Pease Final Essay - Michael Langman F0016VM English 34...

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Michael Langman F0016VM English 34 Professor Pease 6/5/15 Final Exam Essay Portion During the first half of our time in Professor Pease’s class, the playwrights we studied included (but are not limited to) the likes of Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams; all renowned amongst scholars of American literature for their exceptional portrayal of Modernism in drama. Modernism was a cultural and literary movement during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that involved these very playwrights. Modernism was a trend that encouraged literary minds to stick to over- arching narratives that can provide identity to American culture as a whole. It is a belief that we can determine broad theories or ideas that, when incorporated into works of Modernist literature, can explain all one needs to know about a particular cultural sect, economic class, etc. In terms of American culture, Modernism focused heavily on classes and family structures; how life and social behaviors differ amongst the heavily segmented classes and the importance and roles of families within each class. Modernism attempted to create guidelines for American culture and art, each Modernist piece becoming a guideline to explain an entire aspect of culture, such as Arthur Miller’s “Desire Under the Elms” and its social commentary on familial hierarchy and incest in America. In essence,
Modernism was America coming into its own and clearly defining itself as a country with unique and independent art and culture. In order to do so, Modernism had to create its own master narratives of culture and society, as well as create guidelines for culture that would come to be the stepping-stones for all American art to follow in its wake. Post-Modernism is an embodiment of American culture re-defining itself from the guidelines set in place during the early twentieth century. Rather than fall in line under the master narratives set in place during the Modernist period, Post-Modernism takes a skeptical approach to these guidelines and attempts to not necessarily re-define them, however present numerous individual-narratives, implying that we cannot simply categorize culture or groups of Americans under one specific narrative. Rather than implying themes of unification under races, ethnicities, economic classes, etc, Post- Modernism rejects unity and implies that our culture and society in America is constantly in a state of unrest, attempting to but never having truly succeeded in defining itself in any sect or class. In terms of the American Family, Post-Modernism attempts to give examples of alternative family structures in which the hierarchy and members of the family are much more convoluted to those of modernist families, such as in Suzan Lori- Parks’ “Topdog/Underdog”, and the unfamiliar structure of two alternating dominant brothers in Link and Booth, and their unusual family situation having both of their parents run off at different times. Post-Modernism also tends to focus more on smaller

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