The Roaring Twenties was a period of literary creativity, and works of several notable authors appeared during the period. D. H. Lawrence's novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover, was considered scandalous at the time because of its explicit descriptions of sex. American Modernism reached its peak in America between the 1920s and the 1940s. Celebrated Modernists include Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner, and while largely regarded as a romantic poet, Walt Whitman is sometimes regarded as a pioneer of the modernist era in America. The loss of self and the need for self-definition is a main characteristic of the era. American modernists echoed the mid-19th century focus on the attempt to "build a self"—a theme well illustrated in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Influenced by the first World War, American modernist writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, offered an insight into the psychological wounds and spiritual scars of the war experience.
Literature in the Roaring Twenties
The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a general feeling of discontinuity associated with modernity and a break with traditions. Everything seemed to be feasible through modern technology. New technologies, especially automobiles, moving pictures, and radio proliferated 'modernity' to a large part of the population. Formal decorative frills were shed in favor of practicality in both daily life and architecture. At the same time, jazz and dancing rose in popularity, in opposition to the specter of World War I. As such, the period is also often referred to as the Jazz Age.
Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is often described as the epitome of the "Jazz Age" in American literature. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque recounts the horrors of World War I and also the deep detachment from German civilian life felt by many men returning from the front. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays the lives and morality of post–World War I youth. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway is about a group of expatriate Americans in Europe during the 1920s.
The Harlem Renaissance was known as the "New Negro Movement," named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke. Though it was centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, many French-speaking black writers from African and Caribbean colonies who lived in Paris were also influenced by the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance spanned from about 1919 until the early or mid 1930s. Many of its ideas lived on much longer. The zenith of this "flowering of Negro literature," as James Weldon Johnson preferred to call the Harlem Renaissance, was placed between 1924 (the year that Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life hosted a party for black writers where many white publishers were in attendance) and 1929 (the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression).
The modernist period also brought changes to the portrayal of gender roles, and especially to women's roles in society. It is an era under the sign of emancipation and change in society, issues which reflect themselves in the literature of the period, as well. The Great Gatsby, for example, deals with such topics as gender interaction in a mundane society.