Diego Corral Organization: Class will open with a brief lecture about the Lost Generation (approximately 20 min.), who they are? Why are they called the Lost Generation? Ideas and movements that sprung from these writers and so on. Afterwards the class will be divided into groups of two or three who will read the biographies and answer the questions. The work will remain in class and will be handed in at the end of the next class. Character Corner – The Lost Generation The Lost Generation was considered to be a generation of American’s born in the 1890’s, who came of age during World War I (WWI). They were disillusioned with WWI, and were very critical of the American arts. They considered that it lacked the breadth of European work, leading many to a self-imposed exile in Europe. T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) A poet, dramatist, and literary critic, Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in the U.S. in 1888. He attended Harvard, and in 1910 spent a year in Paris studying at the Sorbonne. Eliot visited Germany in 1914 and left for the United Kingdom after war broke out. A year later he married Vivien Haigh-Wood. In 1927 Eliot converted to Anglicanism and also dropped his American citizenship and became a British citizen. His marriage to Vivien eventually disintegrated, and she died in 1947 in a mental institution. Eliot, who was still married to Vivien, never visited her. Eliot remarried in 1957 to Esmé Valerie Fletcher. In 1965 he died of emphysema. His poetry was criticized often for not being poetry at all. He was also criticized for interweaving quotes from other authors in his work. Some called this plagiarism while others considered him to “salvage tradition in an era of fragmentation.” Never a prolific writer he considered that his reputation had been built solely on his early work. “My reputation in London is built upon one small volume of verse, and is kept up by printing two or three more poems a year. The only thing that matters is that these should be perfect in their kind, so that each should be an event.” For his work he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Major Poems: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “The Waste Land” “The Hollow Men” F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) Often regarded as one of the greatest authors of the XXth c., Fitzgerald was born to an upper lass Irish-Catholic family in Minnesota. He attended Princeton University, but being a mediocre student he dropped out to enlist in the Army for WWI. While training for war Fitzgerald met Zelda Sayre in Alabama, who he promptly engaged. After his stint in the Army they set out for New York City but Fitzgerald failed to prove he could provide for Zelda, and she called off the engagement. He then wrote This Side of Paradise, which became an instant hit, after which him and Zelda were married. Afterwards he wrote The Beautiful and the Dammed, and The Great Gatsby.
After writing his major novels, he made several trips to Europe where he befriended many of the Lost Generation, especially Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway, who admired him as an experienced professional writer, eventually became disappointed with Fitzgerald because of his dependence on Zelda. This proved to be his undoing. The opulent lifestyle which they led and Zelda’s mounting medical bills (she ended up suffering from schizophrenia), caused financial troubles that soured many of his old friendships. Finally, even though he found movie work degrading, Fitzgerald had to pursue this line of work to make ends meet. An alcoholic since college, he suffered from tuberculosis which was aggravated by his chronic smoking. In 1940 he suffered two heart attacks, succumbing to the second one. Fitzgerald’s work was centered on the interplay between social classes in the U.S. Most of his books pursue the idea of love being warped by greed and status seeking. The Great Gatsby, widely considered his best work, presents the idea that the American Dream is dead. Gatsby, a self-made man, tries to become part of the upper crust of New York society who rejects him as nouveau riche, ultimately leading to conflict and his untimely demise. While lending glamour to the opulent lifestyles of the upper class in the era, Fitzgerald attributes to them a materialism and lack of morality that makes the reader think twice about becoming one of them. John Dos Passos (1896-1970) Dos Passos was born into a wealthy family in Chicago. As a boy he toured Europe and the Middle East with his tutor. He attended Harvard and once he graduated he moved to Spain to study architecture. However, once WWI began he volunteered as an ambulance driver and worked in the areas around Paris and Northern Italy. When the U.S. entered the war, Dos Passos joins the U.S. Medical Corps, and is allowed to stay in Paris after the war to study anthropology at the Sorbonne. Dos Passos was a social revolutionary, he saw the U.S. as two countries: one rich, and the other poor. He admired the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World), and wrote against the convictions of Sacco and Vanzetti. In 1928 he traveled to the U.S.S.R. to study the socialist system. However, by