Crisis

Modernism was meant to solve the world's problems, but some authors—Virginia Woolf and Ezra Pound, for example—had a few crises of their own.

AuthorPound - Ezra Pound
Woolf - Adeline Virginia Woolf
LanguageEnglish Language
PhilosophyModernism

Transcript

00:30

Heck, the Titanic was slayed by an iceberg. With so many crazy things happening, people

00:37

felt like they were living amidst an ongoing crisis. Writers of the age responded to this

00:42

in differentÉ sometimes opposingÉ ways.

00:45

The American poet Ezra Pound, for example, didn't like the language in which poetry was

00:50

written at the time. Way too many adjectives.

00:56

He decided to start the Imagism movement, the goal of which was to create an extremely

01:01

specific...

01:03

...yep, you guessed it...

01:04

...image in the reader's mind. Pound sought clarity in poetry. He wanted

01:09

to strip away past conventions, romanticism and rhetoric, and abstraction.

01:13

Pound also may have come up with Imagism as a marketing gimmick to help his friend Hilda

01:18

Doolittle...

01:18

...no relation to Eliza or Doctor...

01:24

...get her work published in Europe. It must have worked, because here we are one hundred

01:29

years later, still talking about how very important Imagism was to twentieth century

01:34

poetry. Pound may have wanted poetry to be hard and

01:37

polished, but the author Virginia Woolf believed the writing of the time should be more diffusedÉ

01:46

sort of like a spider web of different human perspectives.

01:51

For Woolf, one of the worst symptoms of the crisis of Modernism was the loneliness of

01:56

modern life.

01:57

And we figure she knew all about loneliness, given that she killed herself in 1941 by going

02:03

for a very permanent swim in the local river. Of course, loneliness and that sense of crisis

02:11

that helped define Modernist writing weren't the only feelings Woolf thought people needed

02:15

to overcome.

02:21

The prudishness associated with the late nineteenth century was still alive and very well in Woolf's

02:28

day.

02:29

So, not only was the world going to hell in a handbasket, but folks were supposed to be

02:34

very proper and moral...

02:35

...and never, ever, ever, ever talk about sex.

02:43

With that combo in play, no wonder Woolf thought that her writing should help readers feel

02:46

more connected to one another; that her purpose should be to reach out and touch someone...

02:53

...through literature, Virginia. Through literature. Pound and Woolf were two very different writers,

03:01

with two very different viewpoints of the Modernist movement.

03:04

Some prefer Pound's method of annihilating innocent adjectives...

03:08

...others dig Woolf's more lyrical prose.

03:10

Too bad Woolf went for a swim without end and Pound decided to add Italian fascism to

03:15

his repertoire of crazy.