The Making of Americans

by Pericles Lewis Gertrude Stein’s mammoth Making of Americans (1925) is the story of “the old people in a new world, the new people made out of the old.” Like much of her pre-war work, The Making of Americans makes use of patterns of repetition and variation at the sentence level. Stein here uses a… Continue Reading The Making of Americans

Six Characters in Search of an Author

by Pericles Lewis When the lights come up on Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921), the first thing the audience sees is a bare stage, with no scenery and only a few folding tables and chairs scattered about. A stage-hand is starting to build a set, but the stage manager interrupts… Continue Reading Six Characters in Search of an Author

The Joy of Life

By Pericles Lewis   Like the poet W. B. Yeats, the painter Henri Matisse found in dance and dancers a source of inspiration for his work, which sought to achieve rhythmic effects similar to those of the dance, as in Joy of Life (“Le Bonheur de vivre”; 1905–6). Here, the joy of lovemaking, piping, and… Continue Reading The Joy of Life

The Futurist Manifesto

by Pericles Lewis In the “Futurist Manifesto” (1909), the leader and publicist of the Italian futurists, F.T. Marinetti, showed a characteristic interest in anything fast or lethal: racing cars, trains, automobiles, airplanes, machine guns, tanks. He writes, for example, that “A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a… Continue Reading The Futurist Manifesto

Un coup de dés

In 1897, the leading symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé published A Throw of the Dice (Un coup de dés), which used typography and the spacing of words on the page as elements in the structure of the poem and abandoned regular meter altogether. For most readers, the result verged on the incomprehensible. Unlike Charles Baudelaire, who… Continue Reading Un coup de dés

King Ubu

by Pericles Lewis Alfred Jarry’s King Ubu was the first modern play in a theatricalist avant-garde tradition that deliberately called attention to the artificiality of theatrical conventions, in order to celebrate them. At its first performance, in Paris, on December 10, 1896, the audience broke into factions after the main character, Father Ubu, uttered the… Continue Reading King Ubu

Hedda Gabler

by Pericles Lewis Hedda Gabler (1890) is the last of Henrik Ibsen’s realist plays, published at the height of his fame and performed all across Europe in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Even at this point in his career, Ibsen shows the influence of two popular dramatic forms of the nineteenth century, melodrama… Continue Reading Hedda Gabler

Henrik Ibsen

by Pericles Lewis The Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) created modern realistic drama out of elements of the popular nineteenth-century forms of the melodrama and the “well-made play.” Although his first European successes occurred with his romantic verse dramas of the 1860s, Ibsen’s great influence on the English stage began with A Doll’s House. The… Continue Reading Henrik Ibsen

Sentimental Education

In Sentimental Education (1869), Gustave Flaubert brilliantly describes the revolution of 1848, in which Napoleon III (nephew of the first Napoleon) established himself as emperor in a coup d’état, later confirmed by popular plebiscite. Flaubert the revolution from the point of view of an unsuccessful would-be writer, who misses most of the political action because he… Continue Reading Sentimental Education

Madame Bovary

by Pericles Lewis Gustave Flaubert‘s Madame Bovary (1856) is the story of a bored housewife who has two extra-marital affairs but finds adultery almost as disappointing as marriage. The novel exemplifies the tendency of realism, over the course of the nineteenth century, to become increasingly psychological, concerned with the accurate representation of thoughts and emotions… Continue Reading Madame Bovary