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Literature World



Literary Movements

Modernism in Literature

Modernism is a term encompassing numerous movements characterizing international developments in literature, music, and the graphic and plastic arts from the late nineteenth century onward. Most commentators consider literary Modernism’s typifying manifestations in English to have appeared between 1890 and 1930. Among the authors most frequently cited are Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, D. H. “Lawrence, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Virginia Woolf, and W. B. Yeats; European writers associated with Modernism include Bertolt Brecht, Andre Gide, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Marcel Proust, and Rainer Maria Rilke, while Charles Baudelaire, Gustav Flaubert, and Arthur Rimbaud are regarded as three of its principal progenitors. The experimental qualities thought of as essentially Modernist are found in the writings of many of the above; others are more traditional in their stylistic and narrative practices. All, however, respond acutely to the radical shifts in the structures of thought and belief that were brought about in the fields of religion, philosophy, and psychology by the works of Sir James Frazer, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and others. The moral cataclysm of the First World War accentuated the senses of general cultural catastrophe and individual spiritual crisis apparent in the writings of novelists and poets already sensitive to such disruptions in the humanist tradition. Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920), Eliot’s The *Waste Land (1922), Woolf s Jacob’s Room (1922), and Joyce’s “Ulysses (1922) are among the works which indicate the breach with the conventions of rational exposition and stylistic decorum in the immediate post-war period.


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History of African American Literature

History of African American Poetry

African American poetry began in the lyrics attached to field hollers, ring shouts, rudimentary work songs, and songs of familial entertainment in the early colonies of the Americasin the North, South, and the Caribbean. These musical verses were characterized by insistent call and and response patterns, complex African and neo-African polyrhythms, the adaptation of European rhyme as a means of complexifying rhythm, and the transformation and incorporation of European harmonies into distinctive chords, which were the forerunners of chords and lyrics that characterize the African American lyrical poetic genres of gospel, blues, jazz, the mast, the chanted sermon, rhythm and blues, soul, rap, and contemporary polyphonic poetry. The polyphonic poetry of such twentieth-century poets as Derek Walcott, E. Kamau Brathwaite, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Robert Hayden, Ishmael Reed, Countee Cullen, Lorna Goodison, Langston Hughes, Jay Wright, Rita Dove, Ai, and Etheridge Knight all reconstrue African rhythmic complexity with creative and personally distinctive transformations of Euro-American, African American, Caribbean, Latin American, and Asian styles and motifs. The designation African American, while an appropriate term for cultural identification, is yet another incomplete summary of a black people more accurately called the African-British-European-Native American-Asian peoples of the Americas.


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Literary Movements

Harlem Renaissance Movement

The term normally used to describe the upsurge of black American writing in the 19205 and 19305. Though sometimes seen as a movement, it is better regarded as the more or less contemporary emergence of a number of writers who together make up the first modern generation of black American writers, a generation whose work, while often protesting about dispossession, poverty, and racial prejudice, is most significant for its articulation of a positive sense of black identity and its attempts to promote black consciousness. Harlem, viewed as a cultural matrix for blacks, provided a central focus for the activities of several of the writers who contributed to the Renaissance, or Awakening as it is sometimes also called, but others lived all or most of their lives elsewhere. Although there had been numerous earlier works that gave voice to the predicament of Americans of African descent, among them Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), which is the best-known ‘literary’ example of the genre of slave narrative, Charles W.
Chesnutt’s The Conjure Man (1899), and James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man (1912), a work which is sometimes seen as a forerunner of the Awakening, the Renaissance is generally viewed as a major step forward. Figures instrumental in its formation included the sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois, best known for his The Souls of Black Folks (1903), who rejected the integrationist approach of his famous contemporary Booker T. Washington, and the Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey, whose United Negro Improvement Association promoted an awareness of African origins and the possibility of an actual repatriation to Africa in Harlem in the 19205. Other historical factors which contributed to the growth of a sense of distinctive racial identity and the emergence of an autonomous black literature in the 19205 included the racism from which many black Americans suffered when they served alongside their white compatriots in the First World War, the northward migration of blacks from the rural South, and the difficulties such newcomers experienced in adjusting to urban situations.


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Rhetorics and Feminism in the Nineteenth-Century United States

In 1968 the women’s liberation group New York Radical Women staged public demonstrations, including the Burial of Traditional Womanhood in January and the Miss America Protest in September. In June the group also published a short, typed journal titled Notes from the First Year. Alongside texts such as Anne Koedt’s “Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm” and Katie Amatniek’s “Funeral Oration for the Burial of Traditional Womanhood” was an essay by Shulamith Firestone called “Women’s Rights Movement in the u.s:’ Firestone rejected characterizations of the nineteenth-century woman activist
as a “granite-faced spinster obsessed with a vote” (Firestone 1968: 1). Castigating those who spread “superficial, slanted, or downright false” information about feminist history, she identified its consequences: “To be called a feminist has become an insult, so much so that a young woman intellectual, often radical in every other area, will deny vehemently that she is a feminist, will be ashamed to identify in any way with the early women’s movement, calling it cop-out or reformist or demeaning it politically without knowing even the little that is circulated about it” (1). Firestone, like legions of activists
before and after her, recommended education.

Drawing on the 1959 edition of historian Eleanor Flexner’s Century of Struggle, Firestone laid claim to the “dynamite revolutionary potential” present in the women’s movement from the beginning, noted its connections with abolition and labor activism, and outlined its lessons for radical women of the 1960s, many of whom had become politically active in the New Left. She summarized: “1. Never compromise basic principles for political expediency. 2. Agitation for specific freedoms is worthless without the preliminary raising of consciousness necessary to utilize these freedoms fully. 3. Put
your own interests first, then proceed to make alliances with other oppressed groups.

Demand a piece of that revolutionary pie before you put your life on the line” (Firestone 1968: 7 ). Asserting that “women’s rights were never won:’ she urged her contemporaries to continue the fight on economic, social, cultural, and legal grounds.
Firestone’s short essay not only sought to diminish the ignorance of activists of the 1960s about the heritage of US women but also recovered the experiences of earlier women as models and as cautionary tales to be applied in the present. She wrote in the informal idiom common to radical political movements of the 1960s, calling the antisuffrage groups of the early twentieth century “a female front for big money interests” (Firestone 1968: 3), noting the close ties between “the Black Struggle and the Feminine Struggle” (2), and bemoaning women’s routinized “shit jobs” (7) that fell far short of economic
power. Rejecting the suppression of women’s history and the lies told by institutional authorities, Firestone’s essay led Notes from the First Year as an incendiary call to power through historical knowledge.

Firestone’s essay dramatically shows that history is not neutral or benign, and that arguments about what was significant in the past-or even about what happened-are embedded in the dynamics of the moment when the historical narrative is generated.

Appeals to the past are generated for rhetorical purposes, and the contexts of production and circulation of these appeals help to determine which aspects of the past are recovered and remembered. Whereas rhetorical scholarship is not equivalent to activist discourse, in that the audiences, purposes, and formal requirements differ markedly, it is still true that scholarly writing is rhetorical practice and that choices of subject, method, and conceptual framework are consequences of audiences, goals, and prior utterances. Firestone’s essay, with its fervent commitment to a usable past, illustrates a
resonant historical connection: how we understand nineteenth-century feminism is intimately intertwined with mid-twentieth-century feminism. Furthermore, Firestone’s political lessons offer an analogical model for an evaluation of scholarship: What can we learn, what can we celebrate, and what can we do better? In this article, we argue that by attending to the past we sharpen our understanding of how we came to know and how we might know more, or better, or differently, in the future.

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