Motifs in Modern Literature – The Individual vs. The Collective

Motifs in Modern Literature – The Individual vs. The Collective

 

The Flatiron Building — Daniel Burnham, Architect

Overview

It is probably not possible to explain fully the impact of World War II on the artists and writers of that generation, particularly where the issue of the individual versus the collective is concerned.  The rise of prominent fascist dictatorships in western Europe — Hitler in Germany, Stalin in Russia,  Mussolini in Italy, and Franco in Spain — undermined Western Europe’s belief that the democratic legacy of Greece and Rome would forever the importance of the individual over the state.  Writers, artists, and philosophers reacted strongly, producing memorable works in which this essential, defining conflict was dramatized.

Modern Architecture – A Thumbnail Sketch

  • In order to understand The Fountainhead, it is extremely helpful to understand even a little bit about modern architecture.  To that end, I have prepared this Modern Architecture Powerpoint!

Background Reading

In order to understand the early modern poets, it is fairly important to read about the poets and poetic movements out of which they emerged.  I’ve referred you here to some helpful articles about some pivotal figures and movements that you really must read before we begin talking about how modern poetry diverged from them.

Note: Please be aware that these are Internet links and content may change.  If the links are no longer valid, please contact me to let me know as soon as possible.  As of this writing, all links are classroom-appropriate; however, if you find content on the sites has changed, please again inform me immediately.  Thanks!!

  • Please read W. H. Auden’s “The Unknown Citizen.”  Not one of Auden’s best, but it sets the tone well for this unit, I think.
  • Please see this fascinating YouTube video explaining the significance of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, a reaction to the bombing of the town of Guernica by the Nazis in 1937.

Texts

  • Please read  British writer George Orwell’s 1945 novella Animal Farm.
  • Please read American writer Ayn Rand’s 1943 novel The Fountainhead.  NOTE: We will be entering the annual essay contest for this novel.  First prize: $10,000!

Questions for The Fountainhead

Prereading Questions

  1. What is meant by the term “individual”?
  2. Does American society value the individual over the group?
  3. What is meant by the term “selfish”?
  4. What is meant by the term “selfless”?
  5. Which is more important: an individual, or a group?

Note: All of these questions are courtesy of the ARI Study Guide for this novel.

The Fountainhead Essay Contest

  • Every year, the Ayn Rand Institute holds an essay contest for The Fountainhead.  The top essay winner receives $10,000 — not bad for an English assignment, yes?  See essay topics and submission details here.

The Fountainhead Resources

  • In case you didn’t see this at the top of the page…
    In order to understand The Fountainhead, it is extremely helpful to understand even a little bit about modern architecture.  To that end, I have prepared this Modern Architecture Powerpoint!

     

  • OPTIONAL: See this page for an audio excerpt from chapter 1 of the novel.
  • OPTIONAL: See this page for a video course on the novel.
  • OPTIONAL: Helpful FAQ on The Fountainhead.

Resources for the Media-Minded

  • Please see this fascinating YouTube video explaining the significance of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, a reaction to the bombing of the town of Guernica by the Nazis in 1937.
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