Encyclopedia of Literary Modernism

By Paul Poplawski | Go to book overview

W

Wales

Modernism in Wales took notably distinct forms in Welsh- and English-language culture. In the Welsh language, one of the predominant literary figures at the turn of the century was the poet T. Gwynn Jones, who occupies a place in the Welsh literary canon analogous to that occupied by Yeats in the Irish. Jones began his poetic career as an imaginatively lush symbolist, drawing heavily on Welsh mythology for his subject-matter. In later years, however, his work becomes increasingly satirical in tone, eschewing mellifluousness in favor of a deliberate harshness, indicating a loss of belief and even an existential despair which is not unreminiscent of the early Eliot. Two other major poets of the early decades of the twentieth century who broke away from the dominant, and somewhat turgid, romantic mode of nineteenth-century Welsh verse were T. H. Parry Williams and his cousin, R. Williams Parry. Neither of these two undoubtedly great poets can be identified as modernist in terms of their use of form or language; indeed, both excelled in the sonnet form which, though unusual in the Welsh tradition, can hardly be regarded as iconoclastic. Only the philosophical uncertainty and the often ambivalent attitudes displayed in their work mark them out as modern sensibilities.

Saunders Lewis and John Gwilym Jones are more immediately recognizable as modernist artists. Lewis was perhaps the most influential and certainly the most formidable Welsh literary talent of the century. As poet and playwright, Lewis forged a bold and distinctive style which commandeered traditional elements, such as myth and strict meter, to a fierce political purpose and a synthesizing catholic vision. John Gwilym Jones was a playwright of a quite different kind: the first to experiment with Brechtian alienation techniques in Welsh and the first to abandon naturalistic staging completely. His plays Hanes Rhyw Gymro (1964, The Story of a Welshman), Ac Eto Nid Myfi (1976, And Yet Not Me) and Yr Adduned (1979, The Promise) are considered to be his masterpieces; though these are clearly of fairly recent date, his first plays appeared as early as the 1930s. Jones was also a notable prose writer; his volume of stories entitled Y Goeden Eirin (1946, The Plum Tree) is generally regarded as the first example of the stream of consciousness technique in Welsh. Perhaps the most iconoclastic of all Welsh-language authors of the period, though, was Caradog Prichard, whose poetry began to appear in the 1920s but whose masterpiece, the novel Un Nos Ola’ Leuad (One Moonlit Night) was not published until 1961. Linguistically experimental, fragmented, poetic, dealing with taboo subjects such as madness, sexual abuse, and murder, this novel occupies a place in Welsh literature which can only be compared with that of Joyce’sUlysses in En-

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Encyclopedia of Literary Modernism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • A 1
  • B 15
  • C 36
  • D 67
  • E 87
  • F 102
  • G 157
  • H 169
  • I 191
  • J 206
  • K 221
  • L 223
  • M 246
  • N 275
  • O 282
  • P 293
  • R 342
  • S 369
  • T 417
  • U 434
  • V 439
  • W 442
  • Y 471
  • Selected Bibliography 477
  • Index 481
  • List of Contributors 511
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