AM. LITERATURE IN THE 1960-80S. J.UPDIKE, J.C.OATES



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AM. LITERATURE IN THE 1960-80S. J.UPDIKE, J.C.OATES



The 1960s were years of great social tension & the movement of “Hippies”. Hippies or "children of flowers" looked for new experiences through love, drugs & Oriental religion. Young people protested against the hopeless war in Vietnam, against racism & gender discrimination. Their motto was “Make love, not war” & their distinctive sign was a missile in a circle which expressed their protest against war & aggression. The war in Vietnam was going badly & Americans were losing their confidence. The writers of that period went on analyzing the nature of American values & continued the psychological studies of their predecessors. By the mid-1970s, an era of consolidation had begun. The Vietnam conflict was over, followed soon afterward by U.S. recognition of the People's Republic of China & America's bicentennial celebration. Soon the 1980s -- the "Me Decade" in Tom Wolfe's phrase -- ensued, in which individuals tended to focus more on personal concerns than on larger social issues.

In literature, old currents remained, but the force behind pure experimentation dwindled.

John Updike (1923) describes characters in different situations & show how unhappy they are. They are not satisfied with their every day lives in modern society & look for something deeper: myth, religion or happiness in family life. Most often they fail to find happiness through sexual relations. The novel "Centaur" (1963) has 2 planes, 2 levels as it combines realism with the mythology of Ancient Greece. The hero is a modest school teacher who is compared with a centaur. He is shown both as an intelligent, gentle person & a mythological Greek centaur (half human being, half horse). His life is tragic because he is opposed to the cruelty & materialism of the real world. He thinks more about the soul than other people do who are obsessed with the material & forget about the spiritual. For the characters in Updike's later novels their bodies become more important than their souls. Some of his novels are united by one character Harry Angstrom (1960) whose nickname is Rabbit. When young, Harry, the hero of "Rabbit, Run" (1960), cannot forget his success as a high school basketball star. "Rabbit Redux" (1971) -- spotlighting the counterculture of the 1960s -- finds Angstrom still without a clear goal or purpose or viable escape route from the banal. The novel "Rabbit is Rich" (1981) shows him as an older man who is married but feels dissatisfied & wants to escape. The final novel of this series "Rabbit at Rest" (1990) shows that Angstrom has reconciled with life. Updike is a very prolific writer but not all of his books can be called serious literature: some of them are "mass literature"(The Witches of Eastweak"). Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship & prolific writing, having published 22 novels & more than a dozen short story collections as well as poetry, literary criticism & children's books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews, & poems have appeared in The New Yorker since the 1950s. His works often explore sex, faith, & death, & their inter-relationships. Updike possesses the most brilliant style of any writer today, & his short stories offer scintillating examples of its range & inventiveness. Collections include The Same Door (1959), The Music School (1966), Museums & Women (1972), Too Far To Go (1979), & Problems (1979). He has also written several volumes of poetry & essays.

Joyce Carol Oates (1938) is a prolific writer of novels, short stories, poems, nonfiction, plays, critical studies & essays. Though her stem & merciless realism is combined with experimentalism, she nevertheless thinks that art is directly connected with culture, society & people's responsibility & morality. She uses what she has called "psychological realism" on a panoramic range of subjects & forms. Her realistic works include an epic novel "A Garden of Earthly Delights" & a social novel "Angel of Light". "A Bloodsmoor Romance" (1982) is a return to Gothic tradition. Her obsessed or haunted characters live in the world of violence & destruction. Oates has authored a Gothic trilogy consisting of Bellefleur (1980), A Bloodsmoor Romance (1982), & Mysteries of Winterthurn (l984); a nonfiction book, On Boxing (l987); & a study of Marilyn Monroe (Blonde, 2000). Her plots are dark & often hinge on violence, which she finds to be deeply rooted in the American psyche.

