The need to renew language through the creation of communicative models capable of measuring themselves against a reality in profound and rapid evolution is the need that unites all those who recognize themselves in the modernist movement, starting with G. Stein, expatriated to Paris in 1903, who with E. Pound represents, especially at the beginning, the most charismatic figure. Better known for some of his prose texts (including Three Lives, 1909, and The autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, 1933), Stein places at the center of his program a work of constant experimentation which does not fail even when it is harshest. they raise criticisms against her. It is that same objective that guides Pound along a path that from imagism will lead him to vorticism and therefore to the complex syncretism of the Cantos (1919-70), as well as to discover, as a European correspondent for the magazine Poetry (founded in Chicago in 1912 by H. Monroe), a whole series of still unknown poets, including A. Lowell, H. Doolittle and TS Eliot himself. Considered the most important figure in American poetry of the twentieth century (Nobel prize for literature in 1948), in his major compositions, The waste land (1922), The four quartets (1943), Eliot pursues the aim of restoring order and meaning to the fragments of experience through a poetic language which, as also for Pound, must move towards objectivity, breaking down any residual romantic resistance. ● If Pound and Eliot operate mainly in Europe, where both are expatriates, WC Williams and W. Stevens are the most prominent personalities among those who work in more direct contact with the US reality, in the context of a ferment which, thanks above all to Chicago poems (1916) by C. Sandburg, in The Congo and other poems (1914) by V. Lindsay and the famous Spoon River anthology (1915) by EL Masters, sees the Midwest and the city of Chicago side by side with New York as new poles of lively elaboration of the modern. Looking at poetry as a ‘small device made of words’, Williams makes concreteness the premise of a language that aims to propose a visual synthesis of the image. Closer to the technique of contamination between different languages (already theorized by Pound), Stevens instead places the figure of the metaphor at the center of that process of creative transposition of reality that he identifies as the basic objective of his own poetry. Among the other poets directly linked to modernist innovation, an important role is given to the ironic EE Cummings, whose tightrope walk, synthesis of musical rhythms and orality, finds happy outlets in & and in is 5, both from 1925; L. Hughes, the first African-American poet with a modern imprint, who already in The Weary Blues (1926) proves capable of merging the specificity of the cultural experience of blacks in a highly original linguistic cast; H. Crane, tragic figure of a brilliant poet, restless and uprooted, who in the poem The bridge (1930), in which he seems to follow, but at the same time overcome the influence of the Eliotian model, reaches moments of rare visionary intensity. Finally, voices in any case linked to the modernist climate are those of EA Robinson, who for thematic choices is close to contemporary reality, of that already in The weary blues (1926) he proves capable of merging the specificity of the cultural experience of blacks in a highly original linguistic cast; H. Crane, tragic figure of a brilliant poet, restless and uprooted, who in the poem The bridge (1930), in which he seems to follow, but at the same time overcome the influence of the Eliotian model, reaches moments of rare visionary intensity. Finally, voices in any case linked to the modernist climate are those of EA Robinson, who for thematic choices is close to contemporary reality, of that already in The weary blues (1926) he proves capable of merging the specificity of the cultural experience of blacks in a highly original linguistic cast; H. Crane, tragic figure of a brilliant poet, restless and uprooted, who in the poem The bridge (1930), in which he seems to follow, but at the same time overcome the influence of the Eliotian model, reaches moments of rare visionary intensity. Finally, voices in any case linked to the modernist climate are those of EA Robinson, who for thematic choices is close to contemporary reality, of R. Frost, whose work is characterized by the purely twentieth-century research of an accessible and everyday language, and above all by M. Moore, an ironic cultivator of an eclectic poetry, always suspended between fantastic encroachments and scientific punctuality.
