW II (1939 – 45)

- Ind. and Pakistan become independent (1947)

- death of George VI; accession of Elizabeth II (1952)

- Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1955)

- collapse of the Soviet Union (1991)

- South Af. becomes democratic (1994)


T h e  E n d  o f  a n  E r a

- the consequent weakening of traditional stabilities marked by:

( a )  ‘ A r t  f o r  A r t ’ s  S a k e ’ :

- the aesthetes assaulted the assumptions about the nature and function of art held by ordinary middle-class readers

- the breach btw artists x the ‘Philistine’ public widened < foreshadowed by M. Arnold’s war on the Philistines in Culture and Anarchy > resulted in the now commonplace ‘alienation of the artist’ and the tradition of the bohemian life: J. Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

( b )  T h e  E d u c a t i o n  A c t  ( 1 8 7 0 ) :

- elementary education compulsory and universal > a large unsophisticated lit. public

- the audience for lit. split up into ‘highbrows’, ‘middlebrows’, and ‘lowbrows’

- the gap btw pop. art x art esteemed only by the sophisticated widened

( c )  P e s s i m i s m  a n d  S t o i c i s m :

- pessimism: T. Hardy’s novels and poems

- stoicism = the determination to stand for human dignity by enduring bravely, with a stiff upper lip, whatever fate may bring: R. Kipling’s Jungle Book and many of his stories

( d )  A n t i - V i c t o r i a n i s m :

> Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, the classic of ironic debunking

> S. Butler’s The Way of All Flesh (1903), the bitterest indictment in E lit. of the Victorian way of life

> G. B. Shaw’s plays

( e )  W o m e n  E m a n c i p a t i o n :

- the Married Women’s Property Act (1882) = the right of married women to handle their own property > oth. acts (1870 – 1908) > a basis for the rights of women in marriage

- admission of women to the uni by the end of Victoria’s reign

- the fight for women’s suffrage > won in 1918 > fully won in 1928


P o l i t i c a l  B a c k g r o u n d

C o n f l i c t s :

The Boer War (1899 – 1902)

- to annex 2 independent rep. in the south of Af. controlled by Dutch settlers = Boers

- a reaction against Br. imperialism > a gradual development of the Br. Empire into the Br. Commonwealth (i.e. an association of self-governing countries)

> reactions in lit.: R. Kipling, E. M. Forster, J. Conrad, & oth.

The Irish Question

- a rising Ir. nationalism = against the cultural, economic, and political subordination of Ir. to the Br. Crown and government

- Northern Ir.: the IRA (= the Ir. Republican Army) and its political wing Sinn Fein (= Ourselves Alone)

=> the Ir. lit. revival of the late 19th – early 20th c. = to achieve a national life culturally even if the road seemed blocked politically: W. B. Yeats, J. Joyce, & oth.


T h e  E d w a r d i a n  E n g l a n d 

( 1 9 0 1 – 1 0 ,  E d w a r d V I I )

- a vulgar age of conspicuous enjoyment by those who could afford it

- artists kept away from involvement in high society

- the social and economic stabilities of the Victorian age unimpaired x but: a sense of change and liberation on the level of ideas


T h e  G e o r g i a n  E n g l a n d  

( 1 9 1 0 – 1 4 ,  G e o r g e V )

- a temporary equilibrium btw Victorian earnestness x Edwardian flashiness

> but: a restlessness in T. S. Eliot’s 1st experiments in a radically new kind of poetry > and: major shifts in attitudes with the war poets


T h e  P o s t - W W I  E n g l a n d  ( 1 9 2 0 s – 3 0 s )

1 9 2 0 s

- the post-war disillusion = a spiritual matter <=> like T. S. Eliot’s Waste Land a spiritual and not a literal wasteland

1 9 3 0 s

- depression and unemployment

- older generation with the political right: W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, and D. H. Lawrence x young intellectuals with the left: W(ystan) H(ugh) Auden and his contemporaries

- the Red Decade = the right-wing army’s rebellion against the left-wing rep. government in Sp. (1936) > the Civil War

> writers more anxious to express their attitudes than to experiment with new kinds of works of art


T h e  P o s t - W W I I  E n g l a n d  ( 1 9 4 0 s + )

1 9 4 0 s  –  5 0 s

- a sudden end of the Red Decade

- GB won the war x but: lost the empire by the independence of Ind., Pakistan, and the Ir. Rep. (1947)

1 9 6 0 s 

- decentralising developments

> renaissance of regional lit. = new writers and artists outside London (building on the native tradition of T. Hardy and W. B. Yeats) > the growth of black Br. writing > the growth of post-colonial writing: V. S. Naipaul & oth.

- the government under increasing pressure from the regions and the wider world: the Labour government of Harold Wilson (1964 – 70) capitulated to the demands of the powerful labour unions > inflation spiralled out of control

1 9 7 0 s  –  8 0 s

- the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher (1979 – 81) curbed the power of the unions and of the ‘welfare state’ in favour of the free-market economy

1 9 9 0 s 

- the Labour government of Tony Blair (1997 +)


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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