Chapter 34 Supplement
- Responses to War in Literature
- W. B. Yeats
- First Link -- W. B. Yeats
- Second Link" -- Second Coming"
- Second Coming
- (written 1919, published 1920)
- Yeats moved from writing about a specific event to generalized notion of time in "Second Coming"
- From drafts (that his wife pulled out of the trash), we know that earlier versions "alluded to the overthrow
of the Russian czar in 1917, to Russia having surrendered a large portion of Eastern Europe to Germany in
1918, and to the disintegration of the rule of law in Ireland during 1918 and 1919" (O'Donnell 83).
- He removed details and replaced with generalized description of his theory of 2000-yr cycles of history: "In
those cycles, each successive civilization has values that are diametrically opposed to those of the preceding
civilization, and the onset of each new civilization is announced by the sudden manifestation of an event,
such as Helen of Troy or Christ" (O'Donnell 83). Yeats thought that after 20 centuries of Christianity, the
world could expect a return to paganism, which would be "utterly alien and therefore shocking" (83).
- The cycles suggested by the gyre (spiral) of the falcon which is too far away from its handler to hear the
commands, and is therefore out of control.
- Erich Maria Remarque
- Biographical background
- Before he began supporting himself as an author) included positions in advertising in Hannover and an
editorship for a sports mag in Berlin.
- First published Im Westen nichts Neues (Nothing New in the West [to Report]) in 1928 (serialized, as book in 1929). He left Germany to live in Switzerland in 1933 (avoiding aligning with the Nazis), and lost his German citizenship 5 years later. He moved to NYC and acquired U.S. citizenship in 1947.
- Breaking with tradition
- "Classical" novels are tightly structured with beginning, middle, and end. They move linearly and focus on a larger-than-life hero.
- Remarque broke with tradition as his novels were episodic (made for good movies) and the main character was not the typecast hero. He also achieved a "realistic style of expression brief and direct language that makes the novel aesthetically accessible to everyone" (Firda 23).
- His professions contributed to a writing style that was unaffected, as literary standards had required
- All Quiet is "an enormously popular novel about WWI that was translated into many languages and gave to millions of people the perspective of the common soldier in the trenches" (Wagener 1). It sold over 3 millions copies (Firda, 9).
- German response: It was interpreted by Germany as "a manifesto for pacifism and antimilitarism" via the publication of the book and screening of films (Wagener 1). Remarque became the focus of a heated
political debate when Naziism was on the rise. The German government tried to smear him by "claiming that
he was a French Jew, and withdrew his citizenship in 1938. His financial success with the cinematic release
of AQWF was also marred by the German government murdering his sister. She was accused of defeatist remarks and beheaded in 1943.
- About the work
- The novel was a therapy for the post-war trauma symptoms (depression) from which Remarque suffered. He finished the book in 6 weeks (Wagener 9).
- Not a linear novel, but an attempt to characterize the condition of war (Wagener 9).
- Addresses the themes of mechanization in war as one of the incidents involves the delivery of gas via bombs.
- It also illustrates how traumatic situations like war tend to turn mores and values upside down as the main character crawls into a coffin to seek shelter from the bombs.
- Randall Jarrell
- Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) had been active as a novelist and literary critic before turning to poetry.
- His war poems (Little Friend, Little Friend) ('45) and Losses('48), show how he "was often able, because of their concreteness and directness, to objectify the motifs that had knotted up so much of his previous work. Also, he learned a good deal about immediacy from such poets of World War I as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen" (Rosenthal 5).
- Army career. He enlisted in the Army as pilot-trainee (1942), but after "washing out" he became an aviator instructor near Tucson around 1946, the period of Little Friend, Little Friend.
- "Death of the Ball Turrett Gunner" is the last of the poems published in Little Friend, Little Friend.
- Despite its brevity (5 lines), it is considered as the most famous of all WW2 poems (Quinn 51).
- The idea for the poem occurred to him while washing out garbage cans with a hose during KP duty in
Arizona (Quinn 51).
