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Comprehension Questions





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1. What sources did the poets in this unit draw on for inspiration?

The opening decades of the twentieth century seemed to prove what Henry Adams and other historians had suspected: that technological change and social turmoil were propelling the West into unimaginable new territory, and that established ways of describing the human condition—including literary modes and strategies—were no longer appropriate. In 1903, modern aviation was little more than slapstick experiments with powered gliders on an empty beach; a dozen years later, in the middle of World War I, there were fleets of long range lethal fighters in the air over battlefields where more soldiers would die than in any conflict in human history. Immediately after the armistice a pandemic of influenza killed millions more in their hometowns, and major American cities ran out of coffins.

2. What kinds of historical and social events influenced art between the world wars? How did these forces shape poetry?

In the United States, which had been spared the immense devastation inflicted in the European theaters of war, an economic boom brought heady hopes. Energized by new war-related technology, a pent-up demand for consumer goods, and an imperative to rebuild devastated landscapes in Belgium, France, and Italy, American heavy industry went to full throttle, offering high-paying jobs and setting off a migration of adventurous Americans, white and black, from small towns in the South to big cities in the East and Midwest. At the same time, disappointment, competition for work and for living space, and cross-cultural encounters brought new turmoil and violence.

In the summer of 1919, dubbed the Red Summer, race riots and lynchings erupted in many cities across America. Despite the optimism so evident in the music, fashion, and popular culture of the 1920s, racial tensions continued to fester, and starry-eyed investing and spending created an economic bubble, which burst in 1929. In that year, a series of bank failures overseas and a crash of stock markets all over the world brought on the Great Depression, which lasted nearly a decade and affected every industrialized country in the world. The bleak economic times brought about a renewed political and social awareness, as writers like Carl Sandburg, William Inge, John Steinbeck, and Genevieve Taggard brought special attention to the plight of millions. By the end of the 1930s, the threat of a new war loomed, and the vibrant 1920s seemed a distant memory.

3. What is imagism? What are the features of this movement? How did it influence other poets besides Pound and Eliot?

Imagism was a movement in early 20th-century Anglo-American poetry that favored precision of imagery and clear, sharp language; it was described as the most influential movement in English poetry since the activity of the Pre-Raphaelites.[1].As a poetic style it gave Modernism its early start in the 20th century.[2] and yet as Rene Taupin remarked 'It is more accurate to consider Imagism not as a doctrine, nor even as a poetic school, but as the association of a few poets who were for a certain time in agreement on a small number of important principle'.[3] or as has so aptly said of it 'a succession of creative moments' rather than any continuous or sustained period of development.[4]. The Imagists rejected the sentiment and discursiveness typical of much Romantic and Victorian poetry. This was in contrast to their contemporaries, the Georgian poets, who were by and large content to work within that tradition. Group publication of work under the Imagist name appearing between 1914 and 1917 featured writing by many of the most significant figures in modernist poetry in English, as well as a number of other modernist figures prominent in fields other than poetry. Based in London, the Imagists were drawn from Great Britain, Ireland and the United States. Somewhat unusually for the time, the Imagists featured a number of women writers among their major figures. Imagism is also significant historically as the first organised Modernist English language literary movement or group. In the words of T. S. Eliot: "The point de repère usually and conveniently taken as the starting-point of modern poetry is the group denominated 'imagists' in London about 1910.

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