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Sep 18, 2010


It was in 1915 the old world ended- Lawrence
Moving from the realistic literature of the Victorian age into the modern literature of the early century is like moving from an arena of debate into a sea of trouble. For a number of literary movements (aestheticism, classicism, Imagism, etc) emerged in 20th century, that is why the critics are not sure to fix about fixing definite dates for the beginning and lasting of the age.
If Lawrence or Woolf’s novel is to mark the advent of modernism in fiction, it started in the middle of the first decade, if Pound and Imagists are to mark the beginning of the modernist poetry, then it starts in the middle of the first decade, if the modern period on drama is to begin with Yeats, wells and Shaw, it would date the middle of 1890’s, thus, the question of specifying exact years for the modernist period remains more problematic than it has been in the case of earlier age. In modern literature drama has once again witnesses a remarkable reveal after an age-old slumber and obscurity—in the hands of Galsworthy, Shaw, and Eliot. The pre-war years were the years of the novel and the drama and there was a relative eclipse of poetry. Moreover, much of the greatest “English” literature was written by the Irish writers Yeats, Shaw, Joyce, etc. and some of written by the natives of recently liberated English colonies (often referred as Postcolonial authors) including South Africans Doris Lessing,; the West Indies V.S. Naipaul; the Nigerians Chinua Achebe; and the Indian R.N. Tagore. In sum, new experiments were tried in all the branches of literature. The traditional forms were thrown out and in their place new literary experiments were made in the field of poetry, drama and novel.

Celtic revival
Celtic Revival, also known as the Irish Literary Renaissance, identifies the remarkably creative period in Irish literature from about 1880 to the death of W.B. Yeats in 1939. The aim of Yeats and other early leaders of the movement was to create a distinctively national literature by going back to Irish history, legend, and folklore, as well as to native literary models. The major writers, however, wrote not in the native Irish (one of the Celtic languages) but in English, and under the influence of various non-Irish literary forms; a number of them also turned increasingly for their subject matter to modern Irish life rather than to the ancient past. Notable poets in addition to Yeats were AE (George Russell) and Oliver St. John Gogarty. The dramatists included Yeats himself, as well as Lady Gregory (who was also an important patron and publicist for the movement), John Millington Synge, and later Sean O’Casey. Among the novelists were George Moore and James Stephens, as well as James Joyce, who although he abandoned Ireland for Europe and ridiculed the excess of the nationalist writers, adverted to Irish subject matter and characters in all his writings. As these names indicate, the Celtic Revival produced some of the greatest poetry, drama, and prose fiction written in English during the first four decades of the twentieth century. The term Celtic Revival applies to a school of writers who of late years have been calling attention to a wealth of unused literary material in Ireland, as Kipling had done for India and Barrie for Scotland. The school probably originated in a lecture by Stopford Brooke on The Need of Getting Irish Literature into the English Language. Its catching centers have been the Irish Library Society of London, the National Literary Society of Dublin, the Irish Literary Theatre, and the later Abbey Theatre (10904). Among its examples are Hyde, Lady Gregory, Yeats, and Katherine Tynan, to name only four of its many scholars, poets, dramatists, and the story teller.  The original purpose of the Revival was to awaken interest in what was called ancient bardic literature. This was a misnomer, because the bards had no written literature; the first rule of their school was that every tale in verse or prose must be committed to memory verbatim and never under nay committed to manuscript. Yeats—who “always to write out of the heart of the Irish common people”—is honored as the leader the Celtic revival, more so in England country than in his own. Yeats tried his hand at retelling Celtic mythology, as in the seven woods (1903), the wandering of Oisin, the madness of king Goll, and in Baile and Aillin. A feature if Celtic mythology which still appeals to Irish country folk is that the ancient bards and warriors do not die; they only sleep until their songs or swords will again be needed. One of the first to share this ancient Celtic idea with modern readers was Katharine Tynan (Miss Hinkson, 1863-1931) in her Waiting which portrays Finn and his warriors sleeping in a cave of the Donegal hills until the harp summons then to battle once more for Irish freedom.

