Modernism

The word “modernism” is intentionally ambiguous, and perhaps without realizing it is a fitting term for such a literary movement. In the most common usage it refers to the twentieth-century movement that began with the concept of the “modern” (obviously, since without this word how could one have modern-ism?) and ended up being a collectionContinue reading “Modernism”

Crisis & Capital In Wuthering Heights

The majority of Victorian literature is the product of the petty-bourgeois class, and Wuthering Heights is no different. The tumultuous ideological storms contained within demonstrate a crisis in the ideology of the 19th century Victorian petty-bourgeois class to which Emily Bronte was born. Frequently, novelists and intellectuals have a reflective role to play at aContinue reading “Crisis & Capital In Wuthering Heights”

The Concept of the “Other” in Kim

Kipling seems to fancy himself as the first Eric Schlosser. In his story Kim, the presence of the concept of the “other” is scarce, even nonexistent, to the point of a noticeable, glaring omission. British, Indian and Tibetan cultures have minor contradictions with each other, but none is presented as particularly “domineering” over one anotherContinue reading “The Concept of the “Other” in Kim”

Scott’s Denied Bourgeois Mentality

Sir Walter Scott may have denied traditionalism and the ruling class culture of his time personally, but his novels provide no alternative to those bourgeois doctrines and rather in the values of that system find their own comfortable justifications for existence. To illuminate the question of class ideology and how it is reflected in SirContinue reading “Scott’s Denied Bourgeois Mentality”

Eliot’s Alienation

A modernist exercise in capitalist angst, T.S. Eliot’s famous masterpiece “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” at once exposes the crumbling of bourgeois society and the utter disintegration of its culture as a meaningful epoch. Considered by many to be the first modernist poem, its verses certainly carve out a splendid picture of the isolation and contempt for the status quo that marks modernist and postmodernist literature. More than that, it illustrates the emptiness and superficiality of class society through the middle-class male persona of the narrator, who is kept nameless but is presumably Eliot himself speaking through a fictional character.

The sense of being lost begins with the quotation at the beginning of the poem. Translated, it reads: “If I thought my answer were to one who could ever return to the world, this flame would move no more; but since no one has ever returned alive from this depth, if what I hear be true, without fear of infamy I answer you.” The quote, which comes from Dante’s Divine Comedy, is originally spoken by a lost soul in hell. This gives quite a first impression of the emotions to come from the main body of the poem.

In the first stanza, when the narrator asks a person, presumably a woman, to accompany him on a stroll through the streets of downtown, already the man’s thoughts have drifted to the decay of class society. He describes “half-deserted streets,” “restless nights in one-night cheap hotels,” and “streets that follow like a tedious argument/ of insidious intent.”