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UFES/CCHN/DLL/British Literature: from Modernism to the Contemporary Age Prof.

Mrio Cludio Simes Student: Andr Heitor Gomes Zabatiero EXERCISE 1 Read the following excerpt by contemporary writer David Lodge*. Modernist fiction, then, is experimental or innovatory in form, displaying marked deviations from preexisting modes of discourse, literary and non-literary. Modernist fiction is concerned with consciousness, and also with the subconscious and unconscious workings of the human mind. Hence the structure of external objective events essential to traditional narrative art is diminished in scope and scale, or presented very selectively or obliquely, or is almost completely dissolved, in order to make room for introspection, analysis, reflection and reverie. Modernist prose has no real beginning, since it plunges us into a flowing stream of experience with which we gradually familiarize ourselves by a process of inference and association; and its ending is usually open or ambiguous, leaving the reader in doubt as to the final destiny of the characters. To compensate for the diminution of narrative structure and unity, alternative methods of aesthetic ordering become more prominent, such as allusion to or imitation of literary models or mythical archetypes, and the repetition-with-variation of motifs, images, symbols []. Modernist fiction eschews the straight chronological ordering of its material, and the use of a reliable, omniscient and intrusive narrator. It employs, instead, either a single, limited point of view, or method of multiple points of view, all more or less limited and fallible: and it tends towards a fluid or complex handling of time, involving much cross-reference backwards and forwards across the chronological span of the action.
*Lodge, D. The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor, Metonymy, and the Typology of Modern Literature. London: Edward Arnold, 1993.

Now, analyze either Katherine Mansfields A Cup of Tea or Virginia Woolfs Solid Objects in the light of the excerpt above. Try to demonstrate how the short-story fits (or not) into the characteristics of Modern Prose described by David Lodge. The short story selected for analysis is Katherine Mansfields A Cup of Tea. This story begins with what seems to be a regular conversation, a person talking to the reader and even answering the reader questions in the first line No, you couldn't have called her beautiful. Pretty? Well, if you took her to pieces.... But that is not a real beginning, it does what Lodge describes as plunging us into a flowing stream of experience, there are no background descriptions, to introduction, only the descriptions and point of view being offered mostly from the narrator and Rosemary's voice. The aspect concerning the focus on consciousness, the subconscious and unconscious workings of the mind can be recognized by the several passages concerning emotions and mental processes, mainly from Rosemary and sometimes the girl, and the clear mental manipulation of Rosemary by her husband to get the girl out of there, using her childlike jealously instead of his marital authority.

Rosemary's world-view and childlike mentality are described by several expressions of cognition and affection, for example:Yes, she liked it very much, she loved it.;Rosemary admired the flowers.;Rosemary gave no sign.;Rosemary laughed out.; She decided...;She wanted to spare this poor little thing...; She saw a little battered creature with enormous eyes...; I hate lilac.. They are all simple descriptions, using simple verbs and expressions, of emotions and quick decisions not unlike the whims of a small child. Some examples of the girl's mental processes are The girl almost cried out.;...burst into tears showing surprise and maybe gratitude. Examples of the mental state of awareness and it's effects on the girl's emotions could be the girl gazed back at her and she felt how simple and kind her smile was. The narrator point of view is limited, there is no omniscience knowledge of the characters mind, past, reasons and beliefs. Everything that the reader gets from the narrator are the word, gestures and to some point the expressions and emotions from the characters colored with images and metaphors from this imperfect narrator. Just like a story being told by a regular person. Lodge recognize this limit view of the story as a modernist literature characteristic. The use of images and symbols mostly appears in the description of the characters such as Rosemary's description as young , brilliant , extremely modern, exquisitely well dressed, amazingly well read in the newest of the new books ... from with the reader can guess that she is a rich person, even a trophy wife, Her hat, really no bigger than a geranium petal, hung from a branch... is an example of the writer using metaphorical phrases while describing her hat, the author describing the girl also uses image to make the reader come to conclusions about the character, for example:...a light , frail creature with tangled hair, dark lips, deep lighted eyes,... and ...thin ,birdlike shoulders. that give an image of a weak, starving, undernourished person, confirmed later by the...poor little thing. expression. Lodge points out that modern endings are very open or ambiguous, leaving the author in doubt as to the final destiny of the characters. In this story the most obvious example of this is the fate of the girl. After Rosemary's fit of jealously the girl simply disappears! The matter of where she is going to the streets or to another house as a maid, what she is going to do afterwards, she is going to live, to die, to the prison... Everything unanswered and vague. The reader finish the story with lots of questions, like what rosemary is going to do now, what the husband is going to do later, etc.