Literature 1900–1950

Explore key literary works of the early 20th- century.

Santanu Das

'Dulce Et Decorum Est', a close reading

Article by:
Santanu Das

Santanu Das examines the crafting of one of Owen’s most poignant poems, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, and shows how Owen’s war poems evoke the extreme sense-experience of the battlefield.

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anthem for doomed youth

‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’: tracing the influence of John Keats

Article by:
Sandra M. Gilbert

Sandra M Gilbert explores the literary heritage of two of the most famous First World War poems, Wilfred Owen's 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' and 'Dulce et Decorum est'.

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Broken mirrors the First World War and modernist literature

Broken mirrors: the First World War and modernist literature

Article by:
Randall Stevenson

Randall Stevenson describes how the violence and loss of the First World War affected modernist writers’ attitudes towards nature and time, as well as shaping their experiments with language, literary form and the representation of consciousness.

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An introduction to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

An introduction to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Article by:
Katherine Mullin

James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man follows the development of a young Catholic Irishman from early boyhood to young adulthood. Here Dr Katherine Mullin examines Joyce’s portrayal of artistic expression, sexual transgression, and the repressive forces of culture and church.

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An introduction to Ulysses

An introduction to Ulysses

Article by:
Katherine Mullin

Since its publication in 1922, readers have been daunted, dazzled and puzzled by Ulysses. Katherine Mullin introduces James Joyce's novel, exploring both its commitment to modernist experimentation and to the portrayal of everyday life.

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Obscenity in Ulysses

Ulysses and obscenity

Article by:
David Bradshaw

The writing and publication history of Ulysses was shaped by individuals and organisations trying to censor it, outraged by its explicit references to the human body and its iconoclasm. David Bradshaw describes the reactions to James Joyce's novel on both sides of the Atlantic, from its initial magazine serialisation in 1919 to the 1950s.

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City, paralysis, epiphany: an introduction to Dubliners

City, paralysis, epiphany: an introduction to Dubliners

Article by:
Seamus Perry

Seamus Perry describes the stark realism of James Joyce's Dubliners, and its attention to the details of everyday life in Ireland's capital city.

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Dubliners

Money in James Joyce's Dubliners

Article by:
Katherine Mullin

James Joyce wrote some of the stories in Dubliners in a state of financial crisis, desperate to earn money from his writing. Katherine Mullin describes how this preoccupation with money makes its way into the stories themselves.

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City of dead souls: The Waste Land and the modern moment

City of dead souls: The Waste Land and the modern moment

Article by:
Lyndall Gordon

Lyndall Gordon explores how modernist art, dance and music, as well as the experience of early 20th-century urban living, shaped T S Eliot's The Waste Land, which both describes the modern condition and searches for something outside of it.

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Presences in The Waste Land

Presences in The Waste Land

Article by:
Seamus Perry

T S Eliot's The Waste Land is full of references to other literary works. Seamus Perry takes a look at four of the most important literary presences in the poem: Shakespeare, Dante, James Joyce and William Blake.

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Waste Lands

Sounds in The Waste Land: voices, rhythms, music

Article by:
Katherine Mullin

The Waste Land is crowded with voices and music, from ancient Hindu and Buddhist scripture to the popular songs of the 1920s. Katherine Mullin listens to the sounds of T S Eliot's poem.

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Waste Lands

The Waste Land: collaboration, montage and dislocation

Article by:
Roz Kaveney

The Waste Land was radical in both style and substance. Roz Kaveney examines the modernist devices, cultural influences and literary collaborations that shaped this landmark poem.

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A close reading of 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'

A close reading of 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'

Article by:
Seamus Perry

The speaker of 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' is trapped in his own mind, so full of hesitation and doubt that he is unable to act. Seamus Perry explores the poem's portrayal of paralysing anxiety.

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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:  fragmentation, interruption and fog

'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock': fragmentation, interruption and fog

Article by:
Roz Kaveney

Roz Kaveney considers 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' as a poem that both grapples with the modern world and looks back to the work of writers such as Dante, Robert Browning, Henry James and Stéphane Mallarmé.

