The Lost Generation
Whether they came before the war, discovered it on active duty, or were drawn to it by the hedonism and headiness of its salon and cafÃÂ© society, the expatriated writers of post WWI Paris hold a prominent place in the history of American literature. Described by Gertrude Stein in the epigraph to Earnest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises as "a lost generation," the intellectuals, poets, and novelists who rejected the social and political conservatism of the 1920's America to revel in the less restrictive morality of post WWI Europe created a bohemian enclave. A counterculture flourished as the devalued French currency made for a favorable exchange rare against the American dollar, and with the lower cost of living came inexpensive printing. The openness of publishers gave choice to the young, unknown, and experimentalist writers who would become the architects of modernism. The absence of Victorian morale and structures, which so dominated the literature of previous decades, is indicative of the modern movement.
In expressing themes of spiritual alienation, self-exile, and cultural criticism, the lost generation has left a distinct mark on intellectual history. Modernist literary innovations challenged traditional assumptions about writing. Employing style, form and meaning as a whole to illustrate the problems of modern life, Stein and Hemingway are the earliest and perhaps most influential writers in the development of modern American fiction. For Stein and Hemingway, structure was as equally important as content, and the two were inseparable.
One of the most celebrated expatriates of her time, Stein once remarked that she had found in Paris the freedom and privacy to write and live as she pleased. Conservative in their habits, Stein and her longtime companion, Alice B. Toklas lived the life of a modestly comfortable bourgeois couple, entertaining their friends and acquaintances, many of...