Ch 8: Modernist Prose and Plays

About This Chapter

Watch online video lessons about Modernist literature and explore the authors, works, styles and characteristics associated with this period. Take the quizzes that follow each lesson to test your understanding of this period in American literature.

Modernist Prose and Plays

Welcome to Modernist literature, the period of breaking traditional styles. Our lessons cover the prose, plays and authors from the Modernist period. This was a time of experimentation, cynicism and self-awareness. Our introduction focuses on the styles and characteristics of this period. We summarize each selected work for you, but we also go beyond that and offer a detailed analysis for each piece.

Prepare to meet famous writers, such as Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck and Eugene O'Neill. Starting with Sherwood Anderson, we explore his pivotal work Winesburg, Ohio, which resides somewhere between a conventional novel and a collection of short stories. With Fitzgerald, whose work is regarded as the epitome of Modernist literature, you get to see how his life may have influenced his writing. Of course, we also cover the depth and breadth of The Great Gatsby.

Later lessons take you on a similar journey with Ernest Hemingway, Fitzgerald's contemporary. This manly man among men has a distinct style in the Modernism movement, so we explore two of his novels: A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Modernist literature is diverse; there is certainly more than one way to break from tradition. On that note, a couple of lessons introduce William Faulkner, whose style is notably different from Hemingway's. We focus on Faulkner's As I Lay Dying for its use of stream of consciousness.

Again, you get to see how a person's life can impact his or her writing with the Modernist playwright Eugene O'Neill. We have lessons devoted to his A Long Day's Journey into Night and The Iceman Cometh. As if that isn't enough, we also have detailed overviews of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Like Modernist prose and plays, our video lessons push aside norms to strive for something new and exciting.

15 Lessons in Chapter 8: Modernist Prose and Plays
Modernism in American Literature

1. Modernism in American Literature

In this lesson, we will discuss the concept of literary modernism in the United States. We will explore its historical backdrop along with the very unique characteristics and authors that define American modernism which lasted from 1914-1945.

Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio: Summary and Analysis

2. Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio: Summary and Analysis

In this lesson, we will learn about Sherwood Anderson's unique collection of related short stories, ''Winesburg, Ohio.'' We will take a look at the community of characters that define this seemingly quaint midwestern town. We will also consider the historical context in which the larger work was created.

The Lost Generation: Expatriate Writers of the 20th Century

3. The Lost Generation: Expatriate Writers of the 20th Century

In this lesson, we will explore the effects of WWI on the American literary community. We will take a look at the Lost Generation of writers, the characteristics of their work and the ways in which they represented post-war attitudes both in the U.S. and abroad.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Biography and Works

4. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Biography and Works

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote one of the defining American novels: 'The Great Gatsby.' Yet, his personal life was tumultuous and filled with struggles. In this lesson, we'll explore his major works and his life story.

The Great Gatsby: Summary, Themes, Symbols, and Character

5. The Great Gatsby: Summary, Themes, Symbols, and Character

F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' is considered by many critics to be the greatest American novel. Watch our video lesson on the novel to find out why!

Ernest Hemingway: Biography, Works, and Style

6. Ernest Hemingway: Biography, Works, and Style

American author Ernest Hemingway used the experiences from his rich and colorful life to inform his novels and short stories. Learn about how life and major works.

Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms: Summary and Analysis

7. Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms: Summary and Analysis

Ernest Hemingway's ''A Farewell to Arms'' is considered by some critics to be the best novel written in the WWI era. Learn why readers still love this story almost a century later.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway: Summary and Analysis

8. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway: Summary and Analysis

Civil war in Spain, love in the woods, and death everywhere. It's Ernest Hemingway's 'For Whom the Bell Tolls.' In this lesson, we'll explore the acclaimed novel about an American in the Spanish Civil War.

William Faulkner: Biography, Books, and Style

9. William Faulkner: Biography, Books, and Style

William Faulkner towers above American literature, particularly American literature of the South. In this lesson, we'll explore his life and review his major works and style.

Faulkner's As I Lay Dying: Summary and Analysis

10. Faulkner's As I Lay Dying: Summary and Analysis

Multiple narrators, stream of consciousness writing and a family airing its dysfunctions while carting along their mother's coffin. You'll find all that and more in William Faulkner's Modernist masterpiece 'As I Lay Dying.'

John Steinbeck: Grapes of Wrath and Other Works

11. John Steinbeck: Grapes of Wrath and Other Works

John Steinbeck is one of the 20th century's most celebrated authors. In this lesson, we'll look at Steinbeck's most famous work, 'The Grapes of Wrath.' We'll also discuss his style and consider his other major works.

Of Mice and Men: Summary and Analysis of Steinbeck's Style

12. Of Mice and Men: Summary and Analysis of Steinbeck's Style

John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' is one of the most enduring American stories of friendship. Watch this video lesson to learn about its characters, main plot events and key themes.

Eugene O'Neill: Biography and Major Plays

13. Eugene O'Neill: Biography and Major Plays

Winner of four Pulitzer Prizes and one Nobel Prize, playwright Eugene O'Neill is a major figure in American drama. In this lesson, we'll look at his tumultuous life and review the most notable plays from his acclaimed career.

Long Day's Journey into Night: Summary, Analysis and Characters

14. Long Day's Journey into Night: Summary, Analysis and Characters

You may think that your family has issues, and maybe that's true, but few families are as tragic as the Tyrone family in Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece 'Long Day's Journey Into Night'.

Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh: Summary and Analysis

15. Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh: Summary and Analysis

What happens when a bunch of downtrodden drunks in a bar are shaken from their pipe dream lives? Find out in this video lesson about Eugene O'Neill's epic play 'The Iceman Cometh.'

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