Age of anxiety, modernism, Dubliners



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The age of anxiety
The half of the twenties century was an age of transformation. It was marked by the two world wars, the lunch of the atomic bomb. New and faster means of transport and communication were discovered and psychology assumed a scientific status.
A profound cultural crisis had been growing. In this period the people thought that the material gain implied spiritual loss, the decency should always be maintained. Yet the First World War left the country in a disillusioned mood: stability and prosperity belonged only to the privileged classes. There was a gap between the generation of the young and the older one, which brought a frustration, that grow after the slow dissolution of the Empire into a free association of states, the Commonwealth.
Nothing seemed to be right; even science and religion seemed to offer little comfort security. So the people began to believe that all human misery would be swept away.
In this period, new views of man and the universe emerged.
SIGMUND FREUD introduced the first set of the new ideas with his work "The Interpretation of Dreams". He said that the man psyche is deeply affected by the unconscious; so irrational forces could motivate the man's action. For the Freud's theory in the man there were a SUPER-EGO, that is composed by the education and the moral laws, the IGO, that is the rationality, and the ED, the unconscious that contrasts the Igo. Then the Freudian concept of infantile sexuality focused attention on the importance of early developments and childhood. Freud introduced a new method of investigation of the human mind through the analysis of dreams and the concept of the "free association" influenced the modern writers.
The concept of relativity was introduced by Albert Einstein, whose theory conceived time and space as a subjective dimensions.
Ludwig Wittgenstein shook the old stable foundation of the scientific thought through the Quantum Mechanics and the new theories of language. As a consequence the world view lost his solidity and it was introduced the exploration of memory in literature, the rebellion against perspective in art, or the revolution of tone, rhythm and harmony in music.
The idea of "time" was questioned by William James and Henry Bergson. James, in his Principles of Psychology wrote that our mind records every single experience as a continuous flow of "the already" into "the not yet". Bergon made a distinction between historical time, which is eternal, linear and measured by the clock, and psychological, which is internal, subjective and measured with by the relative emotional intensity of a moment.
In the cultural crisis that affected society, a need for new values emerged in literature, which spoke about the isolation and alienation of the man. In particular Auden spoke about anxiety and the impossibility to master the chaotic universe.

The term "Modernism" refers to a powerful international movement coming from the Western cultures. Modernism dominated the sensibility and aesthetic choices of the great artists of the age. It influenced literature and other arts too and implied a break with traditional values. It rejected the Naturalism and Decadence.
A number of common features can be identified:
The intentional distortion of shape, the breaking down of limitations in space and time, the need to reflect the complexity of modern urban life in artistic form, the intensity of the "isolated" or "image", a reconsideration of the "past" without the continental culture, the importance of unconscious as well as conscious life

The modern novelists reflected the moral and psychological uncertain of the age. Their role consisted in mediating between the solid values of the past and the confused of the present. Their attention shitted from society to man, regarded a limited creature. These novelist didn't built a well structured plot, didn't need to lead a character trough a chronological sequence of events. The passing time isn't necessary to reveal a character, it can be explain in the course of a single day by analysing his consciousness trough the external events. The narrator isn't omniscient and the point of view is inside the character.
New methods were created to portray the individual consciousness such as "epiphany", the stream of consciousness( conscious flow, which told what someone are thinking, sentendo(flashback)), interior monologue. They are suitable for reproducing the uninterrupted flow of troughs, sensations, memories, associations and emotions.
The mean topics of this period are the relationship between love and loneliness, the absence of real communication among human being, since everyone is a prisoner of his own consciousness. The most important novelist of the first decades of the twenties century were: Henry James, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf(explore mind of their characters); George Orwell(dystopia: unpleasant imagine of the world)

DUBLINERS: the collection consists of fifteen short stories about Dubliners. He thought the stories should portray some characteristic situations, which could reveal historical, social and psychological forces that conditioned the life of the Dubliners to lead them so much psychological and moral paralysis. The stories are arranging into four groups, like the aspect of the man's life: childhood, adolescence, maturity and the last story is intituled "The Dead".
NATURALISTIC DESCRIPTION: the description of the setting of he stories are naturalistic: extremely concise but detailed, so they are realistic. Naturalism in connected with symbols which have a further and deeper meaning.
THE USE OF EPIPHANY: his peculiar technique is the "epiphany", which is the sudden spiritual manifestation caused by a external object or a banal situation, which lead the character to sudden self-realisation about himself or about the reality around himself. The function of this technique was to take the reader beyond the usual aspects of life. Thus understanding the epiphany in each story is often the key of the story itself. The episode described is apparently unimportant but essential to the life of the characters.
PARALYSIS: the paralysis of Dubliners is physical, resulting from the external forces, moral, linked to religion, politics and culture. Joyce's Dubliners accept their condition because they are not aware of it. However, the moral centre of the collection isn't the revelation to its victims, but the coming to awareness or self-realisation. The other main theme is the failure to find a way out of "paralysis".
ESCAPE: another theme is escape, which is opposite of paralysis. It is caused by a sense of enclosure of many characters, but nobody is destined to succeed. So the Dubliners live as exiled at home.
CHARACTERS: they are also unable to relate successfully either to each other or with the world.
NARRATIVE TECHNIQUE: the narrator isn't omniscient , so each story is told from the perspective of a character. The monologue, which is a free speech or though, is often used. It consists in the presentation of the protagonist, but the reader should to analyse it to understand the personality.
LANGUAGE: the linguistic register is varied, because the language should suit the age, the social class and the role of the characters.