- Style: Pattern of movement and presentation of ideas is typically Jarrellian: "The pattern of movement is
characteristic of Jarrell: a static initial state of sadness; a phase of confusion that lets deeper depression flood
into the poem; and then a final bitter thrust" (Rosenthal 10).
- The speaker is a dramatic character, the dead fighter speaking after his death (Rosenthal 10), epitomizing his "vision of the soldier as a betrayed child" (14).
- Images: Mother's belly as womb and plane belly as airman's new, cold, metallic womb. Recalls Jarrell's
description of the gunner as being "hunched upside-down in his little sphere" where he "looked like the
foetus in the womb" (qted in Rosenthal 10).
- Birth-death motif; life as dream, death as reality. With the repetition of images of pre-life, life as we know is transformed into a dream to which death is the final reality. The reversal symbolizes the obscenity of war
and its total subversion of human values (Rosenthal 5).
- Elie Wiesel
- While other works were written from the perspective of participants/soldiers in the war, Wiesel provides a
victim of the holocaust's perspective.
- Wiesel survived Buchenwald. He didn't share any of it for 10 years, a period that he determined he'd stay
silent (Brown 14). He later wrote 800 pages (in Yiddish) about the camps (And the World Has Remained
Silent). It was later condensed and appeared under the title La Nuit (Night).
- Wiesel current serves as a professor at Boston University (Andrew Mello Professor in the Humanities),
where he is active as an author, teacher, witness, and human rights activist. He received the 1986 Nobel
Peace Prize in 1986. He has authored more than 30 books and hundreds of essays.
- About Night
- Wiesel communicates more often with understatement than overstatement. Critics have commented that the
silence between words is as meaningful as the words themselves (Brown 32).
- Purpose. To describe of the monstrous moral evil of the Holocaust (Brown 53).
- Wiesel wrestles with two irreconcilable realities: reality of God and the reality of Auschwitz (Brown
- To "bring word of the death camps back to humanity in such a form that his message...will not be
rejected (Rittner, Hamaoui 121).
- Maz Ernst (1891-1976)
- Ernst's artistic style. Ernst "substituted complex technical operations for the painter's creative process," substituting combination for inspiration, and expanding the definition of the what should be depicted in art by including objects from everyday life, considered trivial by the traditional pretensions about what should art be about (Schneede 1).
Ernst served in the artillery during WW1.
- Surrealism: The surrealist manifesto addressed the overemphasis of society on conscious life, and strove add the world of the unconscious to the conscious to achieve a reality "above" objective reality. Characteristics typical of surrealism are fantasy-like images (often taken from dreams), unexpected images, severe juxtapositions, and incorporation of collage.
- Ernst and the movements. An exhibition of Dadaist works in 1919 in Cologne resulted in the public
destroying works on the wall (their destruction was encouraged by the artists, replaced the destroyed
works) in fits of rage (Schneede 25). The police, who ultimately closed the exhibit, had considered pressing
charges of fraud, obscenity, and creating a public scandal (Schneede 25). Ernst's father--who never wanted
him to paint, much less paint the way he wanted--wrote: "My curse upon you. You have dishonored our
name" (Schneede 25). Ernst accomplished his goal: not to "aim to please but to raise a scream" (25). This
was after a period in which his father brimmed with pride over his son's military service (Legge 5).
- Two Ambiguous Figures (1 copper plate, 1 zinc plate, 1 rubber cloth, 2 calipers, 1 drainpipetelescope, 1 piping man), 1919-20
- Collage: Ernst's definition of collage is not unlike our discussion of poetry: "Collage technique is the
systematic exploitation of the fortuitous or engineered encounter of two or more intrinsically incompatible
realities on a surface which is manifestly inappropriate for the purpose -- and the spark of poetry which leaps
across the gap as these two realities are brought together" (Schneede 29).