the time the Spanish Civil War broke out he became disillusioned with socialism. He still traveled to Spain with Ernest Hemingway to cover the war, but he eventually broke with him because of his cavalier attitude towards war and the fact that Hemingway lent himself to Stalinist propaganda. Dos Passos was also warned a number of times for reporting atrocities from the Republican army and Franco’s army. His most recognized work is the U.S.A. trilogy, The 42nd Parallel, Nineteen Nineteen, and The Big Money. These books showed his political and social reflection on the U.S., which were deeply pessimistic about the political and economic path of the country. Towards the end of his years, Dos Passos’ disillusionment with socialism kept increasing and his political convictions kept shifting towards the right earning him much criticism from previous supporters. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) Hemingway was born in Illinois to a neurotic, domineering, and narrowly religious mother (a fact that would greatly influence his life and writing). After graduating from high school, he became a reporter but only lasted a few months as he decided to enlist in the Army for WWI. However, he failed the medical test and instead joined the Red
Cross Ambulance Corps. On his first day in Italy an ammunitions factory near Milan exploded, he was sent to pick up the remains of workers (mostly women and children) an experience which shook him. In 1918 Hemminqway was wounded by an Austrian mortar shell and a machine gun burst, yet he still dragged an Italian soldier to safety and was awarded a medal for his actions. While recovering in the hospital he fell in love with a nurse, but when he left for the U.S. she became involved with an Italian officer. This experienced inspired A Farewell to Arms. Once back in the U.S. Hemingway went to Chicago to work as a reporter, and married Hadley Richardson. In 1921 he left for Paris where he was introduced to Gertrude Stein, his mentor, and Ezra Pound. During this period he became friends with F. Scot Fitzgerald, but his wife Zelda never warmed to him accusing him of being a homosexual and having an affair with her husband. Hemingway’s homophobia, and virulent attacks of homosexuals suggest that he might have been homosexual. In 1926 The Sun Also Rises is published, receiving critical acclaim and selling very well. A year later, though, he divorces his first wife and marries Pauline Pfeiffer. 1928 was a year full of tragedy for Hemingway. His father, plagued by diabetes and financial troubles, committed suicide. A little while later, Harry Crosby, a close friend, also committed suicide. In 1929 he publishes A Farewell to Arms which is also a successful book. Because of the success and critical acclaim of his early works, Hemingway’s ego became inflated. He began to tell Fitzgerald how to write, and in general garnered a lot of criticism from those that used to be his friends. He moved to Key West, Fla. but would regularly go back to Spain. In 1937 he went back with John Dos Passos to cover the Civil War, but their relationship soured as well. During World War II (WWII) he hunted subs in the Caribbean of the coast of Cuba. He also traveled to Normandy as a war correspondent but he was not allowed to participate in the landing on D-Day. He claimed to have participated in the liberation of Paris, although historians generally agree that he only liberated the Ritz Hotel Bar. After the war he continued to pursue his passions, which led to him being critically injured in a number of accidents while on safari. One of these injuries prevented him from receiving the Nobel Prize. A heavy drinker throughout his life, he continued to do so in his later years. After a number of years in Cuba, Hemingway leaves the island in 1960 to receive treatment for depression. He committed suicide in 1961. Hemingway’s writing style was deeply influenced by his journalistic experience. His character was distinguished by its understatement and economy. He is credited with being one of the greatest influences in XXth c. literature. Some of the central themes of his novels are the relationships between men and women, women often being portrayed as domineering and emasculating entities; whereas men became stoic heroes in his novels. Hemingway seems more preoccupied with depicting the model man than, like most authors of the Lost Generation, the social problems of his time. Questions Instructions: In groups of two or three, answer each question in a paragraph of at least five sentences.
1.) Why do you think the Lost Generation became disillusioned with WWI? Remember to consider the experiences of the characters, and the popular sentiments leading up to the war. 2.) Why do you think that both T.S. Eliot and F. Scott Fitzgerald can be considered part of the Lost Generation, yet at the same time apart from this group? Carefully consider their life experiences. 3.) What common themes can you find in the works of some of these authors? Why do you think they pursued these topics? Consider the issues present in the U.S. and new political movements in the world at the time. 4.) Why do you think some of these authors tended to gravitate towards the ideals of socialism?