Stream of Consciousness
Stream of consciousness is a continuous flow of ideas, thoughts, and feelings, as they are experienced by a person; a style of writing that expresses this without using the usual methods of description and conversation. Oxford Dictionary. Thus, Stream of consciousness, says Robert Humphrey, “is based on the realization of the drama that takes place in the minds of the human beings.” Many critics present this method as an inevitable sequel to the disintegration of values that is why Robert Humphrey stresses psychological aspects of the technique by defining it “as a type of fiction in which the basic emphasis is placed in exploration of the pre-speech levels of consciousness for the purposes, primarily of revealing the psychic being of the character.” Lawrence Stern’s Tristram Shandy is virtually the precursor of the modern stream of the consciousness novels but the first novelist who employed the technique in Pointed Roofs (1915) was Dorothy Richardson. James Joyce ‘a prodigious creative mind’ also employed the method in his multi-dimensional novel Ulysses, which is not a guide book of the city Dublin, and a criticism of the modern life with its ‘sick hury and divided aims’ but also a parody of Homer’s Odyssey. A far more exciting use of the method was made by Virginia Woolf in Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To The Light House (1927), The Waves (1931). The emergence of the stream of the consciousness novel provoked considerable controversy as Joseph Warren Beach in The Twentieth Century Novel says that it is limited in its future by its invariable application to “neurotics” whereas Hoffman in The Modern Novel in America regards the subject as a ‘historically interesting’ place of novelistic method. The stream of the consciousness technique enjoyed its heyday from 1915 to 1941, but its influence did not come to an end with the publication of Woolf’s Between the Acts (1941).

Irish Literary Theater
During the twentieth, there was a stir among the Irish dramatists to revive old Irish drama and popularize Irish themes and legends in dramatic works. With the object of putting Ireland distinctly on the map of the British drama The Irish National Literary Society was formed in Ireland by Yeats and few over leading Irish dramatists in 1892. This society developed by 1903 into The Irish National Theatre Society and in the same year The Abbey Theatre “The Centre of Irish Literature” was established with the aid of Miss A.E.F. Horniman, a rich English lady. the Irish national theatre attracted a capable body of the dramatists, the chief of whom in the first period was Synge, author of The Playboy of the Western World, The Riders Of The Sea; and W.B. Yeats (1865-1939), a co-founder of the Irish National Theatre, who began the Irish theatrical Revival with his play The Countess Cathleen (1892); whereas in the second period O’Casey was rightly acclaimed for two Jumo And The Paycock (1825) and The Plough And The Stars (1926), ), which deal with the lives of the Irish poor before and during the civil war that followed the establishment of the Irish Free State. The sponsors of this movement thus aimed at the Revival of old Irish legends and mythologies as well as create a new school of native comedy centering round Irish folklore and representing Irish peasant character. “That imaginative idealism which has always characterized the Celtic Races, that love of passionate and dreamy poetry, that only half-ashamed belief in the fairy world, all gave a particular tone produced at Abbey Theatre.” No doubt, there was among these dramatists a craze for the Revival of Irish legend and myths but they could not completely ignore the life of the peasants and Irish country folk from their plays. Novel of ideas, psychological novel, novel of sequence, one act plays, poetry of 1910, provincial repertory theatre, revival of poetic drama, revial of comedy of manner, romantic realism, three act plays, transitions poets

Poetry of War
The Great War (1914-18) exercised a considerable influence on Georgian poetry, because due to it “a flood of war poetry began, and lasted until the peace,” says Hudson. We here laudatory verses coming out from elder poets who stayed at home (Eliot, Pound, Stevenson); and also the poets who had actually been to the war field (Sassoon, Owen, Brooke) and like “bee drained the wild honey of their youth,” (Rosenberg) but some “have challenged Death and dared him face to face” (Sassoon). Kipling was among the leaders of the glorifiers of war and in For All We Face and We Are, he exhorted the people of his country to be patriotic and hail war with enthusiasm:
               “There is but one task for all
                 One life each to give,
                 Who stands if freedom fall?
                 Who dies if England lives.”
Anger of war is best described by Pound, who, mourning, in “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley,” the deaths of those artists who died in the war:
“for an old bitch gone in the teeth
for a botched civilization.”

The first great soldier poet who revealed the ugliness of war was Siegfried Sassoon, who “beginning that war of fountain pen against the machine gun which continued for years after the war ended,” (Hudson); and he inspired Wilfred Owen to write war poems, and following Sassoon, Owen whose “subject is war, and the pity of war” describes the condition of the soldiers in The Sentry:
                 “Man marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
                  But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
                  Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
                  Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind”
In the end, the First World War, like the French revolution for romanticists or the industrial revolution for Victorians, was of singular importance for the modernists. As the earliest events had caused new literary movements, so did the World War I.

Imagism Movement
Imagism was a member of a group of early 20th-century poets who, in revolt against romanticism, sought clarity of expression through the use of precise images,” (Oxford Dictionary). Ezra Pound (1885-1972), co-founded in London the “Imagist Movement,” influenced by the poetic theory of T.E. Hulme, which came as a revolt against Georgian poetry to what Pound called the “rather blurry, messy……sentimentalistic mannerish” poetry. Pound, who later started calling it “Amygism,” defined poetry as the presentation of a visual situation in the fewest possible concrete words. This fames example of “In a Station of the Metro” by Pound exceeds other imagist poems in the degree of concentration:
         “in the station of the metro
          the apparition of these facts in the crowd,
          Petals on a wet, black bough.”

