>Thomas Wolfe’s Modernism


Thomas Wolfe is a badass writer. Although he wrote Look Homeward, Angel at the height of the modernist movement, in 1928, he employs various postmodern techniques. For example, upon his birth he manages to remove some of the self-indulgence of writing a bildungsroman by asking the reader if you are familiar with what had happened during the course of history up until that moment.

He goes on to list a number of current, as well as ancient, events in order to both minimize the effect of his birth as another common circumstance, while aggrandizing it in a list of notable historical occurrences. In this series of postmodern paragraphs, he moves from second person to first and eventually back to third. The modernist techniques are most apparent when he attempts to probe different consciousnesses. He soon thereafter describes how he, as a little baby, thought:

“He had not even names for the objects around him: he probably defined them for himself by some jargon, reinforced by some mangling of the speech that roared about him, to which he listened intently day after day, realizing that his first escape must come through language.”

So now I plan my own escape, again, through language.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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