The Age of Uncertainty: How the World Wars Forever Altered Literature and the Arts
How did the extreme circumstances of The Age of Uncertainty impact the literature of the times? English author Virginia Woolf once commented that before the war and the years spent gearing up for it, literature was optimistic, dealing with subjects like hopeful love and cheerful Sunday afternoon gatherings. While certainly not all pre-war literature was cheerful, the art of the Age of Uncertainty reflected a far more frequent sense of disenchantment and despair, frustration and cynicism, paralysis and inertia (all the good things wrapped up in one!). Resolutions were replaced by irresolutions, and by a sense of uncertainty about the future. In addition to the disillusioned tone that permeated the arts came a movement away from structure and form. Examples would be the fractured images of Cubism, the discordant and syncopated music of Stravinsky, and the shift from ballet, with its requirement that female dancers wear their hair in buns so as not to "break" the dancer's line, to modern dance, with its more jagged motions. The reason for this shift? With three dictators in place – Hitler in Germany and Austria, Mussolini in Italy, and Franco in Spain – artists came to view structure, even in their art, as another form of tyranny from which to free themselves and their audiences.
Keywords: Age of Uncertainty
Prof. Jennifer Arin
Lecturer in English, San Francisco State University