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Modernist Fiction – Writers on the novel 1 “It is fine to see how the old three volume tradition is being broken through. One volume is becoming commonest.

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Presentazione sul tema: "Modernist Fiction – Writers on the novel 1 “It is fine to see how the old three volume tradition is being broken through. One volume is becoming commonest."— Transcript della presentazione:

1 Modernist Fiction – Writers on the novel 1 “It is fine to see how the old three volume tradition is being broken through. One volume is becoming commonest of all. It is the new school, due to continental influence. Thackeray and Dickens wrote at enormous length and with profusion of detail; their plan is to tell everything, and leave nothing to be divined. Far more artistic, I think, is the later method, of merely suggesting; of dealing with episodes, instead of writing biographies. The old novelist is omniscient. I think it is better to tell a story precisely as one does in real life, hinting, surmising, telling in detail what can so be told and no more. In fact, it approximates to the dramatic mode of presentment”. George Gissing, Letter to his brother Algernon, August 1885 “They have changed everything now … we used to think there was a beginning and a middle and an end”. Thomas Hardy qt in V. Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary

2 Modernist Fiction – Writers on fiction 2 Whether we call it life or spirit, truth or reality, this, the essential thing, has moved off, or on, and refuses to be contained any longer in such ill-fitting vestments as we provide. […] The writer seems constrained, not by his own free will but by some powerful and unscrupulous tyrant who has him in thrall, to provide a plot, to provide comedy, tragedy, love interest, and an air of probability embalming the whole so impeccable that if all his figures were to come to life they would find themselves dressed down to the last button of their coats in the fashion of the hour. The tyrant is obeyed; the novel is done to a turn. But sometimes […] we suspect a momentary doubt, a spasm of rebellion, as the pages fill themselves in the customary way. Is life like this? Must novels be like this? Look within and life, it seems, is very far from being ‘like this’. Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms, and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and the external as possible?” Virginia Woolf, Modern Fiction, 1919

3 Modernist Fiction – Writers on fiction 2 Che la si voglia chiamare vita o spirito, verità o realtà, questa, - che è la cosa essenziale -, si è allontanata, o ci è passata davanti, restia a lasciarsi costringere più a lungo negli abiti stretti che le offriamo. […] Lo scrittore sembra costretto, non per sua libera scelta ma dal tiranno potente e senza scrupoli che lo tiene in pugno, a fornire un intreccio, una commedia, una tragedia, una storia d’amore, e a permeare il tutto con un’aria di credibilità così impeccabile che, se tutti i suoi personaggi prendessero vita, si troverebbero vestiti, fino all’ultimo bottone del cappotto, secondo la moda del momento. Il tiranno ottiene ubbidienza; e il romanzo viene scritto in base ai suoi ordini. Ma certe volte […] abbiamo il sospetto di cogliere un dubbio momentaneo, uno spasmo di ribellione, mentre le pagine si riempiono nel modo consueto. Ma la vita è veramente così? E’ così che devono essere scritti i romanzi? Guardatevi dentro e la vita sembra molto lontana dall’essere ‘così’. Analizzate per un attimo una mente normale in un giorno normale. La mente riceve una miriade di impressioni – futili, fantastiche, evanescenti, o scolpite con una punta d’acciaio. Esse ci giungono da ogni part, in uno scroscio incessante di innumerevoli atomi; e mentre ricadono, mentre prendono forma nella vita di un qualsiasi lunedì o martedì, acquistano un accento diverso dal solito; l’attimo importante diventa questo e non quello; quindi, se uno scrittore fosse un uomo libero e non uno schiavo, se potesse scrivere quello che vuole, e non quello che deve, se potesse fondare il suo lavoro sul proprio modo di sentire e non sulle convenzioni, non esisterebbe nessun intreccio, nessuna commedia, nessuna tragedia, nessuna storia d’amore o catastrofe nello stile comunemente accettato, e forse nemmeno un bottone cucito secondo i dettami dei sarti di Bond Street. La vita non è una serie di lampioncini disposti in ordine simmetrico; la vita è un alone luminoso, un involucro semitrasparente che ci racchiude dall’alba della coscienza fino alla fine. Non è forse compito del romanziere esprimere questo spirito mutevole, misterioso e indefinito, per quanto possa mostrarsi complesso e aberrante, con una miscela possibilmente priva di elementi esterni ed estranei? Non chiediamo solo più coraggio e sincerità; vogliamo suggerire che la materia del romanzo è un po’ diversa da quella che l’abitudine vorrebbe farci credere. Virginia Woolf, Il romanzo moderno, 1919

4 Questioning the key features of realism Narrative authority and reliability Contemporary setting Representative locations Ordinary speech Linear plots

5 Modernist Fiction Forefathers of modernism: Henry James ( ) and Joseph Conrad ( ) Henry James: “a novel is in its broadest definition a personal, and direct impression of life”; selectivity; technique of the “limited point of view” Placing the consciousness of characters at the heart of the narrative world is one of James determining influences on the modernist fiction

6 Joseph Conrad ( ) Józef Teodor Conrad Korzeniowski 1874: Joined the French Merchant Navy at Marseilles 1878: Joined a British ship, after 4 years with French ships; 1886: British nationality; 1889: applied for the command of a river-steamer on the Congo 1895, left the Navy and published his first novel Almayer’s Folly

7 Conrad’s works Almayer’s Folly 1895 An Outcast of the Islands 1896 The Nigger of the Narcissus 1897 Youth 1898 Heart of Darkness 1899 Lord Jim 1900 Typhoon 1902 Nostromo 1904 The Mirror of the Sea 1906 The Secret Agent 1907 Under Western Eyes 1911 Chance 1912 Victory 1915 The Shadow Line 1916 The Arrow of Gold 1919 The Rescue 1919 The Rover 1923 Suspense 1925

8 Conrad on language English was for me neither a matter of choice nor adoption […] There was adoption; but it was I who was adopted by the genius of the language […] its very idioms […] had a direct action on my temperament and fashioned my still plastic character.


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