Contextualization (W.F.) Copy



  • 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 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.
  • 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.


  • Born in Mississippi;
  • Wrote novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, essays;
  • Failed to graduate from high school;
  • Supported his family through writing;
  • Won the Nobel Prize for Literature (1949) and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1955, 1963).


  • “The Sound and the Fury”
  • “As I Lay Dying”
  • “Light in August”
  • Absalom, Absalom!”
  • “A Rose for Emily”
  • “The Bear”