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Contextualization (F.S.F)



  • At the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S started to change its relations with the world and ended its isolation from international conflicts.
  • The U.S was the world’s richest and most powerful nation;
  • The U.S got involved in WW I (1917) and WW II (1941). The involvement in WWII was a consequence of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbour;
  • The U.S dropped the first atomic bomb used in the war on Hiroshima and Nagasaki;
  • After WWII the U.S took over the role of leader of the Western World, establishing the Marshall Aid plan and NATO.


The 1920s were called “The Roaring Twenties”. It was a period of excess and enjoyment.

  • 1920-1933 ̵ the Prohibition: the ban on alcohol, clubs are illegal but they function underground and alcohol is trafficked.
  • 1929 ̵ the prosperity comes to a sudden end because of The Great Depression ̵ millions of people lose jobs and the economy suffers an abrupt decline;
  • Despite the economic hardships of the 1930s, society evolved:
    • Women of the jazz era embraced new roles; they had more freedom, danced, drank, went clubbing.
    • Fashion changed radically.
  • After WWII (1945) the economy enjoys a boom;
  • The consumer society is born:
    • Radio
    • Telephone
    • Refrigerator
    • Automobile
    • The middle class prospers and has access to higher education.


American Modernism is characterized by a sharp break from

  • The past
  • The traditions of the Western civilization

American modernist writers rebel against all previous literature and Western models, they are angry and disillusioned with the savage war and its consequences.

Writers have a godless world-view;

Breakdown of traditional values;

Modernism is a reaction against realism and naturalism, which aimed at representing reality as we see it;

Modernism is influenced by:

  • Einstein’s theory of relativity;
  • Freud’s psychological studies;
  • Marx’s political theories.

The modernist novel:

  • Non-chronological, it experiments with the representation of time (temporal juxtapositions, sudden jumps);
  • The modernist narration moves from one level of narration to another without warning; thus, it breaks narrative frames.
  • The modernist narration focuses on the inner world. The plot of events becomes less important than the character’s consciousness, unconsciousness, memory, and perception.
  • Experiments with form and style.

Literary trend: REALISM

Principles of realism:

  • normal situations and ordinary characters are described in familiar settings;
  • attention to detail;
  • description based on experience, not imagination;
  • lower strata of society are emphasized;
  • very little use of metaphors.

Realistic novel traits (the novel is the best form of expression for realism, as it describes the world faithfully and doesn’t idealize it):

  • Major theme: the place of the individual in society;
  • Long, dense, with complicated plots;
  • Physical descriptions of characters are realistic;
  • Lots of characters, most of them belong to the middle and lower classes;
  • A new type of character: the one who transcends social barriers through marriage, hard work, or legacies. Characters are motivated by greed, lust, and confusion.


  • Born in Minnesota, to an upper-middle-class family;
  • Dropped out of Princeton University to join the army;
  • Married Zelda Sayre, a rich socialite;
  • Travelled to Europe and was influenced by modernist writers;
  • Wrote screenplays for Hollywood.
  • Novels:
    • “This Side of Paradise”
    • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
    • “The Great Gatsby”
    • “Tender is the Night”