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10-08-2015, 22:41


Ever since James Joyce at the beginning of the twentieth century, Western authors have been searching for new literary means of expressing the complexities of modern life. Their often radical experiments culminated in the years after World War II. In this process, American literature has followed its own independent path, led by two authors, William Faulkner (1897–1962) and Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961). Although both wrote masterpieces before the war, they continued to write important works in the 1950s and influenced subsequent generations of authors with their unique styles. Under the impact of these two masters, postwar writing in the United States omitted authorial explanation and commentary and made its point by suggestion rather than assertion, by prying coherence and meaning from the text. Faulkner’s world was the Old South. Admired for their stylistic innovations regarding chronology and inner monologue, Faulkner’s novels chronicled the history of an imaginary county in Mississippi from its early settlers to his own day. In novels such as The Sound and the Fury (1929), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), and Intruder in the Dust (1948), he expressed his outrage at the moral decay of the modern-day South and its failure to solve its social problems. Hemingway’s world was that of the American expatriate, roaming the world to find purpose and identity in a larger global culture. Using his patented laconic style (he once explained his stripped-down prose by referring to the principle of an iceberg, that “there is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows”), his works—including The Sun Also Rises (1926), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), and The Old Man and the Sea (1952)—explored the psychological meaning of masculinity under the pressures of different aspects of modern life. Injured in a plane crash on safari in Africa, he committed suicide in 1961. Fictional writing in the 1960s reflected growing concerns about the materialism and superficiality of American culture and often took the form of exuberant and comic verbal fantasies. As the decade intensified with the pain of the Vietnam War and the ensuing social and political turmoil, authors turned to satire, using “black humor” and cruelty, hoping to shock the American public into a recognition of its social ills. Many of these novels—such as Thomas Pynchon’s V (1953), Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961), and John Barth’s Sotweed Factor (1961)—were wildly imaginative, highly entertaining, and very different from the writing of the first half of the century, which had detailed the “real” daily lives of small-town or big-city America. In the 1970s and 1980s, American fiction relinquished the extravagant verbal displays of the 1960s, returning to a more sober exposition of social problems, this time related to race, gender, and sexual orientation. Much of the best fiction explored the moral dimensions of contemporary life from Jewish, African American, feminist, or gay perspectives. Some outstanding women’s fiction was written by foreign- born writers from Asia and Latin America, who examined the problems of immigrants, such as cultural identity and assimilation into the American mainstream. Postwar writing in Latin America has been equally vibrant. Nobel Prize –winning writers such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel García Márquez, José Luis Borges, and Carlos Fuentes are among the most respected literary names of the postwar half century. These authors often use dazzling language and daring narrative experimentation to make their point. Master of this new style is Gabriel García Márquez (b. 1938), from Colombia. In One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), he explores the transformation of a small town under the impact of political violence, industrialization, and the arrival of a U.S. banana company. Especially noteworthy is his use of magical realism, relating the outrageous events that assail the town in a matter-of-fact voice, thus transforming the fantastic into the commonplace. Unlike novelists in the United States and Western Europe, who tend to focus their attention on the interior landscape within the modern personality in an industrial society, fiction writers in Latin America, like their counterparts in Africa and much of Asia, have sought to project an underlying political message. Many have been inspired by a sense of social and political injustice, a consequence of the economic inequality and authoritarian politics that marked the local scene throughout much of the twentieth century. Some, like the Peruvian José Maria Arguedas, have championed the cause of the Amerindian and lauded the diversity that marks the ethnic mix throughout the continent. Others have run for high political office as a means of remedying social problems. Some have been women, reflecting the rising demand for sexual equality in a society traditionally marked by male domination. The memorable phrase of the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral—“I have chewed stones with woman’s gums”—encapsulates the plight of Latin American women. blues, rock, rap, and hip-hop have been the most popular music forms in the Western world—and much of the non-Western world—during this time. All of them originated in the United States, and all are rooted in African American musical innovations. These forms later spread to the rest of the world, inspiring local artists, who then transformed the music in their own way. In the postwar years, sports became a major product of both popular culture and the leisure industry. The development of satellite television and various electronic breakthroughs helped make spectator sports a global phenomenon. The Olympic Games could now be broadcast around the world from anywhere on earth. Sports became a cheap form of entertainment for consumers, as fans did not have to leave their homes to enjoy athletic competitions. In fact, some sports organizations initially resisted television, fearing that it would hurt ticket sales. However, the tremendous revenues possible from television contracts overcame this hesitation. As sports television revenue escalated, many sports came to receive the bulk of their yearly revenue from broadcasting contracts. Sports became big politics as well as big business. Politicization was one of the most significant trends in sports during the second half of the twentieth century. Football (soccer) remains the dominant world sport and more than ever has become a vehicle for nationalist sentiment and expression. The World Cup is the most watched event on television. Although the sport can be a positive outlet for national and local pride, all too often it has been marred by violence as nationalistic fervor has overcome rational behavior.