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QUESTIONS ON MODERNISM
These questions are designed to prepare students for class discussion and for writing interpretive essays. Answers should be typed and should make use of parenthetical citation (name of the author/editor of the text followed by the page number). For instance: Voltaire challenges the idea that “private misfortunes are public benefits”. Questions must be submitted as a hard copy (or electronically) by the deadline, which is the beginning of class on the due date. They will not be accepted late. They will not be reviewed until a hard copy is submitted.
Modernism is a literary style that became popular at the beginning of the twentieth century in the wake of World War I. Consider the following definition.
MODERNISM: A movement in literature and the arts concentrated in the first third of the twentieth century…. In leading literary practitioners one can isolate some fundamental strands. First, modernism is characterized by experimentation in form…. Second, modernism is an outlook upon modern life. In the rise of technology, consumerism, and mass entertainment, modernists see culture in a crisis moment. The advent of automobiles, warfare on a world scale—many thought that World War I was nothing but a pointless bloodbath—massive factories, commercial phenomena such as advertising, and vulgar attitudes in general made life in the West a sordid and confusing experience. Many writers considered its worst symptoms the loss of tradition and high art. Some set out to revive a sense of beauty and history, while others tried to discover in the new materials of life new material for art…. Third, modernism is an aesthetic. Against the emphasis on self in Romanticism and upon the fluid sensuousness of Impressionism, modernists preferred a language of sharp outlines and concentrated diction [with] accurate, precise and definite description…. (Handbook of Literary Terms: Literature, Language, Theory. Second Edition. Eds. X. J. Kennedy, Dana Gioia, and Mark Bauerlein. NY: Pearson, 2009).
1. What makes Isaac Rosenberg’s poem “Dead Man’s Dump” Modernist in style? Formulate an argument (a) supported by three textual examples (b, c, d).
a.
b.
c.
d.
2. What is Céline’s attitude towards popular views on patriotism and heroism in Journey to the End of the Night? Formulate an argument (a), supported by three textual examples (b, c, d).
a.
b.
c.
d.
3. What makes the writing style of Journey to the End of the Night Modernist? How does it compare to WWI poetry? Formulate an argument (a) supported by three textual examples (b, c, d).
a.
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c.
d.

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