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Comprehension Questions





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1. What brought the writers featured in the video to Europe?

Between World War I and World War II, the lives of the majority of Americans underwent dramatic transformations. Though America did not officially participate in World War I until 1917, its entrance into the conflict marked a new level of U.S. involvement in European affairs and made a significant impression on those who served in the war, including a large number of writers. To a great extent the world of art and literature reflected the new pace and interests of American life, though many American practitioners of what would be labeled “modern” art lived in Europe, believing that the conventional values of American culture stifled their creativity. T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound led the way for other authors who sought a cultural climate conducive to the production of great literature; from 1920 through 1929, more and more American authors took up residence in the culturally vibrant cities of Europe, especially Paris. Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others formed a coterie in Paris and together strived to create a type of literature appropriate to what they considered a new “modern” world following World War I. Artists and writers alike developed new techniques and addressed new subjects in reaction to a now-outdated traditionalism.

2. What impact did World War I have on the thinking and writing of these authors?

Between World War I and World War II, the lives of the majority of Americans underwent dramatic transformations. Though America did not officially participate in World War I until 1917, its entrance into the conflict marked a new level of U.S. involvement in European affairs and made a significant impression on those who served in the war, including a large number of writers. Following the war, and in part spurred by the increased production of a wartime economy, American consumer capitalism exploded, and the age of advertising and mass consumption reshaped the day-to-day lives of many Americans. Modernism also responded to a prevalent sense of loss and bewilderment prompted by the societal and technological changes of the early twentieth century. Representation of diverse strands of modernism and experiments with prose and poetry in a variety of ways. Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway exemplify some of the ways prose writers tried to “make it new” following World War I: Hemingway’s spare style and efforts to create “one true sentence” may be linked to the streamlining of other areas of American life during this period, while Stein’s prose, which often defies reader comprehension, has ties to the fragmented images visible in Cubist art. F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose prose style breaks conventions less radically than either Stein’s or Hemingway’s,

3. What myths of American manhood did writers such as Hemingway believe in, and what shattered these myths?

It is often difficult to separate the public Hemingway from his art—and his literary achievements have, at times, been overshadowed by his mythic persona. Much of that myth stems from Hemingway's own hand. For example, in a public flap with writer William Faulkner after Faulkner suggested that Hemingway had not been a courageous writer, Hemingway asked Gen. "Buck" Lanham to respond on his behalf. Lanham did so, outlining Hemingway's feats at his side during World War II and concluded that he was "without exception the most courageous man I have ever known, both in war and peace. He has physical courage, and he has that far rarer commodity, moral courage."

Gordimer suggests that in assessing the legacy of Hemingway and his insights on war that we leave such arguments alone. "I'm not concerned with what Ernest Hemingway did or did not do in his own body, his own person, out of his own courage in wars. . . . Let us leave his life alone. It belongs to him as he lived it. Let us read his books. They are his particular illumination of what our existence has been, his gift to us that belongs to us all."

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