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Muat Ana-Luiza English- Spanish, III Year

Modernist literature between continuity and change

The early 20th century can be characterized as a century of constant tension. The literature that emerges in these times starts to break free from the constraints that were present in the traditional literature. New domains are being explored, new techniques are being employed and the way in which the world is seen sufferes a radical change. Some of the most important authours of this time are Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence. Each of them has their own contribution to the development of modernist literature and while they retain certain traditional features, they succeed in changing the face of literature. Virginia Woolf can be considered one of the most important modernist writers, rebelling against a literature dominated by patriarchal norms and a focus on the outside world. In the study Mr Bennet and Mrs Brown, she condemned the way in which Edwardians wrote literature, stating that the Edwardians were never interested in character in itself ; or in the book in itself. They were interested in something outside1. She considered that the focus on the outside world prevented the reader from getting a true image of the characters. The omniscient narrator, present in the traditional literature, prevented the reader from having an active role. In Woolfs novels, this Godlike narrator gives place to the characters consciousness. The reader ceases to be a passive observer and starts having an active role, being a co-producer of meaning. In the novel Mrs. Dalloway many of the traditional conventions are abandoned in favor of a new way of writing literature. The omniscient narrator is no longer present, the characters consciousness becoming the storytellers. The focus is shifted from the presentation of the outside world to the analysis of the inner world of the characters. Chronology, an important element in traditional literature, is not employed in Mrs. Dalloway. Numerous flashbacks occur throughout the novel, giving the reader glimpses of the lives of the characters. For example, although the chronological time is of just a few hours, the flashbacks that take place throughout the day present the entire life of Clarissa Dalloway. The characters arent either flawless or filled with flaws, like in the traditional literature. They have a mix of both qualities and flaws. Their complexity is what gives them a realistic quality. Clarissa, the protagonist of Mrs. Dalloway, is a very complex character who, although she isnt very beautiful of very smart, has the ability to read people by instinct. Her biggest quality is her ability to make the other characters gravitate around her. She doesnt try to understand the events that occur throughout her life, preferring to take them for granted. Her efforts to create communion between the characters (with the aid of the party) can be seen as a way of destroying the barriers that exist between individuals. These moments of communion are the only times when the alienation of the characters (a state which exists in most of Woolfs novels) is temporarily erased. Woolf, in Mrs. Dalloway, allows the reader to have access to the characters minds with the aid of the free indirect speech and of the
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Woolf, Virginia. Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown. London: The Hogarth Press, 1924. 12. Print
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stream of consciousness technique. Instead of having an intermediate, such as an omniscient narrator, the reader is able to get a characters point of view directly from the characters thoughts. In To the Lighthouse Woolf shows, with the aid of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey, the inapplicability of the traditionalist way of viewing life. The deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey represent the death of the old society, a patriarchal society in which women werent able to be independent. The importance of the plot is minimal, the inner lives of the characters having a bigger role. Symbolism, along with the stream of consciousness, help decode the message of the novel. (For example, the lighthouse symbolizes the need for communion in a society dominated by the alienation of the individual). Woolf, in To the Lighthouse, presents a different view of the artist and of art (art can also include literature). In traditional literature, the finality of art was the only thing that mattered. Woolf changed this way of seeing art with the aid of the character Lily Briscoe. In Briscoes opinion, the process of making art was the only thing that mattered. Her painting of the lighthouse symbolizes the process of creation, the capturing of the moment of creation in the work of art. She doesnt discard the past completely, trying to salvage what can be used in the present. In The Waves, Woolfs most experimental novel, the omniscient narrator is replaced by six consciousnesses, each having its own way of viewing the world. The motif of the quest, present in the traditional literature, is reinterpreted by Woolf. The quest no longer represents a chase after something material, but a journey towards the discovery of ones self. The interludes have a symbolic value, reflecting the inner development of the characters. Symbolism has an important role, the waves being an allusion to both the turbulent life of the characters and to the flow of their thoughts. Virginia Woolfs novels, although they are very innovating, contain a few elements of the traditional literature. For example, in Mrs. Dalloway, the characters that are emphasized are part of the upper class, a class that was constantly described in the traditional literature. The gap between the social classes is present and it cant be destroyed. Both in To the Lighthouse and The Waves the chronology is present, the events taking place in a chronological order. Joyce is another innovator of literature, changing both the form and the structure of the novel. He refused to employ the omniscient narrator in his works, creating a new narative perspective : selective omniscience. Joyces biggest contribution to modernist literature lies in his use of language in his books, adapting it to the personality of the speaker and using symbols and allusions in order to convey his message. He uses epiphany (a concept taken from religion) in order to present the capturing of the moment of the characters enlightment. He first experimented with the concept of epiphany in the short stories from Dubliners (especially in the short story The Dead), gradually increasing its influence in his masterpieces A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. The first experimental work of Joyce was Dubliners, a collection of stories in which the concept of epiphany gradually appears and in which a new type of heroe is promoted. Unlike the heroes from the traditional novels, who were always active and who were flawless, Joyces heroes have a very complacent attitude. Even when they have the chance to escape and capture the moment, most of them remain captives in the prison known as Ireland. In Neil Murphys opinion, The stories of Dubliners reflect an intellectual paralysis that Joyces Dublin and its fictional inhabitants predict in modern, urbanized Europe. In its repeated depiction of
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communicative lapses and faltering silences, Dubliners self-reflexively implies the limits of knowing and, ironically, the limits of many of the assumptions of realist fiction.2 The paralysis of the characters in front of the opportunities for escape reflect the paralysis of a society that had lost all hope, a society dominated by constant tension and turmoil. For example, the protagonist from the short story Eveline failed to reach epiphany because she chose to stick to the past instead of trying to escape. The short stories still retain the traditional motif of the quest, but these quests are dominated by uncertainty, mystery and disappointment. Joyces experimentation continues in his novel A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a bildungsroman which redefines the condition of the artist. The style of the language isnt constant throughout the novel, a trait found in traditional novels. It evolves along with the protagonist. At the beginning of the novel it is innocent and childlike (Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo)3 and, as the characters evolves and reaches adulthood, it becomes more sophisticated and filled with allusions (O life, I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.)4. There are a few traditional elements in the novel (the chronological presentation of the events and the motif of the quest) but they are influenced by modernism, the quest representing the efforts of reaching epiphany. (Stephens wish of becoming a priest of the eternal imagination)5 Ulysses and Finnegans Wake can be considered the most experimental novels ever written in English language. In Ulysses, Joyce presents the events that occur during the life of ordinary people during an ordinary day. Intertextuality is employed in the text, the chapters having names which have their origin in Greek mythology. The motif of the quest is present, the novel being an allusion to Ulyssess journey back to his home. There are three important consciousnessess in the novel : Stephen, Leopold Bloom and Molly Bloom. Each of them represent different facets of the essence of mankind: Stephen stands for the intellect, Leopold represents the emotional side and Molly represents sensuality. The language changes in accordance to the consciousness uttering it, giving each mind a distinct voice. Stephens stream of consciousness is filled with allusions, puns and ironies, describing a mind that is always questioning its fate. Bloom uses a simple language, he relies on instinct rather than intelect in order to survive in an uncertain world. Mollys discourse is uninterrupted and structureless. Several styles can be encountered in the novel. For example, chapter 15 is written like a play script, also having stage direction. This combination of literaty styles shows that several styles can contribute to the creation of a single masterpiece. Ulysses has retained a few traditional elements: the events are presented in a chronological manner, Dublin is described in a baroque way (many details are described and the town can be reconstructed with the aid of the novel) and the motif of the quest, although it sufferes a significant change, remains.