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An introduction to Old Possums Book of Practical Cats

An introduction to Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

Article by:
John Sutherland

Professor John Sutherland explores the origins and afterlife of T S Eliot’s Book of Practical Cats, the ‘cat poems’ first written to entertain Eliot’s godchildren that later became his best-selling collection and inspired a famous stage production.

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The mystery and muddle of A Passage to India

The mystery and muddle of A Passage to India

Article by:
Kate Symondson

Kate Symondson explores the tensions and dualities at the heart of A Passage to India and the challenges E M Forster faced in writing the novel.

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A Room with a View: class, conventions and the quest for clarity

A Room with a View: class, conventions and the quest for clarity

Article by:
Stephanie Forward

E M Forster started planning A Room with a View in 1902, but it was several years and several drafts before he finished it. Stephanie Forward describes some of the difficulties relating to plot and style that Forster experienced in writing his novel about overcoming conventions in the pursuit of authentic connection.

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Howards End and the condition of England

Howards End and the condition of England

Article by:
Barbara C. Morden

Barbara Morden considers social dislocation and the search for a home in E M Forster’s novel.

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E M Forster’s gay fiction

E M Forster’s gay fiction

Article by:
Kate Symondson

A year after E M Forster's death, his novel about a relationship between two men, Maurice, was published. Kate Symondson explores how Forster's sexuality shaped his writing and the long period during which he didn't publish anything at all.

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women in love

An introduction to Women in Love

Article by:
Neil Roberts

Neil Roberts situates Women in Love in its historical context, and describes how the novel both is influenced by and seeks to move beyond 19th-century realism.

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Katherine Mansfield

An introduction to Katherine Mansfield's short stories

Article by:
Stephanie Forward

Katherine Mansfield was a pioneer of the modern short story. Here Stephanie Forward provides close readings of three short stories from Mansfield’s celebrated 1922 collection, The Garden Party and Other Stories.

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Exploring consciousness and the modern: an introduction to Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway: exploring consciousness and the modern world

Article by:
Elaine Showalter

Elaine Showalter describes how, in Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf uses stream of consciousness to enter the minds of her characters and portray cultural and individual change in the period following the First World War.

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Mrs Dalloway and the First World War

Mrs Dalloway and the First World War

Article by:
David Bradshaw

Mrs Dalloway, which takes place on one day in June 1923, shows how the First World War continued to affect those who had lived through it, five years after it ended. David Bradshaw explores the novel's commemoration of the dead and evocations of trauma and mourning.

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Virginia Woolf's London

Virginia Woolf's London

Article by:
David Bradshaw

Virginia Woolf loved London, and her novel Mrs Dalloway famously begins with Clarissa Dalloway walking through the city. David Bradshaw investigates how the excitement, beauty and inequalities of London influenced Woolf's writing.

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An introduction to To the Lighthouse

An introduction to To the Lighthouse

Article by:
Kate Flint

Focussing on Virginia Woolf’s representation of time, consciousness and the rupture caused by World War One, Professor Kate Flint reveals how To the Lighthouse is a carefully structured, psychologically complex novel that ultimately asks the reader to reflect on their own ever-changing experience of being in the world.

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An introduction to A Room of One's Own

An introduction to A Room of One's Own

Article by:
Rachel Bowlby

Professor Rachel Bowlby examines A Room of One’s Own as a key work of feminist criticism, revealing how Virginia Woolf ranges beyond the essay’s official topic of women and fiction to question issues around education, sexuality, and gendered values.

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An introduction to 'Stop all the Clocks'

An introduction to 'Stop all the clocks'

Article by:
Seamus Perry

'Funeral Blues', also known as 'Stop all the Clocks', is perhaps now most famous for its recitation in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, but its first audience encountered it as part of a play. Seamus Perry discusses the poem and its place in The Ascent of F6, co-authored by W H Auden and Christopher Isherwood.

