After World War I America replaced Britain and France as the strongest cultural force in the world. The shift resulted not only from America's financial power but from Europe's war casualties. Britain and France, as well as Germany, lost millions of their young men on the battlefields. Britain lost fifty thousand men on the first morning of the Somme battle in 1916. America's war losses were small in comparison to the slaughters of Ypres, the Marne, Passchendaele, Verdun, the Somme, and Gallipoli.
The development of American arts in the 1920s represented the confluence of two currents: 1) European influence; 2) indigenous materials and forms of expression. Before 1920 American high culture imitated European models, and there was the reiterated lament that it was impossible for an American artist to function in America. This complaint was more frequently applied to painting, sculpture, and music than to literature. Henry James (1843-1916) spent most of his literary life abroad writing Europeanized novels. Although Mark Twain (1835—1910) went to Europe as a visitor, his work remained rooted in America. When he wrote about his travels, Mark Twain wrote from the American perspective. Painter James Whistler (1834-1903) went abroad in 1855 and stayed there. Stephen Crane (1871-1900) moved to England to distance...
(The entire section is 1583 words.)
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