ГлавнаяРегистрацияВход www.багумян.рф Понедельник, 15.07.2024, 08:17
  American Literature: The Second Half of the XXth Century Приветствую Вас Гость | RSS


American Literature: the Second Half of the XXth Century

 from "Fields of Vision" by D.Delaney

North  American History: 1950-2000

 A New Beginning. As it left the Second World War behind, the United States set its sights on forgetting the misery and depression that had taken root for over a decade following the economic collapse of 1929. While Europe was slowly reconstructed in the late 1940s and 50s with the help of American investment, the United States began to take on its role as leader of the Western world. In foreign affairs it emerged as the main opponent of Soviet and Chinese-inspired communism and at home it became a laboratory for new social and lifestyle trends that would be copied all over the Western world and beyond.

Society. In the 1950s the United States saw a marked increase in the birth rate and the children born during this baby boom grew into a generation that profoundly changed the nature of American society.

The first winds of change were felt during the 1960s as young people started to rebel against the values and traditions of previous generations. Both the term ‘teenager’ and ‘generation gap’ were coined in these years to describe the rebellion of youth which made its voice heard in many fields. Young voices were raised in protest against the Vietnam war and the excessive materialism and consumerism of American society. The slogan ‘Make love, not war’ encapsulated the ideas of a generation that yearned for a world where peace, solidarity and individual freedom reigned supreme. Freedom meant the right to do as you pleased with your mind and body even if this meant using hallucinogenic drugs. Freedom meant dressing as you pleased, living as you pleased and loving as you pleased.

One area which was greatly affected by the rebellion of young America was that of private morality, and in particular, those issues which directly affected women came under severe scrutiny. As part of the rejection of what were seen as outmoded and restrictive sexual norms, women won the right to control birth through the use of artificial contraception and in 1973 abortion was legalized for the first time. The feminist movement continued to promote women’s welfare and made great strides in obtaining equal opportunities for women in all walks of life.

Of similar if not even greater impact on American life was the Civil Rights Movement which demanded equal rights for black Americans and subsequently all non-whites. The movement started in the southern states in the mid-1950s to defend the right of black children to travel to school on the same busses as their white counterparts. From these small beginnings a massive nationwide protest movement grew under the charismatic leadership of Martin Luther Kin. The passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 lifted all petty restrictions that had previously denied the vote to millions of blacks, and was a giant step towards full equality. Although violent ethnic confrontation spread to some major cities and despite the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, in the last thirty years of the twentieth century America continued to break down the racial barriers that had poisoned American society since the inception of the state.

Politics and Economics. The two major political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, regularly alternated periods in power without greatly upsetting or changing general social and economic trends. Meanwhile, the United States consolidated its positions as the most powerful economy in the world and continues to dominate world trade.

One of America’s major strengths is its status as the leading provider and developer of information technology. The swift flow of information around the world has revolutionized everyday life and business life and it is the United States that has, since the 1980s, been at the forefront in researching and promoting new technologies.        

The setting up of huge multinational companies, whose turnovers are sometimes bigger than those of smaller countries, has led to the globalization of the world economy. Many of the biggest multinationals are American and they exert an enormous influence on the countries in which they operate.

Of the presidents who have overseen the inexorable rise of American economic and political power, two, one a Democrat and the other a Republican have had a lasting impact on the public imagination. Although John F. Kennedy was only president for a very short time (1961-1963), his youthful liberalism and inspiring rhetoric carved out for him a unique position in the hearts of his fellow-countrymen, while the patriotic conservative nationalism of Ronald Reagan won him many ardent admirers as well as trenchant detractors during his eight years in office (1981-1989).

Foreign Policy. Ronald Reagan will probably be best remembered for his role in bringing an end to the Cold War between East and West.

The years between the end of the Second World War and 1990 were dominated by the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. The ideological battle between capitalism and communism, which was known as the Cold War, sometimes erupted into real warfare. In 1950 America sided with South Korean forces to block the threat of a communist takeover of the country. Korea was then partitioned, but a similar attempt by American forces to stop communism in Vietnam met with less success. From the early 1960s onwards American forces were sent to South Vietnam to help the government in Saigon contain the threat from the communist Vietcong in the North. More and more troops were sent as the situation deteriorated and the shocking television pictures of an increasingly brutal and bloody conflict had a profound effect on public opinion. Faced with the inevitable reality that the war could not be won, and having to cope with increasing opposition from a vociferous peace movement, the USA withdrew its forces from Vietnam in 1973.

An interesting sideline to the Cold War was the race to conquer space. Although the Russians were first to send a manned spacecraft outside the earth’s atmosphere, the USA landed the first man on the moon in 1969.

The 1980s brought about a rapprochement between the two great superpowers and thanks mainly to the efforts of Ronald Reagan and the Russian leader, Mikhael Gorbachev, the Cold War came to an end with the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the unification of Germany.

Since then, the United States has been the one superpower in the world and has intervened with allies in various parts of the globe to help resolve international crises, most notably in 1991 during the Gulf War in Kuwait.

Main Events: North America


1950-1951          The Korean War

1961                       J.F. Kennedy elected President

1963              J.F. Kennedy assassinated

1965                       Voting Rights Act

1968                       Martin Luther King assassinated

1969                       First man on the moon

1973                       Abortion legalized

 Vietnam War ends

1981                       Ronald Reagan elected

1989                       Fall of the Berlin Wall and end of Cold War

1990                       Gulf War


North American Literature

 On a general cultural level America has had and continues to have enormous influence on Britain. Through the media of television and film, American popular culture is as at home in the front rooms and cinemas of Cheltenham as it is in those of Chicago. America has also led the way in certain artistic fields. Of undoubted significance was the emergence of Pop Art in the 1960s as championed by Andy Warhol, who used the styles and themes of popular culture to create a new form of visual expression.