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Musee des Beaux Arts', 'Their Lonely Betters' and 'Shield of Achilles'

'Musée des Beaux Arts', 'Their Lonely Betters' and 'The Shield of Achilles'

Article by:
John Sutherland

John Sutherland describes the life of W H Auden and takes a look at three of his poems.

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lullaby

An introduction to W H Auden's 'Lullaby'

Article by:
Roz Kaveney

W H Auden’s 'Lullaby' is an unconventional love poem, celebrating the impermanence and physicality of erotic – and implicitly homosexual – love. Roz Kaveney places the poem in the context of Auden’s life and times.

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Auden and song

Auden and song

Article by:
Valentine Cunningham

Auden loved all kinds of music, from opera and nursery rhymes to blues and Berlin cabaret. Here Valentine Cunningham explores Auden’s musical influences and considers how music helped to produce some of his most subversive work.

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An Introduction to Jamaica Inn

An introduction to Jamaica Inn

Article by:
Bidisha

Bidisha explores some of the themes and preoccupations of Jamaica Inn, from violence and the supernatural to love and desire.

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Nightmares, mirrors and possession in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca

Nightmares, mirrors and possession in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca

Article by:
Barbara C. Morden

Barbara Morden looks beyond the period detail and romantic conventions of Rebecca to uncover an archetypal story of female identity formation.

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Daphne du Maurier and the Gothic Tradition

Daphne du Maurier and the Gothic tradition

Article by:
Greg Buzwell

Greg Buzwell traces Daphne du Maurier’s use of Gothic themes, motifs and imagery, and shows how she was influenced both by earlier writers and by her deep connection with Cornwall.

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Animal Farm

An introduction to Animal Farm

Article by:
John Sutherland

George Orwell’s Animal Farm combines animal fable with political satire targeting Stalinist Russia. John Sutherland describes the novel’s genesis, its struggle to find a publisher, and its eventual success.

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Animal Farm

Animal Farm and the beast fable

Article by:
Mercedes Aguirre

Mercedes Aguirre explores how George Orwell rewrote the beast fable for the 20th century in Animal Farm.

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1984

Nineteen Eighty Four and the politics of dystopia

Article by:
Roger Luckhurst

Roger Luckhurst describes the political environment in which George Orwell wrote and published Nineteen Eighty-Four, and analyses its different – and often opposing – interpretations.

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An introduction to Down and Out in Paris and London

An introduction to Down and Out in Paris and London

Article by:
John Sutherland

John Sutherland describes the biographical and historical events that produced George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, which combines memoir with a study of poverty in two European cities in the late 1920s.

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Further themes

Art, music and popular culture

From riots at the ballet to punk rock fanzines, discover the music, art and popular culture that shook the world in the 20th century.

Capturing and creating the modern

Modernist writers broke new ground by experimenting with new forms and themes. From everyday life, perception and time to the kaleidoscopic and fractured nature of modern life, discover the ways in which these writers created and captured the modern.

European influence

From Paris to Moscow and from Berlin to Dublin, discover how European cities were crucibles for modernist experimentation.

Fantasy and fairy tale

From subversive fairy tales to gothic nightmares, explore how 20th-century writers used fantasy to analyse and question the real world around them.

Gender and sexuality

From Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and E M Forster’s Maurice to Sylvia Plath’s journals and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, discover how literature explored, questioned and exploded traditional ideas of gender roles and sexuality.

Literature 1900–1950

From The Waste Land to Ulysses and from Mrs Dalloway to Nineteen Eighty-Four, discover the seminal literary works of the early 20th century.

Literature 1950–2000

From The Bell Jar and Birthday Letters to High-Rise and The Buddha of Suburbia, explore key literary works of the late 20th century.

Power and conflict

From First World War poetry to works inspired by the Blitz and from futuristic dystopias to depictions of religious radicalism, see how war and conflict shaped 20th-century literature.

Visions of the future

From Orwell’s Ministry of Truth to Ballard’s crashed cars, see how 20th-century writers imagined the future, investigated the present and prepared for the unknown.