Although the “Imagist Movement” did not produce any major or memorable poem, its contribution to English poetry was historical in that it marked the emergence of a new kind of poetry for the new century. The movement was marked by short poems, such as Hulme’s Autumn:
           “A touch of cold in the autumn night—
            A walked abroad
            And saw a ruddy moon lean over hedge
            Like a red-faced farmer.
            I did nor stop to speak, but nodded,
           And round about were the wistful stares
           With white faces like town children.”
the poem is typical of the imagist style—short, crisp, relaying on image, avoiding poetic diction and rhetoric, using free verse only. What was missing in "Imagist Movement" poetry was the concern with the larger issues of contemporary society, which the proper modernist poetry made its recurrent theme. Imagism “isolated the basic unit of the modern poem,” (Stephan Slender) but in overstating its case, it was ignoring other, no less effective, poetic energies, as well as dangerously limiting its own scope, hence it quickly died out. “When the ar came to england in 1914, poetry was among the first volunteers”, writes perkins. The poetry of the past was everywhere eagerly invoked reflecting the idealistic fervour of the england in the early years of the war. The was fortered an attitude of unquestioning enthusiasm for heroic pieties and nationalistic feelings. Poets like Robert Graves, with Fairies and fusiliers (1917) Nicho’s with Invocation: War poems and Others (1915), Edmund blunder and Julian Grenfell retain a conventional place time habit of ensibility. Although their firsthand experience of combat was traumatic, that experience is not the focus of feeling, their poems celebrate the soldier’s share of peace and beauty of the natural world amid the havoc wrought by the war on field and farms. It was left for Sieffried Sasson, Issac Rosenburh and Wilfred owen to strip the false literary wrappings from the reality of the war. Sasson’s poems in The Old Huntsman (1917) and Counter Attack (1918) debunk the civilian view of war as redemptive and justified. Like Sasson, Issac delinates the physical qnd emotional realities of war withuout sentiment in poems like Break of day in the Trenches and Dead man’s Dump. Perhaps the most valuable contribution to was poetry made by Wilfred Owen who, at his best, wrote more powerfullu than any other poets discusses so far. Owne was among the first to discard the shooting concept of an england of shining valleys and Arthurian Chivalary. Yeats attacked Owen’s diction, as did some other: “he iss all blood, dirt and suger stick. He calls poets ‘bards’, a girl a ‘maid’, and talks about ‘Titanic Wars’. But Owen’s lingering Romanticism not only makes his realism more telling because the Romantic diction enables the poet to maintain a certain aesthetic distance from his subject. A past master of verbal exactitude which he often achieved through the use of keatsian intensifiers, Owen was a patient craftsman whose poetic diction maturity is proclaimed by his complex patterns of alliteration and controlled use of assonace. Owen influenced a number of younger poets—Auden, Spender, MacNeice, and Day-lewis responded fervently to his poetry. Had Owen and Rosenberg survived the war, the poetry of the ensuring period might have been different. They were the most likely poets to have challenged the predmominance claimed by Eliot, Pound and stevens. Nevetheless the war poetry helped perpare the way for Change.

Poetry of 30
During the last 20s and early 30s. there emerged a group of young poets whose concerns and practise imprinred a distinct pattern on literary history. The key figure was W.H. Auden whose decisice influence were Thomas hardy, Edward Thomas, Wilfred owen and Eliot. These poets regarded ion Marxist condemnation of social injustice a judgement on social injustice. Although the “Macspaunday” poets continued to write erll into the fifties and beyond, their work during the 30s connotes a distinct style and set of literary and cultural values. George Orwell, his his essay, Inside the Whale sums up the chage in poetry after eliot;s heyday: “suddenlu we have got out of the twilight of the gods into a sort of boy scout atmosphere of bare knees and community singing. The typical literary man ceases to be a cultured expatriate with a learning towards the Church and becomes instead and eager schoolby with a learning towards communism.” Despite having very definite views on the role of poetry in the modern context, the 30s poets did not pointificate about it. Auden issisted that poetry is “a game of knowledge”. His poems are mostly historial and personal allergorical versions of the Quest Theme. Like Auden, Stephen Soender flirted with communism for a whole and supported the loyalist cause in sain. His poetry shows an awareness of the failed snterprises of the age. C. Day Lewis was a traditionalist who had strengthened Georgian forms by using images of poetry and slum. Loouis MacNeice never simplified the human condition into a stuggle between Left and Right. His philosophuiic depth provides a refreshing variation n the 30s theme and offers an interesting contrast to the naivele of Spender and Day Lewis.

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