Murphy, Neil. James Joyces Dubliners and Modernist Doubt: The Making of a Tradition James Joyce. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Blooms Literary Criticism, 2009. 197-198. Print. 3 Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 1 4 Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 147 5 Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 125
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Finnegans wake can be considered the symbol of modernist literature. Everything is completely changed and the result is a novel that shows us the ways in which language can be used in order to convey an idea. The plot is very difficult to grasp because of the language. Many words are either invented words or words from different languages. Joyce considered that a clear-cut plot was an element of the past that would not withstand the test of time. In his opinion a plot needed have several interpretations. His ambigous language forces the readers to have an active role. They contribute in a way to the novel by offering their own interpretations on the events. D. H. Lawrence was an innovator of a different kind. While Woolf and Joyce focused on changing the narrative perspective and the literary style, Lawrence focused on a thematic renovation. In his novels The Rainbow and Women in love he gives his characters freedom of movement and of feelings. He presents the different faces of love, refusing to focus on the traditional view of love as a relationship between a man and a woman. Although he was criticized in his time for his boldness, his novels managed to change the face of literature forever. He retained certain traditional elements in his works, such as a clear plot structure, a chronological ordering of events and the narration in the third person, but he combined these features with a great thematic freedom in order to create a new type of novel. In conclusion, the modernist literature( represented by writers such as Woolf, Joyce and Lawrence) represents a completely new direction in the development of literature and while it retained a few traditional elements, it permanently changed the way in which literature is made.