20th Century Literature, Best Critical

Week 8: Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield

1. Write a letter to Virginia Woolf telling her how much you like her ideas about writing a kind of fiction completely unconstrained by the rules of the past. Use the last paragraph on page 2151 and over to 2152 as your reference point. 

Dear Virginia Woolf,

I strongly agree with your ideas about writing a kind of fiction that is completely unconstrained by the rules of the past. You state that “the writer seems constrained, not by his own free will but by some powerful and unscrupulous tyrant who has him in his thrall, to provide a plot, to provide comedy, tragedy, love interest, and an air of probability embalming the whole so impeccable that if all his figures were to come to life they would find themselves dressed down to the last button of their coat in the fashion of the hour.”  As someone who reads a lot and have done my entire life, I often feel that this is the case in many novels today; it often seems as though certain aspects of a plot are added in for the sole purpose of ticking a box before being forgotten about. I remember when I was in school and had to partake in creative writing; in the beginning, I wrote exactly what I wanted to but it was always returned to be redone until I had included all these specific ideas and topics. I found that not only was I not writing what I had originally wanted to, but I was sometimes found myself writing things I did not agree with, believe or even envision for the story or character. Having continued to write like this for years during my schooling, I lost interest in it as I often found myself questioning what the point of writing was if I was unable to say what I wanted and was just ticking off boxes as I followed everyone else’s expectations rather than my own.

The more authors follow these constraints and rules, the more their stories and ideas “cease to resemble the vision in their minds”. I believe that when writing in any form, especially that of fiction, you should follow your visions and interests rather than those pre-constructed ideas and constraints, because otherwise, how will writing move forward and develop? And how will we be able to write what we believe, and think, and feel when these each vary from person to person.

Kind regards,



Featured Image Source: https://blogs.shrewsbury.ac.th/english/files/2012/05/cropped-banner112.jpg

20th Century Literature

Week 7: T.S Eliot, Literary Modernism, and The Quest For Meaning

2/ Describe the Picasso painting above. In other words paint his picture IN WORDS. Say briefly what makes it “modernist”.


Painted in 1956, Pablo Picasso’s painting above depicts a nude woman in a rocking chair.

The woman is painted white her body contorted and each part outlined in black; faceless with mismatched body parts. She is seated in a chair with brown spirals that look like horns rather than typical straight chair legs, showing that it is a rocking chair. The back of the chair is green but has a yellow pattern on it to show that it is not part of the wall.

The background is made up of black, green and yellow with a bright red floor, making the woman in the chair stand out as the main focus of the image. The plain colours as the background with a white square featuring a rough image of a blue palm tree show through a ‘window’ demonstrates a unique, modernistic perspective rather than a realistic one. Due to this lack of realistic perspective, the chair looks as though it blends into the wall; personally, if it did not have the pattern on the back of the chair, I would have believed it to be part of the wall.

I believe the painting is “modernist” as it is in bright bold colours, the woman is contorted rather than realistic and the painting lacks depth and perspective. It is not like a traditional and/or realistic painting you often see.


Image Source: https://michaelgriffith1.com/2016/09/10/t-s-eliot-literary-modernism-and-the-quest-for-meaning/

20th Century Literature

Week 6: Manifesto & Modernism

2. Write a BLOG TOPIC that records the work in the gallery that left the deepest impression on you. Can you describe the work in detail and say why it left that impression on you?

Lucian Freud’s ‘And The Bridegroom’, oil on canvas, 1993

During our visit to the Art Gallery of NSW, the artwork that left the deepest impression on me was Lucian Freud’s ‘And the bridegroom’. Freud states “I paint people not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be”.

In this painting, we can see two people that the blurb states are Leigh Bowery and Nicola Bateman. The blurb also tells us that Bowery is a performance artist and Bateman is his collaborator, seamstress and later also became his wife, but this is the extent of information we are given in regards to who these people are and what they are like.

Instead, we are able to focus entirely on how they happen to be in this moment in 1993, when the painting was created.

The couple sleep peacefully, looking comfortable with one another as they sleep nude, side by side. While she slightly leans back against him with her feet on his leg, we get the feeling that not only is there some kind of love towards one another but there is also some form of intimacy between them. The image seems so natural and realistic that it does not come across as posed, but rather as a couple in their natural state. As a result of this, especially when combined with the nakedness and intimacy portrayed in the painting, we feel as though we are intruding.


Featured Image Source: http://www.armoryonpark.org/programs_events/detail/manifesto

20th Century Literature

Week 5: All Quiet On The Western Front

1. Have a conversation with Paul Baumer. Respond to the italicised words printed above. Can you agree with him? Or do you think he is cynical and hypercritical.

They just talk too much. They have problems, goals, desires that I can’t see in the same way as they do. Sometimes I sit with one of them in the little garden of the pub and try to get the point across that this is everything – just sitting in the quiet. Of course they understand, they agree, they think the same way, but it’s only talk, only talk, that’s the point- they do feel it, but always only with half of their being, a part of them is always thinking of something else. They are so fragmented, no one feels it with his whole life; anyway, it is impossible for me to put what I mean into proper words. 

(p117, Chapter 7, Vintage Books, translated by Brian Murdoch)

Paul, I understand what you’re saying and where you’re coming from. When you experience such things that are so life changing and completely different to the experiences of other people it is almost impossible to explain to them.

They may think the same and you say that they do feel it, but they can’t comprehend it much further than this as it is only with half of their being. A part of them will always be thinking about something else as they haven’t had these experiences that have shaped their lives the way yours has been.

They live their lives working at their jobs and going home to their families; living in their own little bubble. They aren’t spending every inch of their waking moments in a life or death situation and they don’t spend every second of every day unsure as to if it will be their last.

You can’t see things in the way they do because you have seen things in a different way. You have seen the reality of situations and have learnt to live a life differently to them and the way you used to. You are a changed man; you have further insight and knowledge to what they do, this is why you struggle to connect with them.


Image Source: Blu-Ray,. “Paul Baumer”. 2015, http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/All-Quiet-on-the-Western-Front-Blu-ray/129282/.