- Ernst on Two Ambiguous Figures: "I see advertisements of all kinds of models, mathematical, geometrical, anthropological, zoological, botanical, anatomical, mineralogical, palaeontological and so forth, elements so diverse in nature that the absurdity of brining them together has a disorientating effect on the eye and the mind and generates hallucinations which give new and rapidly changing meanings to the objects represented. I felt my 'sense of sight' suddenly so intensified that I saw the newly emerged objects appearing against a changed background. In order to hold them fast, all that was needed was a little colour or a few lines, a horizon, a desert, a sky, wooden floorboards, and suchlike. And so my hallucination had been fixed" (qted. Schneede 30).
- Geroge Grosz
- Link -- Georg Grosz, Fit for Active Service
- Biographical background on Grosz. In 1914, he enlisted and served from January-May '15. He was released on medical grounds: a sinus infection, but his permanent release stated that he was mentally unfit (Flavell 25). Like many other artists of his day, Grosz came to the edge of sanity in his wartime experience. Like other artists, art provides a therapy for the trauma he suffered.
- Dada: A step beyond surrealism is that of dadaism. Artists, writers, and musicians gathered at the Café Voltaire founded a movement in 1915 to protest what they considered the madness of the ware and its senseless slaughter. They decided to fight the "scientific" and "rational" warmongers and politicians with nonsense language, ugly dissonant music, and a totally irreverent and iconoclastic attitude toward great masterpieces. The name was a nonsense word that everyone disputes the origin...some say it is a diminutive of "father" or "yes" or a slang word for a hobby horse (Cunningham, alt. ed., 467).
- Purpose of his art. Grosz saw himself as Germany's "moral painter who could shock his audience into an awareness of the rotten state of society" (Flavell 38). Among artists of his era, "he became the most savage critic of the bourgeois-dominated, demoralized Germany of 1919. His raw, coldly analytic, semi-Cubist pictures of streets filled with wounded veterans, beggars, prostitutes, degenerates, and wealthy capitalists carry all the shock value and emotional intensity..." (Hunter 127).
- His artistic style. He rejected abstract art as he felt artists had to use the simplest and most startling pictorial language possible (Flavell 38). He also rejected traditional reception of art: "the middle-class tendency to regard the art of the past as a repository of sacred, timeless values" (Flavell 40).
- He became fully involved with illustrating (caricatures) and helping produce satirical papers. The police tried to suppress Grosz and others involved in the movement by arresting them for expressing communist
sympathies (Flavell 39). Grosz was arrested and tried three times between 1920-1933 for insulting the German army, obscenity, and blasphemy.
- The work. German original for title: "Kriegsverwendungsfähig" (Ready for War)
- It was spawned from his memory of the disabled during his service.
- Became one of his most famous drawings.
- Addresses the lack of concern that the examining board has for the sufferings of soldiers who are considered fit for duty.
- Another Work: Perfect People
- Thomas Hart Benton
- Link -- Thomas Hart Benton, City Activities: The Dance Hall
- On art and society. Providing visions of reform to counter the Depression, Benton turned to the Renaissance practice of murals to provide hope for the populace by synthesizing the potential progress available through mechanization tempered by the American democratic tradition (Doss 67). He had previously attacked the dehumanization of American life through corporate "corrupting self-interest" (67).
- He combined Renaissance mural tradition, avant-garde art, and popular culture (Doss 68) with a call for "a worker-determined economy" (Doss 67).
- City Activities
- Benton's vision included "the restoration of republicanism in an idealized worker environment where all sorts of men, of all races, energetically labored together with the tools of their trades"... to achieve "the
merger of producerism and industrialism in twentieth-century America" (Doss 70-71).
- Background. Two of a series of ten murals in a collection called America Today commissioned for the New School of Social Research (NYC).
- Themes of Work. The series includes other panels illustrating themes of work (e.g., Instruments of Power to signify the new sources of powerful machinery available to improve life: dynamo, electric generator, water-powered dam, turbine, piston, train, airplane, and blimp (Doss 69).
- City Building includes regional themes (e.g., Deep South, and Changing West)
- City Activities contains two panels devoted to theme of play.
- Questioning the appropriate topic and audience for art, the popular culture in his works parallels his
"shift form an elite art to public murals" (Doss 73).
