Discuss the intellectual aftermath of World War I. What were the changes that came about in the arts, and attitudes towards science and religion that influenced women and men?
The intellectual aftermath of World War I was a fundamental "shift" in how human beings saw the world and their place in it. In 1924, Virginia Woolf articulated this condition of being in the world: “All human relations shifted...and when human relations change there is at the same time a change in religion, conduct, politics, and literature.” Many of the attitudes articulated in the wake of World War I centered on this shift and the alienated condition of the individual. The horrors of World War I resulted in a human consciousness that was fundamentally removed from any notion of solidarity and unity. Forces such as capitalism and nationalism had conspired to move individuals into the most savage of conditions and commit the most brutal of actions towards one another. Elements that were seen as constituting order and unity were shown to be filled with disunity and fragmentation. This realization becomes one of the most significant intellectual aftermaths of World War I. The "shift" of which Woolf speaks fundamentally transformed the individual and their world. There was a stunning lack of trust within the individual about the world and their place in it.
The attitudes towards science and religion was reflective of this sense of disarray. Ezra Pound once wrote his views of society as “an old [b——] gone in the teeth . . . a botched civilization . . . two gross of broken statues . . . [and] a few thousand battered books.” The unity and coherence that was advocated in expressions like science and religion were not devoid of meaning as a result of World War I. Religious notions that advocated young man making the ultimate sacrifice in World War I rang hollow once the war had ended. Modernist thinkers could not embrace a notion of the divine that would so readily sacrifice young and old alike in the worst of conflicts. Science also no longer enjoyed a privileged position of unity and totality. The science that was coopted by the governments in World War I with its use of poison gas and advanced notions of destruction demonstrated the lack of meaning in science. It was seen as a branch of destruction, something that Modernist thinkers articulated with their own sense of mistrust and alienation. The attitudes of women and men emerging from World War I was a sense of mistrust about the "advances" of science and the "meaning" of religion.
James Joyce writes that “history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." This becomes the predominant belief that comes about in the intellectual aftermath of World War I. There is little in way of hope and redemption in such a condition. There might exist some notion of hope, but it certainly did not exist in socially sanctioned modes of thought as seen in science and religion. This becomes the intellectual legacy and aftermath after World War I, a world as intellectually scarred as any battlefield.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial