Social Conditions Affect Writing Essay, Research Paper
Social Conditions Affect Writing
by Anthony Meszaros
Advanced European societies can’t support long wars. That was thought prior to World War I. The truth was that the Europeans could not support a long war unchanged. The First World War left no aspect of European civilization untouched, as pre-war governments were transformed to fight total war. The war drastically changed Europe’s social conditions thus affecting the writing during this period.
During this time many movements shared a resolute “modernist” contempt for all academic styles in the arts, a hatred for a boundlessness culture, and a commitment to the free expression of individuals. All these feelings were given an additional jolt of violence and anger by the horrors of wartime experience. During the war there was a loss of illusions as described in “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. Poets, like others, had gone to war in 1914 believing in heroism and nobility. Trench warfare hardened and embittered many. Freud said this of disillusionment:
“When I speak of disillusionment, everyone will know at once what I mean. One need not be a sentimentalist; one may perceive the biological and psychological necessity for suffering in the economy of human life, and yet condemn war both in its means and ends and long for the cessation of all wars.”1
British poet, Wilfred Own, who was killed in 1918 was transformed from a young romantic into a powerful denouncer of those who had sent young men off to war. In “Dulce et Decorum Est” he mocked “the old lie” that it was good to die for one’s country, after giving a blood curdling description of a gassed soldier coughing out his lungs. The anger of the soldier-poets was directed against those who had sent them to the war, and not their enemy. The war experience did not produce new art forms or styles. It acted largely to make the harshest themes and the grimiest or most mocking forms of expression of pre-war intellectual life seem more appropriate, and to freeze experiments in opposition to the dominant values of contemporary Europe.
Dadaism was a literary and artistic movement reflecting a widespread protest against all aspects of Western culture, especially against militarism during Wold War I (1914-1918). Dada was initially manifested by a group of German artists who had gone to Zurich, Switzerland to escape the war. There were also many associated manifestations of Dada throughout the world, and particularly in New York.
Unlike the Italian Futurists who saw constant war as a means to create a culture that existed for art, the Dadaists proposed an anti-art movement that would destroy culture and therefore war. In the Cabaret Voltaire, a common hangout for pacifists and Bohemian’s of the day, Hugo Ball (1889-1926) invented a form of anti-poetry in 1916:
” I have invented a new genre of poems. Verse ohne Worte (poem
without words) or Lautgedicht (sound poems), in which the balance
of the vowels is weighted and distributed solely according to the
values of the beginning sentence. I gave a reading of the first one
of these poems this evening.” 2
H. Ball is often cited as the “inventor” of sound poetry. Along with Richard Huelsenbeck (1892-1974), Raoul Housmann (1861-1971), Triston Tzara (1896-1963), Marcel Janco (1895-1984). The Dadaist’s explored the simultaneist and bruitist poems at the Cabaret Voltaire. “l’Admiral Cherche une maison a louer” for example, was a simultaneist group poem performed by Ball, Huelsenbeck, Tzara, and Janco. All the performers participated at once with whistling, singing, speaking and making noises.
During the Dada movement (1916-23), many artists mocked old values and ridiculed stuffy bourgeois culture. During this time period not only was writing affected but art as well. Many artists displayed their views through their work. One of these artists was Alberto Giacometti who sculpted the “Invisible Object”. This sculpture was made to describe “a young girl with knees half bent as though offering herself to the beholder.” This sculpture was attacked in many ways from many people. The most powerful of whom being Andre Breton the “Pope of Surrealism”.
World War II had just about the same impact on society as the first World War had on Europe. With the come of Hitler and the Nazi’s not many Jewish writer’s were able to continue their work. Mainly because they were forced to Nazi concentration camps or killed. All their possessions burned or sold. There are very few accounts from the Jewish point of view during the war. But by far the most well known account of the war is that of the diary written by a Jewish teenager, who was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust. Anne Frank and her family, along with four others, spent 25 months during World War II in an annex of rooms above her father’s office in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Her diary, saved during the war by one of the family’s helpers, Miep Gies, was first published in 1947. Today, her diary has been translated into 55 languages and is one of the most widely read books in the world. Anne Frank’s diary has as well been attacked by Neo-Nazi groups questioning it’s authenticity, even though it has been proven that it was written by her.
During the 25 months Anne Frank and her family were hiding in the annex she often didn’t understand what was going on around her.
“…but the minute I was alone I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. I slid to the floor in my nightgown and began by saying my prayers, very fervently. Then I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried, all huddled up on the bare floor. A loud sob brought me back down to earth…”–April 5, 1944 3
Many people and forms of art have been affected through the course of both world wars. A war changes the mood and feeling of everyone within it’s environment. Therefore it’s only obvious that since mood is reflected within the artists compositions that it, in turn, will be affected also. Wether art be written on paper or painted on canvas, art is feeling, art is finding, and art is forever . . . Isn’t it?
Information of the Dada Movement
3 Anne Frank the Diary of a Young Girl
by Anne Frank, B. M. Mooyaart (Translator),
Eleanor Roosevelt (Introduction)