“Modernity and Modernism, 1900-1945” (1003-1013)
“The Dead”, James Joyce (1168-1200)
“The Garden of Forking Paths” (1335-1344)
Modernity was a jarring movement — a moment of profound disconnect with much of what had been the way of the world in the past. This had an impact on the form of the literature which emerged during this time, and also formed a central theme of that literature. What role does the past play in the present? Can we genuinely make meaningful choices about the future?
Both of the short stories you tackled for this week deal with time — “The Dead” with the past, “The Garden of Forking Paths” with possible futures. This week I’d like you to reflect on the form of these works, as well as on what they say about time — and how that reflects what you’ve read and heard about Modernism.
Here’s what to do:
Begin your post with your feelings on these stories. Did you like them? How did they make you feel or think? What stood out to you? Anything — just share your immediate reaction.
Then compare these works to Notes from Underground. In what ways do we see the concerns and style of the Realists carried forward in these Modern works? How do they break from that tradition. Try to identify at least one way in which they reflect a continuation of Realism, and one way in which they break from that movement.
Finally, address what each has to say about time. “The Dead” explores the past, its power over the present, the loss of that power as Ireland loses touch with its Irishness. Pay particular attention to Gabriel’s epiphany at the end — that is where it all comes together. “The Garden of Forking Paths” proposes a notion of time as consisting of infinite possibilities springing from infinite choices. What does the story ultimately say about choice — about our ability to change the flow of time, to take another path?
Note — I point you towards themes that are commonly associated with these stories in that last paragraph. But if you see something else these stories have to say about time, the past, the present, feel free to share that instead! Regardless of what you choose, you’ll again want to draw from the stories to support your analysis.