How to Analyze Modern Literature in its Historical ContextApril 01, 2019

If you want to learn the variety of critical concepts and approaches, then you must be able to analyze literature in its historical context. It's a very challenging task, but you will gain confidence as you go along the way. And Modern Literature will test your abilities.

Modern Literature had two schools of thoughts, namely authors who wanted to embrace the new methods in expressing (new) ideas and the rest who opted to follow traditional devices while embarking on new preoccupations. Historical events would influence this outcome, which may confuse you at first. You must be able to look at it differently, as Modern Literature covered the closing of the 19th century and the turn of the 20th century. It should remind you of the opening line of "A Tale of Two Cities", which you should read (and study) when you enroll in this module. It should mean additional reading, which you may whine when you realise that the other modules also demand your time (or what little would be left of it) and attention. (You have a short-span attention.) You wouldn't discover your (hidden) abilities and learn new skills if you don't look forward to it.

This article would list down a number of historical events, and how it influenced in shaping Modern Literature as students and scholars would know. It should give you an idea on how to analyze the other events, no less important than the ones you're about to read next. Pay attention to the next section.

The Best and Worst Times: How These Events Define Modern Literature

Sinking of SS Titanic. You need to see the different films depicting the sinking of the SS Titanic including James Cameron's Oscar-winning disaster epic. If you don't have the time, then you might want to check out the clips that would be available in the Internet. There's no doubt that the tragedy marked the end of the Old World, but "A Night to Remember" (1958) would remind everyone of ordinary, if not unsuspecting, passengers who became heroes when circumstances forced them to be. On the other hand, UFA's production would hint at the wide gap between the rich and poor. It was a thin-veiled indictment of the British class system, which could be seen in other parts of the Western world as well. You could compare this catastrophe to one of D.H. Lawrence's novels, but there would be other ways.

Lawrence's campaign in Arabia. David Lean's biography attempted to understand the mysterious British lieutenant T.E. Lawrence, but the Arabian desert won't say a word. It would be up to the viewers to make up their own mind. He would be in the mold of Lord Jim, which Joseph Conrad may disagree at.

The release of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". The German Expressionism influenced generations of artists, and this unsettling silent film could allude to the jingoistic attitude of the people in the continent (that led to the Great War). It may be a cultural impact at first sight, but the different twists should dispel any doubts that there would be historical allusions as well. Think.

British women got the vote. It should remind you of Jane Austen's heroines, also the female tennis players who fought for equal prize money in Grand Slam events. And the British women would be lucky compared to the women in developing countries. Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen should come to mind here.

Death of George V, and the ascension of Edward VIII. If the Victorian era was notable for order, then the reign of George V saw the rise of socialism, Irish republicanism, and Indian independence movements. Jules Verne's works would attest to it, but you must not forget what followed afterward. Did Edward VIII made the situation a bit better? Keep in mind that his reign was a short one, and you may need to look for a text that would answer the question. And it might not be part of the reading list.

Civil war broke out in Spain. It should remind you of Ernest Hemingway, but you wonder how you could link it to the works of W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood. You don't have to do it, as it's not about comparison. You rather look at the other events that coincided with the civil war, and how it impacted the authors during that time.

Citizen Kane. Your coursemates, who would study Cinema, argue that Orson Welles’s groundbreaking movie should have won the lion’s share of the Oscars. It had nothing to do with the subject matter at all. If you guessed that it would be about the follies of looking back (with regret), then you had paid attention.

At the End of This Task

You must have a wide knowledge of this historical and artistic development of the literature of this period, which should develop your logical thinking while writing your other essay on other literary works from this period. It must make you discerning in selecting other materials, which are relevant (to the topic). And you must be able to express in good English prose. It might overwhelm you at the very start, but practice should dispel those doubts. How about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?

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