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Jazz Age 101: Lost Generation


One of the most important eras of American history, the Jazz Age started after World War I and ended with the outbreak of the Great Depression in 1929. Nevertheless, this era offered new images and terms both literary and culturally in a wide spectrum. In this period, the United States went through a huge transition and began to prosper in music, literature, economy, policy, and technology. In 'The Roaring Twenties', known also as 'the Golden Age', divergent cultures gathered into one pot and shaped this period by their own essential qualifications. Effects of this age have been shaped the American culture dramatically and, still have been maintaining its importance. Hence, it is crucial to gain knowledge from the Jazz Age in order to understand American culture and literature. During each article, this series will cover the Jazz Age in terms of different backgrounds to enlarge readers' perspectives.

Jazz Age 101 is mainly divided into five chapters including:

  1. Jazz Age 101: A New Beginning

  2. Jazz Age 101: 1920s In America

  3. Jazz Age 101: Lost Generation

  4. Jazz Age 101: Harlem Renaissance

  5. Jazz Age 101: New Women

Jazz Age 101: Lost Generation

The term Lost Generation was titled on a bunch of group young American writers who lost their belief towards government, values, system, religion, and their own personalities after World War I. This term was shaped by Gertrude Stein during the conversation with Ernest Hemingway. As Hemingway credits in his 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises: ‘’You are all a lost generation.’’ (Hemingway,1). The main reason was based on the image of generation shattered by the effects of the war. Soldiers came back from war and found out a society that failed to understand or associate with the horrors of the war. Artists were also wounded by war not only physically, but also mentally. They were seeking a place far away from America and aiming to enjoy the rest of their lives idling around Europe.

[Ernest Hemingway in front of a bookshop in Paris]

The writers who lived in Paris fled from puritanical, dishonest America. In Europe, they recognized a sphere that was open to literary experiments. Craig Monk states: ''the American writers who spent time there between the World Wars embraced the city with an enthusiasm that only reaffirmed its mystique while bolstering their individual reputations'' (Monk, 182). Paris turned out to be a place that promoted their exploration for their own individuality by doing art. It was reckless towards the eccentricities of their art. Most significantly, it was cheap for them. Spending their money was not a huge burden to have an extravagant life in Paris.

Writers like Ernest Hemingway, E.E. Cummings, or John Dos Passos had been involved in the war as a member of European volunteer transport units or the Red Cross ambulance segment. Hence, they witnessed a sense of loss and disillusionment effect, and reflected these feelings about war in their writings. Thus, this feeling of loss paved the way for many writers to work and live in Paris to catch the lights of the era in Europe. As Susanne Kastberger mentions: ''Very quickly, Paris turned into the new literary and artistic center of the 1920s'' (Kastberger, 15). Artists turned their attention to Paris where their art could flourish independently. In a short time, Paris centred not only as the capital