Outline of Hoffman's CH.1 "The Twenties"
June 30, 2007 10:09am CST
The Twenties: American Writing in the Postwar Decade. by Frederick Hoffman Chapter 1 "The Temper of the Twenties" I. The Old Gang and the New: The Post-War Era became a time of great disappointment. An attitude of despair and rejection was established because of all the social and political problems being faced (World War I, Industrialization, The Great Depression, Prohibition, Corruption, The KKK, Bill for Equality of Women rejected) Many people sought to find as escape from such lifestyle and look for meaning and a change of lifestyle so they became expatriates and fled to Paris. "A pattern of rejection was soon established, abundantly supported by an accumulation of prejudices and views." (Hoff 23). Americans felt inferior to Europeans both intellectually and culturally and they felt apologetic for their immaturities. Sinclair's literature was liberal-minded and was filled with hope in a better future society. After the war it was difficult to continue believing in Socialism and social change. In the 1920's, it was common for some Americans to hold negative views about American poets/novelists who chose to leave to Europe, their poetry/literature was regarded distastefully and they were accused of being un-patriotic for having left their country. But many great literary geniuses left to Europe seeking not only escape from Post-War America, but more significantly seeking to expand themselves intellectually and culturally. Pound criticized the literature and education in his own country: "There appears to be nothing in America between professors and Kreymborgs and Bodenheim... Anemia of guts on one side and anemia of education of the other." Pound associated himself with Whitman because Whitman broke literary traditions and began the innovative and unique form of free verse. Literature should breakthrough and no longer stick to the old standards, it should be unique. "The social and moral criticism of the 1920's was largely concerned with the failure of society to provide breathing space for its independent spirits." (Hoff 27). The widely held fear as Stearns mentioned was that young men would conform to traditions and conformity was a big problem. "The deception and hypocrisy that America's artists saw in their society endangered democracy...by the end of WWI the air was full of criticism."(Hoff 29). The rivalry between the Old Gang and the New only worsened. The young artists were criticized for leaving America and using their talents elsewhere. "Pre-War stability and convention were condemned because all evidences of stability seemed illusory and artificial" (Hoff 32). "Perhaps the most striking quality of the postwar intellectual was his attitude or refusal- refusal of the comfortable platitudes of the middle class, refusal of the desperate assurances of the liberal tacticians, and finally refusal of the suggestion that the war had provided an opportunity for renewing tradition." (Hoff 32). II. The Bohemian: Greenwich Village became a respite from urban life. Because of "yellow-fever epidemics in the city people fled to the country, perfect time for the Village" (Hoff 33). "The slums of the Village itself were an inexpensive haven for impoverished writers, artists, clerks, and teachers. In the second decade of the twentieth century the Village became a Bohemia." (Hoff 34). The Village was widely occupied by Italian and Irish immigrants. The Catholic Irish and Italians however viewed the Villagers as having no morality. Artists struggled through poverty, but at least they surrounded themselves by other artists and lived in an art-enhancing atmosphere. Unfortunately due to expansion of transportation means and publicity, the Village was no longer a well-hidden secret but now a tourist spot. This signaled the end of privacy for artists. To further complicate matters, rent was raised in the 1920's as a "way of driving the poor artist out"(Hoff 36). In 1919 Prohibition took place, alcohol became illegal, but it was still used widely. In 1919 people were persecuted for their political beliefs: anarchists, liberals, and communists were viewed as rebels and outcasts. "Bohemian life was a rebellion against authority: the bohemian preferred to become a literary anarchist rather than endure an authority that he did not respect and it was an attempt, however poor, to find the ideal life and the free one when the attempt was genuine and not mere faking, it was a natural result of the defeat of respect and propriety that the war had caused."(39-40) The important of art was emphasized and so was science. Freud's psychoanalysis emerged in the 1920's. Bohemians were interested in Marxism. III. The Expatriate : Expatriate writers became influenced by their native country and the country they fled to, and their art reflected this. France, specifically Paris, became a popular spot for expatriates. "Writers left to Paris to write because they felt they couldn't at home."(Hoff 44). "The Left Bank became a more exciting place than Greenwich Village."(Hoff 44). They also didn't have to worry about Prohibition in France, so they could drink freely. In The Sun Also Rises we see expatriate artists living this sort of lifestyle in Paris. Hemingway, himself an expatriate, lived in Paris, and developed his writing from there. Another perk of Paris was that living there was cheaper than New York, because of the dollar exchange. "The exodus from America was also part of the strategy in fighting American Puritanism." (Hoff 53). Puritanism was a narrow-minded, culturally and intellectually repressive and unhealthy philosophy which originated in the 20's, the New Gang wholly rejected it. IV. The Text Ezra Pound's"Hugh Selwyn Mauberly" : World War I had set a mood of hopelessness and pain. Ezra Pound's "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly" deals essentially with the "crimes against taste committed by the Old Gang, the literary game itself, the professional game of writing as opposed to the isolated and obstinate search for an honest style; there was the war itself, which was responsible for numerous ironies as well as for profound tragedies of the human spirit ;there is the battle of artist against critic and public opinion"(Hoff 56). Not only art is at stake, but so was culture. "The war is a major symbol of the destructive change in cultural attitudes."(Hoff 56). "The poems in the sequence condemn their subject from a doubly ironic vantage point- the world of England, and Pound's own estimate of himself as of 1920" (Hoff 57). "The poet's journey to perfection is as perilous in its way as that of Odysseus toward his "true Penelope" (Hoff 57). "In a succession of images he attacks the cultural defection of the conservators as well as the failure of the British 1890's to provide a compelling example for Mauberley to follow in his opposition to them. The poem " is as relevant to America as it is to England; for, after all, it is what ‘the age demanded,' and not exclusively what England demanded that Pound so profoundly condemns in his poems II through XII." (Hoff 58). "The war was bad, disillusioning, disastrous in its consequences for the loyalties and allegiances of those fighting in it" (Hoff 59). In the fourth poem Pound criticizes the unjust nature of the war and how it wasn't heroic. World War I was really about imperialism, greedy world superpowers fighting each other to gain ownership of other countries. Pound asks the question: "Why did men fight this war?" This war was a cruel and meaningless in all aspects, countless soldiers dying for no particular cause, and Pound reflects on these thoughts in his poem. "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly provides a complex analysis of the ills that disturbed culture at the beginning of the decade." (Hoff 66)