“I only say that at certain strange epochs it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Manalive
The Twentieth century was without a doubt one of the most tumultuous eras in recent history. Not only was war, financial difficulty and strained international relations at all-time highs, the enduring questions regarding the human experience like “why are we here?” and “where are we going?” still continued to pervade twentieth century culture, and that included literature. It became clear throughout the period that man’s conflict with himself and the world around him had yet to be resolved. The human soul was and still is the battleground where ideas and worldviews are contested, and where artists, poets and writers continue to draw their inspiration and purpose from. However, this seemingly endless struggle took a new turn in the twentieth century. Due to the relentless assault on the human condition by numerous catastrophes like World War One, artists began to contemplate what was truly real and important in the lives of human beings. This enduring mystery permeated so much of the literature from this time period, and each artist approached the question in their own distinct and personal manner. This is what I think this subject has educated me the most about: the huge variety of questions and answered that artist’s presented in their quest to reach “that dearest freshness deep down things.”
Perhaps the main reason why I have enjoyed all the literature units so far is the wide variety of writers and poets covered, and Twentieth Century Literature is no exception. From the eloquent poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and the wartime tragedies of Eric Maria Remarque to the distinctly modernist work of Samuel Beckett and the literary commentary of George Orwell, this unit had no shortage of unique and interesting perspectives that not only discussed the era’s specific concerns but also spoke to trepidations of the modern age. Once again it seems the timeless value of literature has made its existence known, and in doing so elucidated me on what people believe to be the essential essence of life. Some personal favourites of mine from the unit were Orwell’s scathing admonishment of what he identified as the ‘academic’ use of language in Politics and the English Language and M. Nourbese Philip’s contemplation of the very nature of the English language and lamentation of losing her “mother tongue” in Discourse on the Logic of Language. Once again I was able to explore that century of literature through blogging. I really enjoyed constructing blogs such as Temperance-Fourteen and The Invasion of Language, along with encountering some of my own personal history in Afrika Korps. The peer review system once again made a return, and once again it helped me overcome a little bit more my aversion to criticism. I really enjoyed reading and reviewing the works of my classmates, and was pleased to receive feedback on my own blogs in order to improve their quality. Overall, this unit provided me with multiple ideas and perspectives regarding the enduring questions about life and humanity, and in doing so forced me to consider what I myself consider important in my life, here in the twenty-first century. Twentieth century literature has indeed reminded me that I am not dead yet.
Best Critical Blog: The Invasion of Language
Best Creative Blog: Temperance-Fourteen