Contextualization (T.S.E.) Copy

T.S ELIOT (1819-1892)


  • 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.


  • Britain’s economic and military position was weakened by the wars;
  • After World War I, debt and unemployment led to:
    • The General Strike (1926)
    • The World Economic Depression (1930)
  • Women started to take on new roles:
    • The Suffragette movement led to women being granted the right to vote;
    • Women enjoyed more freedom, unlike in the Victorian era, when they were generally housebound.
  • The start of the 20th century marked a dramatic rise in the number of writers and readers.


  • Modernism is characterized by a sharp break from
    • The past
    • The traditions of the Western civilization
      • 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 worldview;
      • 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.


  • Rejection of diction, as it is considered unsuitable for an era of technological breakthroughs and global violence;
  • Break with Romantic ideas (the notion of sublime);
  • Poetry becomes skeptical of language and its notion of coherence;
  • Disrupted syntax;
  • Free verse;
  • Focus on images and symbols;
  • Deliberately difficult style;
  • Use of imagistic content: narrative continuity and poetic structure are reduced to fragments. Fragments are connected implicitly;
  • Use of allusion: isolated fragments, quotes, phrases that represent the fragmentation of contemporary culture.


  • American-born became a British citizen in 1927;
  • A central figure in English-language modernist poetry;
  • Born in a rich family in Boston;
  • Studied philosophy at Harvard, then moved to England;
  • Worked as a bank clerk;
  • Wrote poetry and criticism.

Notable works:

  • “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
  • The Waste Land