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Handout of First Guest Lecture at University of Sri Jayawardenapura

Handout of First Guest Lecture at University of Sri Jayawardenapura

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Published by Dilshan Boange
Handout of the first lecture I gave to the English department students at University of Sri Jayawardenapura-Sri Lanka. The content focuses on Modernist writing.
Handout of the first lecture I gave to the English department students at University of Sri Jayawardenapura-Sri Lanka. The content focuses on Modernist writing.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Dilshan Boange on Jul 11, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Handout of the first guest lecture on the Modern novel delivered at the University of Sri Jayawardenapura – Department of English

. By Dilshan Boange - BA (Hons) in English (University of Colombo) A brief note on the Modern novel The Modern novel was the product of the Modernist movement that took place in Europe towards the end of the 19th century, the Modernist literary movement gaining much momentum between 1900 to mid 1920s. The modernist movement sought the emphasis of the ‘individual’ over society and the norms and conventions instituted by the State and its numerous forms of establishments. Modernist literature was focused on the independence of the individual to express the problems and dilemmas of the modern age that was characterized greatly on the one hand by metropolitan life. Modernist literature sought to deviate markedly from ‘Realist literature,’ and thus explored newer themes and forms of storytelling breaking down traditional concepts of time and consciousness. The Modernist literary movement produced novels that rejected the belief of an ‘objective truth’, and instead became focal on ‘subjectivity’ and experiences of the individual consciousness of interpreting the world and thereby ‘reality.’ Modernist literature did not seek to uphold any ‘absolute truths’. Therefore much space was created for newer forms of expression on a multitude of issues and topics. Some of the features that characterized Modernist literature and thereby the Modern novel The Modern novel was differentiated from the traditional novel of the Victorian age by many attributes which were both thematic and stylistic. Therefore both ‘form’ and ‘content’ took radical turning points in the course of literary developments. Narratives: The Modern novel did not require a strict linear form of story telling or a clear plotline and categorization of characters as players with designated roles and values to represent as expected by society who subscribed to the Victorian ethos. Narratives became varied and took different angles and had narrative devices, methods to suit the expression the writer intended. Content/ themes: Values upheld in Victorian literature were questioned and the themes that developed in the Modern novel gave focus to issues and matters that would have traditionally been thought of as trivial. Focus fell on mundane experiences and problems that troubled the individual and the individual consciousness. Some of the more prominent themes of Modernist novels becameAlienation, frustration, spiritual loneliness and isolation, breaking down social norms, rejection of history and objection to religious doctrines.

The first Modernist novel Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun’s novel Sult (Hunger) is considered to be the first Modernist novel that presented a novelty in terms of its subject, theme, and storyline as well as its narrative form. The form of narrative devised by Hamsun in Sult introduced to the world one of the hallmark traits that embodied the formal, stylistic departure that Modernist literature sought to achieve. Hamsun’s form gave birth to what was named as ‘Stream of consciousness’. The novel was rejected as absurd and incoherent at first since it was a radical departure from known forms of storytelling in novels. The crux of the novel is the dilemma faced by a writer who drives himself to reach success in his literary art while battling the overwhelming odds brought on by economic and social factors prevalent in the urban life he is set in. The novel shows the demented twists that a man’s consciousness may undergo, and how to present such an individual’s consciousness as an interior monologue.

‘Stream of consciousness’ as a literary method and narrative device One of the noted forms of Modernistic literature was what was called the ‘interior monologue’ or ‘stream of consciousness’. This method of narrative hoped to present the consciousness of the character as it would unfold as a voice in the mind, non-linear, chaotically discursive with little order and chronology. The notion of time and space as found in the traditional narratives would be disregarded. The experiences of the ‘consciousness’, being allowed to flow continually, would be the prime focus. One of the most celebrated works that masterfully presented this narrative style/form is Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.

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