In  the world of English letters America also continued to be a major from different ethic and social backgrounds produced novels that reflected the complex and varied structure of American society.

The late 1950s and 1960s witnessed a sociological revolution that had profound repercussions in literary circles. The philosophy of ‘Make love, not war’, the acceptance of the use of recreational drugs and a hostile attitude to any form of authority were the hallmarks of the Beat Generation.

The millions of young people who made up this unofficial movement found an influential spokesman in Jack Kerouac (1922-1969). His novel, On the Road (1957), about a group of friends who enjoy sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll as they travel across the United States, soon achieved cult status.

The voice of black America was also heard as the country was forced by the Civil Rights Movement to redress the mistakes of the past and move towards the building of a just, multiracial society. James Baldwin (1924-1987) courageously described what life was like for a black homosexual in Another Country (1962), while today Tony Morrison (1931) skillfully depicts the past and present of black America. Beloved (1987) is set in the past and tells the story of a mother who kills her children rather than see them live in slavery, while Jazz (1922) moves from the past to the present and back again as it examines love, life and death in a big northern city.

  Other women writers who have made a significant impression are Joyce Carol Oates (1938) and  Mary McCarthy (1912-1989). Oates is one of America’s most prolific writers who often pinpoints the violent nature of American  life in novels like Foxfire (1993), which is about a gang of violent girls. McCarthy wrote about a wide range of topics that went from the Vietnam war to feminism. One of her most successful novel was Birds of America (1971) which relays the impressions of a young American who lives in Europe.

The Jewish community has produced two outstanding writers. Saul Bellow (1915-2005) creates memorable middle-aged male characters in Herzog (1964) and Mr Sammler’s Planet (1974), who carefully observe daily routine and philosophize about life in general. The work of Isaak B.Singer (1904-1991) examines his Polish-Jewish roots and the spiritual strength that can still be got from a community that was almost totally annihilated. One of his finest novels is The Magician of Lublin (1960).    

The unique variety of American fiction makes it difficult to single out individuals for special mention, though few would argue that J.D. Salinger (1919-2010), Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) and John Updike (1932-2009) deserve special mention. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951), which tells the story of a few days in the life of a disturbed teenager, has become a favorite with young people and adults around the world. Although a Russian immigrant, Nabokov is regarded as one of the finest stylists in the English language. His best known work, Lolita (1958), was a phenomenal success and created scandal in some circles, dealing as it did with a relationship between a middle-aged man and an adolescent girl. Updike’s Rabbit tetralogy about Harry Armstrong, which covers a period of over thirty years from the 1960s to the 1990s, provides the reader with a unique insight into American domestic life.

Over the last forty years a school of writers, that are grouped under the name of ‘minimalists’, has developed a novel and highly contemporary approach to fiction. While minimalist artists use the simplest and fewest materials to create maximum effect, writers like Raymond Carver (1938-1988) and David Leavitt (1961) employ a super-concise style to express content and concepts with a minimum of unnecessary decoration. 



Although poetry has not produced as rich a harvest as fiction over the last fifty years, a number of American poets have earned international reputations. Two major currents in particular can be identified. The Beat Poets, like Kerouac in fiction, became artistic mouthpieces for the younger generations. Meanwhile, poets like Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) and Robert Lowell (1917-1977) wrote a very private forms of verse that came to be known as confessional poetry.

The poetic equivalent of Jack Kerouac was Allen Ginsberg, whose poetry has been inextricably linked with the Beat Generation. His highly influential collection, Howl and Other Poems (1956), was a ringing condemnation of American society at the time. Ginsberg used a very elastic form of free verse and had a preference for long lines which were also sometimes used by America’s national poet and one of Ginsberg’s major influences, Walt Whitman.

Sylvia Plath wrote a much more personal form of poetry than Ginsberg. Her tormented inner life and troubled marriage to leading English poet Ted Hughes influenced her work which often deals with illness, sadness and death. Her major collection, Ariel (1965), also contains poems which display Plath’s wit, sense of humor and ability to delve beneath the surface of superficial reality.

Like Plath, Robert Lowell shocked his readers with the highly confessional nature of his collection, Dolphin (1973). He was however, unlike Plath, a very public figure who during his lifetime was probably the best known poet in America. Other poets to receive public and critical approval have been Adrienne Rich (1926), whose Diving into the Wreck (1972) focuses on feminist issues, while Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996), who only emigrated to the United States in 1972, is representative of artists and poets from other countries that have added new vigor to American literary tradition.    



American drama enjoyed a golden era during the middle years of the twentieth century which was not matched towards the end of the century. Two of the dramatists who had contributed greatly to the golden era were still the major figures in the field of American drama in later years. Tennessee Williams’s The Night of the Iguana (1962) and Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass (1994) maintained these venerable playwrights’ reputations as the country’s leading dramatists. Of other dramatists to emerge, perhaps the most noteworthy is Edward Albee (1928). Some of his work has been associated with the theatre of the absurd and the tragicomedy about marriage, Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), has come in for special praise.    


Онлайн всего: 1
Гостей: 1
Пользователей: 0

Форма входа


«  Июль 2024  »

Архив записей


Copyright MyCorp © 2024