What Is the Lost Generation
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In the post WWI years of the United States, the artistic world witnessed a phenomenon where by Americas “best and brightest” writers, musicians, and artists flocked to Europe in record numbers. “In one of his earliest dispatches from Paris in 1922, Ernest Hemingway declared: The scum of Greenwich Village, New York, has been skimmed off and deposited in large ladlesful on that section of Paris adjacent to the CafÐ¹ Rotonde” (“Expatriates (1920s)”).
In Hemingways The Sun Also Rises, he credits Gertrude Stein with coining the term “The Lost Generation” by way of an epigraph to the novel (“Lost Generation”). While Stein was also an accomplished writer worthy of literary criticism, her Paris Salons and the influence she had on the writers of the time period prove far more interesting. “The assemblage of the eras most avant-garde writers, artists, and musicians, and their sharing of theory and practice, was an important force in the formation of modernism” (“Stein Holds Her First Paris Salons”). But why were these people so drawn to Paris, what made them leave America? Malcolm Cowley, an American Literary critic and social historian who became close to Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and other writers from the Lost Generation, “suggested that a distaste for the grandiose and sentimental languages of the patriotic manifestos of the war gave [the expatriates] a common standpoint,” and Stein gave them an environment in which they could flourish (“Lost Generation”).
The most notable of the Lost Generation writers have come to define literature of the time period: F. Scott Fitzgerald, whos masterpiece The Great Gatsby defines romanticism in the 1920s; Ernest Hemingway, whos work “described the antics of disillusioned American Expatriatesbent on discovering some new values that could make like worth living,”; and John Dos Passos, whos work was a springboard for the modernist movement of the 1930s (“The Underside of Prosperity”). Other Lost Generation greats include e.e. cummings, Hart Crane, William Faulkner, and Thomas Wolfe.
A common misconception is that the Lost Generation refers only to writers of the period. In reality, the group consisted of many artistically inclined individuals. Famous composers like Aaron Copland and Cole Porter made their debuts in Paris, as well as painters, such as Pablo Picasso and Man Ray. For each artistic group, there was a contemporary for them to study under. For composers, Nadia Boulanger lent her expertise. Painters studied under Natalia Goncharova. There was a cadre of influential people for writers to encourage their success: Gertrude Stein, of course; Ezra Pound, an American critic; Sylvia Beach, proprietor of Shakespeare and Company; as well as T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and many others.
Whether it was World War I or some sort of inevitable move toward modernism that would have happened without the war as a catalyst, the expatriates of the 1920s, the so called “Lost Generation,”