X. English Literature of the 20’s—30’s of the XX century

The First World War brought much suffering to people. The destruction had been terrible; there was a great sorrow for the dead.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

(“For the Fallen”, Robert Laurence Binyon)

Never again” was the feeling of the nation when it was all over. As soon as the war had ended, the English government started to build new houses and improve social conditions and education.

By the 1930’s the British economy had been recovered, especially in the South and in the Midlands. A great number of small houses had been built along main roads.

The War influenced the cultural development of the country. In the work of many 20th century English writers it is possible to see not only the products of the individual experience, but also several general tendencies. The writers had much in common.

In the 20’s a sharp division of literary tendencies was noticeable. Many writers realized the failure of the bourgeois values, but did not know the way out. Others clearly understood the revolutionary changes taking place in the world.

At the beginning of the 20th century Decadence acquired the new name of Modernism, characterized by the absolute disregard of social problems, a strong accents on the hero’s private world, his feelings, reactions, subconsciousness. Modernism became the leading trend of English literature of postwar period, as a result of the crisis of bourgeois culture caused by the War.

At that time the works of Freud (1856-1930), an Austrian psychoanalyst, professor of neurology, became very popular in England, and had a great influence on the development of Modernism. Among Freud’s followers was a group of English intellectuals, which became widely known as the “Bloomsbury Group” headed by Virginia Woolf, Bloomsbury was the name of a suburb of London where the group met and discussed their theories. The name of David Herbert Lawrence is worthy of attention. He was an admirer of Freud too. At the same time, however, he stood very near to the realistic principles of Art, he brought to the novel a fresh strain of vitality.

A complicated political situation in Europe at that period could not but affect England both in politics and economy.

In 1933 Hitler came to power in Germany. In 1932 “The British Fascist’s Union” had been organized and financed by English industrialists. This caused great disturbances of the wide popular masses of England. The Civil War in Spain brought about the protests of the English common people. The English workers showed their solidarity with the Spanish republicans. The dockers refused to load arms for the fascists; they organized meetings of protest calling to resistance against fascism. At the end of 1929 a general economic crisis seized all the world continuing up to 1934. All the hardships lay on the shoulders of the people; it brought to them unemployment, hunger and misery. Class contradictions became especially sharp and distinct. The 30’s were the years in which the English writers also had to make their choice. The realistic trends in English Literature acquired ever greater importance. The progressive literary minds were fighting against Modernism and its theories, defending the basic grounds of realism. Richard Aldington, John Boynton Priestley, Archibald Cronin were the writers who together maintained the realistic principles in Art in the 30’s. For the first time in England there appeared a great group of writers whose work was carried on under the influence of Marxism. The best representative and the ideological leader of the group was a communist whose name was Ralph Fox. He was a publicist, a historian and a literary critic; his great achievement is in the defence of the principles of social realism.

James Joyce and Virginia Woolf altered novelistic technique through the development of the stream of consciousness style of writing.

James Joyce (1882-1941)

James Joyce was born on 2 February, 1882 in a well-to-do family in a small town not far from Dublin....

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Virginia Woolf also attempted to explore the consciousness of her characters. Like James Joyce, she was an aesthetic. She shows...

Richard Aldington (1892-1962)

Richard Aldington was born in 1892 in Hampshire. He was educated at Dover College and the University of London. In...

Archibald Cronin (1896-1981)

Archibald Cronin was born at Cardross, Dumbartonshire. He was educated at Dumbarton Academy and in 1914 began to study medicine...

John Boynton Priestley (1894-1984)

John Boynton Priestley was born in 1894 in Bradford. He started writing in 1919. Now he is known all over...

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

Arthur Conan Doyle was born in 1859 in Edinburgh in a family of a clerk. Arthur was well-educated, he became...

Agatha Christie (1890-1976)

Agatha Christie’s long line of books started with “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” was written in 1915 and published in...

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