- American fusion: "He wanted to show the abundance of energy and the variety and confusion of
everyday existence by presenting the uniquely American fusion of a rural and frontier psychology and
an advanced technological system" (Baigell 112).
- The topic: the common person as heroic. While the works contain recognizable intellectual or artistic
personalities from his time (but not business or government leaders), the works glorify the common person with inclusion of fine detail, musculature, and larger-than-life proportions (Baigell 113).
- The format of painting is combination of Renaissance classicism as gold framework threads it way
throughout work, and tabloid mentality as the framework also breaks "up the panels with straight and
curved simulated architectural moldings. In addition to emphasizing spatial dislocations, these must
have suggested to the contemporary viewer the illustrated pages in magazines and the rotogravure
sections" in the Sunday paper (Baigell 114).
- City Activities contains two panels: Dance Hall and Subway Car
- The Dance Hall includes (reading from right to left)
- vignette of Benton and New School director Johnson sharing a drink, sign between
them reads "S. S. vanD ... Myste," referring to a former art critic turned mystery writer (Willard Huntington Wright, or S. S. Van Dine.
- a film that could be a scene from Wright's The Caanary Murder Case (1929, Paramount).
- an important message to the general public with the "vote"sign included
- Subway includes
- Peggy Reynolds (burlesque queen) grabbing a subway strap-handle over Max Eatman (radical intellectual and former editor of the Masses)
- other works
- Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother
- Biographical background. Born of German immigrants, Lange's (Lange was her mother's name) father left, leaving
her mother to raise the children. A bout with polio as a child left her with a crippled right leg. Her humiliation was
compounded by her mother's instruction for her to hide her limp (Ohrn 2). Later, she said: "I think it perhaps was
the most important thing that happened to me and formed me, guided, me instructed me, helped me, and humiliated
me. All those things at once" (Ohrn 2).
- Between her race and disability (and surviving on NYC streets), Lange "learned to adopt an expression that
would draw no attention to herself, that would make her invisible to the people around her and enable her to
walk through the worst parts of the city without fear" (Ohrn 2-3). This ability, a coping mechanism for a
difficult youth, became an asset as she moved among her photographic subjects.
- She worked for the Farm Security Administration historical section as a photographer-investigator. As such,
she explained to her subjects that she took pictures because the "people back in Washington wanted to
know what their problems were so that steps could be taken toward solving them" (Ohrn 69). Her husband,
Taylor, was an investigator of farm labor conditions for the Social Security Board. She took advantage of
his expertise in rural sociology and economics in her pictorial assignments (Ohrn 53). As she was an
investigator, she was given assignments with specific instructions to the point of being "shooting scripts"
- She took her assignments quite seriously, saying "My work on migratory labor has taught me the
importance of adequate background when working on a large theme. It is not enough to photograph the
obviously picturesque" (Ohrn 55).
- Migrant Mother
- Lange was on assignment to document the lives of those who had been blown off of their mid-Western
farms. Reading handbills that California offered "fertile land, green valleys, and plenty of jobs" (Ohrn 79),
workers were greeted with few, low-paying jobs and hunger.
- What is today the most famous photograph taken in the Farm Security Administration program and what
has become the symbol of migrant workers was almost not taken. Lange had already shot a month's worth
of pictures when she passed a crude sign reading "pea pickers camp." She passed it at first, but only got 20
miles until her gut told her to turn back. She drove into the settlement and took five pictures in 10 minutes
- The subjects. The woman is 32. She and her children had been living on the peas that had frozen in the field
and wild birds the children caught. Since the crop had frozen, there was no work. But they couldn't move
onto the next field because she had just sold her car tires to buy food (Ohrn 79).
- The picture's effect. As soon as the pictures were developed, she took them to the San Francisco News with
the story of the starving pea pickers. The editor notified the United Press, and the paper soon ran a report
that the government was rushing 20K pounds of food for the migrant workers. Two of the Migrant Mother
pictures accompanied the headline (Meltzer 133).
- other works