Lecture 33: 20th Century Literature
Major events & Trends
The Great War aka World War I
World War II
The British Empire began to fall apart
Rereading/questioning the English Canon
T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” (1922)
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us,
James Joyce’s “Ulysses”
Joyce’s novel “Ulysses” uses a mixture of first person and third person narrators as well as stream of consciousness.
Stream of Consciousness is a narrative technique that is based on internal monologue in the mind of the character.
The novel covers 18 hours in the life of the main character.
The last 50 pages of the novel have no punctuation marks.
Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”
‘Waiting for Godot’ (1952) is a two-act play.
“Nothing Happens, Nobody Comes, Nobody Goes”
No one knows who Godot is. No one has met him before. And he never shows up.
Boy: “Mr. Godot told me to tell you he won’t come this evening but surely to-morrow.”
Theatre of the Absurd
Virginia Woolf ‘A room of one’s own’
In “A Room of One’s Own” Woolf famously explains that without financial freedom, women cannot possess full creative or intellectual freedom.
She explores women both as writers and characters in fiction.
“It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare.”
“Meanwhile his extraordinarily gifted sister, let us suppose, remained at home. She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil. She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother’s perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers.”
Woolf’s Judith Shakespeare?
“She [Judith] cried out that marriage was hateful to her, and for that she was severely beaten by her father. Then he…. begged her instead not to hurt him, not to shame him in this matter of her marriage.”
“She stood at the stage door; she wanted to act, she said. Men laughed in her face. The manager…: women acting–no woman, he said, could possibly be an actress.”
“She found herself with child by that gentleman and so–who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body?—killed.”
Woolf on Behn
All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she—shady and amorous as she was—who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you to-night: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.
Edward Said “Orientalism”
Palestinian Christian intellectual Edward Said is said to be the founder of Post-colonialism.
In “Orientalism”, he exposes how the West controls the East, abuses and exploits it, and how the West always misrepresents the East.
According to Said, Orientalism is Imperialism.
Said thinks literature has played a major role in colonising the East.
”[T]he Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience.”
Oh, East is East, and West s West, and never the twain shall meet.
“The British Empire had tried to make them meet and make them become part of one whole. But in the new century a new process started, as things began to fall to pieces.”