Often considered a minor novelist, S. Anderson, who in the short stories of Winesburg, Ohio (1919) confronts the often tormented inner reality of his characters, is indeed a crucial presence for the entire generation of young writers who in little more than a decade would have completed the work of renewal of the American novel, already started by M. Twain and James. Among the major exponents of this new course are: FS Fitzgerald, who, subverting the linearity of the story through a highly effective work of fragmentation, with The great Gatsby (1925) proposes technical solutions that many will later adopt; E. Hemingway, who, in The sun also rises (1926) and A fare; well to arms (1929), as well as in the stories of In our time (1925), refines that work of condensation of language which will become an almost constant figure of his style; JR Dos Passos, whose US trilogy (1930-36) is based on an evocative collage of heterogeneous materials and styles; the provocative and scandalous H. Miller of Tropic of cancer (1934); and finally N. West, who with The day of the locust (1939) subjects the Hollywood myth to a dismemberment that the fragmented structure of the novel proposes and completes. ● W. Faulkner deserves a separate discussion, the greatest of the American storytellers of the twentieth century, who fantastically transforming the characteristics of the original Mississippi county, in his novels builds a saga as complex and tormented as unusual, penetrating, sometimes surreal, are the technical innovations and linguistic solutions through which it is proposed. Other important writers who turned their attention to the cultural and geographical panorama of the South in those same years are E. Caldwell, a very popular realist between the years 1930 and 1940, J. Cain, author of The postman always rings twice (1934), E Welty, known above all for his short fiction, and C. McCullers, linked to the themes of incommunicability and existential distress. ● Among those who rely on less innovative technical solutions, while nevertheless focusing their narrative on problems, often burning, of great relevance, we should remember: S. Lewis, Nobel Prize for literature in 1930, who in Main street (1920) and in Babbitt (1922) he offers a convincing critique of the American province; U. Sinclair and JT Farrell both committed to denouncing situations of environmental degradation with their novelsand moral decay typical of urban centers; J. Steinbeck, leading exponent of the proletarian novel of the 1930s, and author of the famous realist frescoes of Of mice and men (1937) and of The grapes of wrath (1939). Finally, again against the rough background of the Depression, we find T. Wolfe, whose works, from Look homeward, angel (1929) to You can’t go home again (posthumous, 1940), deal with autobiographical motifs in a realist key, and R. Wright, the first African-American narrator of international standing, who with Uncle Tom’s children (1938) and above all with the raw, engaging language of Native son (1940), bends naturalism to the investigation of the failures of racial discrimination.
Reasons of a different nature, not least the historical presence of a strong Puritan matrix, have prevented for centuries a theatrical tradition comparable to that of other Western cultures to take root in the USA, to the point that, as if to fill the gap, it is the novel itself., especially in the nineteenth century, to undertake to offer ample space for the dramatic development of the action. Apart from negligible isolated episodes, mostly linked to circumscribed cultural realities, it was in the early years of the century that, with the figure of D. Belasco, author, among other things, of Madame Butterfly (1900) and The girl of the golden West (1905), both later transformed into librettos for works by G. Puccini, and with C. Ficht we are witnessing the birth of a theatrical tradition. But it is above all to E. O’Neill and the company of Provincetown players, with whom he collaborated for a long time, that we owe the recognizable beginning of an American author theater, with a series of successful one-acts, put in scene between 1916 and 1920. After an important expressionist phase (The emperor Jones, 1920, and The hairy ape, 1922), O’Neill will reach the top with Strange interlude (1928) and Mourning becomes Electra (1931), in which there is always a strong experimental charge, also linked to the contemporary developments of European theater and to the intense link with the models of Greek tragedy, which he reinterprets. Other important exponents of an avant-garde theater that is affected above all by the expressionist influence and a strong ideological motivation are E. Rice, author of the irresistible The adding machine (1923) and the innovative Street scene (1929), and C. Odets, who with Awake and sing! and Waiting for Lefty (both from 1935), on the model of B. Brecht ‘s theater, tackles issues with a strong social impact.
An important phenomenon in American culture between the two wars is also the consolidation of a strong critical tradition, to which the modernist movement as a whole offers a wealth of materials. Eliot, with The sacred wood (1920), Dante (1929) and On po; etry and poets (1957), and Pound, with the numerous essays, anthologies and translations, confirm the tendency of the author to act also in a critical context. But it is with the work of I. Babbitt and VW Brooks and, above all in England, with the Cambridge school of IA Richards, FR Leavis and W. Emp; son, that militant criticism manages to give itself a precise physiognomy. Former animator of the Southern agrarians group, which includes poets and writers from the South, among others A. Tate and RP Warren, towards the end of the 1930s JC Ransom gives life to the movement of new criticism, which by referring to the centrality of the literary text and its internal dynamics, places as a premise that idea of close reading, or close reading, which will dominate until to the 1950s American and international criticism. The major critics of the period were inspired by these assumptions, albeit in different forms, from the aforementioned Warren and Tate to Y. Winters and C. Brooks, to L. Trilling and LP Blackmur. ● Central, for the development of a critique that combines the specific aspects of the text with the need to analyze the context in which it develops and falls, is instead the contribution of the aforementioned FO Matthiessen, great exegete of the American Renaissance, and of H. James, E. Wilson, the first to apply those principles, placing them in the network of European ancestry, to moderns.