Aesthetic movement – France: Gautier:
Bohémien against materialism and the restrictive code of bourgeoisie and vulgarity and monotony of bourgeois life, he re-defines the role of art into what he calls “Art for Art’s sake”: unconventional existence pursuing sensation and excess cultivating art & beauty. England: Walter Pater: rejected religious faith; art only means to stop time and doesn’t refer to life, so doesn’t have nothing to do with morality and doesn’t need to be didactic; life should be lived in the spirit of art; artist has to feel sensations and to be attentive to the ‘comely’.
decadent movement ∙ excessive attention to the self-∙ hedonistic and sensuous attitude ∙ perversity in subject matter ∙ disenchantment with contemporary society ∙ evocative use of language. European movement: France: La Décadent: Rimbaud and Verlaine – Italy: D’Annunzio and Pascoli – Germany: Rilke
Wilde (life) Dublin, 1854-Paris, 1900 ∙ Studied Classics in Oxford and disciple of Pater, theorist of Aestheticism in England, accepting the theory of “Art for Art’s Sake” ∙ moved in London as a celebrity. Get married in 1883 and had two children, but after the publication of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Salomé”, he damaged his reputation and, banned from the London stage for obscenity, he met Lord Alfred Douglas with whom he had a homosexual affair. After he finished 2 years of hard labor because he had been accused of homosexual practices, he become a broken man: his wife refused him and he moved to France where he died.
Wilde (the rebel and the dandy) ∙ ‘my life is a work of art.’ = ‘aesthetic ideal’ ∙ double role of rebel & dandy (≠ bohemian, linked to the proletariat), a bourgeois artist with a transparent eccentricity ∙ elegance, superiority of the spirit, individualist who claims absolute freedom = alien in a materialistic world ∙ interest in beauty, that have no moral position: ‘there is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well or badly written, that is all’ ∙ rejects didacticism of Victorian novel or the role of communicate with literature ∙ ‘art for art’s sake’ moral imperative, only ‘art as the cult of beauty’ could prevent the murder of the soul ∙ Aestheticism = search for beautiful, science through which all the different forms of art reveal the same truth
The picture of Doriangray (1891) unobtrusive three person narrator, perspective internal, settings described with senses, characters reveal themselves through dialogues ∙ (allegorical meaning) 19th-century version of the myth of Faust: soul=picture; renaissance idea of the correspondence between the physical and spiritual domains; theme of double: picture= dark side of Dorian’s personality, that he tries to forget + bad conscience of the Victorian middle class, and Dorian=bourgeois hypocrisy ; moral = every excess must be punished and reality cannot be escaped; picture in his original beauty = symbol of eternal art. ∙ Gustave Flaubert and Walter Pater believe in the wholeness of the being, the object only as its entirety Dorian’s beauty cannot exist without his inner personality, so is the painting that corresponds to body and soul as a whole and Dorian can regard himself as a complete person. Dorian’s death, in fact, is natural, human, and Dorian’s face becomes ‘withered, wrinkled and loathsome’ ∙ his death is the way in which the protagonist reconciles his beauty with his spirit.
modernpoetry: it was T.S. Eliot who expounded the new poetic theory in his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, where he said that poetry is an escape from emotion and personality, (vs. emotion recollected in tranquility – Wordsworth) and that the poet has to use words to weave rich patterns of meanings that require a close analysis to be understood.
Modernism first two decades of 20th century extraordinary artistic activity all over Europe and America, characterized by a variety of trends and currents. Will to brake established forms and subjects and explore people psyches through the ‘stream of consciousness’ (influence of Freud). Main features: distortion of shapes ∙ breaking down of conventions and of limitations in space and in time ∙ uncertainty about the perception of reality and emphasis on subjectivity ∙ more documentary poetry (Eliot) and more poetic prose (Woolf) ∙ allusive language and development of associations of words ∙ importance to the ‘music of ideas’ concerning the sounds of words ∙ importance of unconscious as well as conscious life ∙ rejection of elaborate forms of art in favour of minimalist designs and theories remold of past and of mythologies in original way, taking example from very different sources and currents (Buddhism, Dante, Freud, Bergson) so literature was becoming cosmopolitan.
Thomas Stearns Eliot (life) St Louis, Missouri 1888- London 1965 ∙ studied at Harvard, but then he discovered English and Italian literature (especially Dante’s one) and French symbolists while he moved in Paris in 1910. When the 1st WW began, he settled in London and in 1915, he married a ballet dancer. He became a director of a magazine of European literature but in 1925, he had to go in a sanatorium in Swiss, where he finished the long poem “The Waste Land”. Returned in Britain, he becomes a British citizen and converted to Anglicanism. He published some religious poems and plays. He separated to his wife, whose internment in a mental asylum provoked a sense of unhappiness in the poet. Eliot essays becomes more philosophical and sociological and he became one of the chief exponents of poetic drama. In 1948, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Eliot (two periods of works): - the works of the 1st period, before conversion to Anglicanism: pessimism, no hope, faith or ideals, lack of love in every object and being (‘The Waste Land’ and ‘The Hollow Men’) – the works of the 2nd period, after conversion: purification, hope and joy (religious poems). ∙ (the impersonality of the artist) he shares with Joyce that it was important for the artist to be impersonal and to separate ‘the man who suffers’ from ‘the mind which creates’. He said that ‘the emotion of art is impersonal’ and that ‘the poet cannot reach this impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done’.
thewasteland (1922) escapes any order or unity; it’s a collection of indeterminate states of mind, hallucinations and situations described by a multiple personality beyond the limits of space and time. 5 sections: 1) “The Burial of the Dead” sterility and death vs fertility and life. 2) “A Game of Chess” present squalor vs past splendour 3) “The Fire Sermon” theme of alienation described through a squalid sexual encounter 4) “Death by Water” idea of a spiritual shipwreck 5) “What a Thunder said” solution of sympathy between human beings, but that cannot modify the desolate atmosphere. (main theme) fertility of a mythical past vs spiritual sterility and world’s chaos + fragmented poem = decay of western society after the WWI. ∙ history= repetition of same events and in The Waste Land present and past exist simultaneously and the shifts of time and space are caused by the free associations of ideas ∙ mythical method instead of narrative method ∙ stylistic devices: mixture of different styles, free