Modernism in American Literature
Choose two texts that we've read you may use Street Scene (1931 film) and "A Rose for
Emily" by William Faulkner (or any two listed below) and discuss them in relation to modernism. Use the definition of modernism given in the Terms lecture (below). Make sure to explain what modernism is and show how the texts you chose demonstrate modernism.
Zora Neal Hurston
• Biography (pp.948-950)
• “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” (pp. 958-961
Modernism: A movement dated from roughly 1900-1950. In short, modernism is about changes- changes in society and changes in literary form. Modernist literature represents the change a traditional society experiences as it becomes modern, a transformation that may be painful. In this time period, Americans witnessed the devastating effects of World War I, Black Friday and the subsequent stock market crash, the Great Depression, and World War II, and many people were disillusioned. Also in this time period came Darwin's theory of evolution, challenging traditional ideas about religion; Karl Marx's theories on communism, challenging the current idea of government; and Sigmund Freud's theory of the unconscious mind, challenging traditional ideas about humanity.
Many modernist writers reflect this disillusionment and confusion by questioning traditional values and beliefs and/or portraying the failure of the American Dream. As the editors of your textbook point out, modernism is "an experience of loss" (Baym et al, 2013, p. 1847). This loss and uncertainty is sometimes reflected in literature that might end without a true resolution, echoing the loss many felt in their lives. The traditional "happy ending" is certainly not a staple in modernist literature
• "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" (pp. 1037)
• "Mother to Son" (pp. 1037-1038)
• "I, Too" (p. 1038)
“Hills Like White Elephants” (pp. 1032-1035)
F. Scott Fitzgerald
• "Babylon Revisited" (pp. 991-1005)
• "Feminist Manifesto" (pp. 806-809)