 

41. POSTMODERNISM. THE 1960-80-S. NABOKOV, HELLER,The 2nd half of the 20th century is also known as the epoch of the postmodern with a new type of thinking. This new type of thinking is called ''postmodern sensibility". Postmodernism is "post" in the sense of coming after modernism & "post" in the sense of opposing modernism. The tendencies of modernism to construct intricate forms & create an ordered harmonious universe have given way since the 1960s to a denial of order, to the presentation of highly fragmented universes, to the perception of the world as chaos. The traditional views on the literary text - its structure, plot, setting, themes & characters were abandoned. The novel became anti-novel. The typical protagonist became an antihero. Writers put on masks & started playing with the reader using different cultural codes. Po-sm is associated with new literary techniques such as: the use of multiple points of view, the principles of relativity & doubt, intertextuality or the mixture of different texts & genres, polyphony of styles & voices, the use of such stylistic devices as black humor, grotesque, irony, collage, montage, fragmentation & others. All is questioned & nothing is taken for granted. Postmodern culture is a hybrid culture. All things can be included & mixed together – popular culture, intellectual & elitist texts, electronic technologies, etc. The deconstruction of polarities takes place: there is no major or minor, central or peripheral. Postmodernism can be regarded as a certain style though some scholars speak about the lack of one. The most experimental & "postmodern" among contemporary writers are Thomas Pynchon (1937), Barth (1930) & some others.

Vladimir Nabokov's (1899-1977) work comes out of the Russian tradition of comic grotesque (Gogol is an important source for his writing). His novels have many & and display certain features of postmodern aesthetics, f.e. the use of black humour, fantasy, making a game of his narration. For Nabokov fiction is a contest of minds with the reader. One of his most famous books is “Lolita” (1955) is frequently cited as his most important novel, exhibiting his love of intricate wordplay & descriptive detail in his English works. The story of Lolita is told by a middle-aged man Humbert Humber whilehe waits for his murder trial. He describes his passion for a twelve-year-old nymphet who seduced him & his murder of a man. Nabokov's most experimental postmodernist novel "Pale Fire" (1962) focuses on a long poem by an imaginary dead poet & the commentaries on it by a critic. It has an unusual structure consisting of several levels. One level is the poem itself. Another level is the discussion of the poem. A further level is the world in which the characters live & die. “Ada”(1969) is another complicated game about man’s lifelong love for his sister. It is set in a strange world where Russia & America are the same countries & where there is no difference b/n the past & the present. Nabokov himself regarded his four-volume translation of Aleksandr Pushkin's Eugene Onegin as his other major achievement. Joseph Heller (1923) is an American satirical novelist & playwright. He is the master of black humor & grotesque, whose novels are noted for their existentialist motives. His most famous novel "Catch-22'' (1961) describes the regulations in the American army & the stupidity of the military bosses. The hero is a pilot during WWII. He tries to prove that he’s crazy in order not to take part in the combat operations. But he fails because an Air Force rule says that "anyone who wants to get out of combat missions isn't really crazy". The characters are absurd but it helps them to survive in the world of absurdity. In the novel "Something Happened" (1974) he creates an image of an average Am. who is on the surface a respectable,cheerful, well-to-do person, but deep inside him he is torn apart by doubts & uncertainty. Heller is widely regarded as one of the best post-World War satirists. Kurt Vonnegut (1922) is like Heller another master of black humour & experimentalism. For him life is a terrifying joke like in the novel "Cat's Cradle"(1963). One of the topics of the book is the influence of false religion on people's lives. Another problem is the tragic consequences of scientific discoveries that may be used to create weapons of mass destruction (like "Ice 9" in the novel). The invention of Ice 9 finally leads to the end of our planet & humanity because every molecule of water (even in the bodies of living beings) is frozen. It is not clear whether the author wants to confuse & terrify the readers or to make fun of them. Vonnegut's most important autobiographical novel "Slaughterhouse-Five; or, the Children's Crusade"(1969) is the story of an American prisoner of war in Dresden who experienced bombing attacks by the Br. - the so-called "friendly fire". After the bombing he becomes "unstuck" in time & travels in time & space.From time to time he is taken to a mysterious planet Tralfamadore.



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