Start Reading
  • Create a List

Where All the Ladders Start: Twentieth Century Western Culture (1895 to 1940) in Literature and Film

Length: 396 pages5 hours


How did we get here?

This seems like an apt question to ask when beginning a course on 20th c literature and film. How did we get here? How is our individual experience here and now “the same as it ever was”? How is it different? And what is the connection between events and experiences in the late 19th century and events and experiences now, in the early 21st century? What is it we want to say about the Twentieth century? What might others say centuries hence? What makes it different from any other century? What issues from former centuries are still present, either as a difficult legacy, a promise unfulfilled, or a nightmare as yet forestalled but still an ominous possibility? And, given these questions, what is the role of art, literature and film that is also unique to the twentieth century?

A preliminary answer to these questions might be posed as follows: Because “answers” have less and less credibility in a more and more subjective world view, art in the Twentieth Century develops more and more sophisticated ways to ask more subtle and more challenging questions.

How do writers convey the experience of subjects who are no longer stably moored by their religious community and social system? What kinds of subjects do we get instead? One difference we see is a shift from all-seeing, third person objective narrators, to shifting and unreliable narrators who are hard to pinpoint. This unreliability is obvious when characters are lying, but even when they are telling their truth it might appear to us to be the result of self-delusion. Noticing this may make us wonder about our own “truths”. What about when this instability and mobility increases exponentially with the moving image of cinema, which erupted at the end of the 19th century, when the Lumiere brothers showed their first films in 1895: each, one-minute, single shot films, including Train Arriving At Station and Workers Leaving the Factory?

Read on the Scribd mobile app

Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere.