The Hostage and The Blind Owl as Modernist Novels

The Hostage and The Blind Owl as Modernist Novels

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With the transition to the twentieth century, the world became a much more urbanized, industrialized, volatile, unstable place. Modernist literature often reflects

these sensibilities: dislocation, alienation, rootlessness, loneliness, the collapse of familiar structures, subjective experiences and a variety of individual

perspectives rather than an objective reality or universal truth. This is very different from previous literary traditions, which tended to emphasize the reintegration

of the individual into society and the reaffirmation of social, religious, or moral structures. In addition, modernist literature proposed the idea that the real hero

is a regular person—an antihero—as opposed to older literary traditions, where the main characters are often people of special status or importance: brave men, kings

and princes, adventurers and warriors, etc. Contrary to the larger-than-life heroes of the classic tragedy, the epic narrative, the adventure novel, the action movie,

and other familiar formulas, the narrators of The Hostage and The Blind Owl are small, unimportant, largely introspective, mostly passive main characters. In keeping

with modernist aesthetics, most of the action in these novels is internal, not external. We follow primarily the minds of the main characters—their dreams, desires,

nightmares, emotions, psychological mechanisms—rather than outside events. Also in keeping with modernist aesthetics, these novels deliberately avoid clarity,

linearity, cohesion, conclusions, resolutions, a straightforward sense of direction, unequivocal information, and all the other elements of fiction that teachers of

creative writing often tell us we must make sure our work contains if we ever want to get it published and win the hearts of prospective clients.

How would you discuss The Hostage and The Blind Owl as modernist novels? How would you wrestle with the tension between the inherent ambiguity of these texts and the

type of accurate analysis that we expect from ourselves as literary scholars? In other words, how would you address uncertainty and confusion in these novels while

engaging in a close reading? For example, how would you discuss the political aspects of The Hostage while acknowledging the fact that both the main character and the

reader are kept, for the most part, in the dark? How would you resolve the numerous mysteries in The Blind Owl while registering as many options as possible? How would

you examine these novels from multiple points of view?

Respond to these questions in the form of an articulate essay. Demonstrate a close familiarity with the texts. Make references to specific events, characters,

narrative strategies, and other textual components. Feel free to use Michael Beard. Do not use other outside sources.

Make sure to read The blind owl by Sadegh Hedayat
and The hostage by Zayd Mutee’ Dammaj


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