"Make it new," insisted Ezra Pound, who is typically regarded as a member of the "Lost Generation" of American artists and writers who lived in Paris after World War I.
It's true that Pound and a handful of fellow Losts -- T.S. Eliot, Waldo Peirce, and Sylvia Beach, for example -- were born between 1884 and 1893, and are therefore members of the same generation. But famous Losts like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, and Malcolm Cowley are actually Hardboileds, while Lost Generation elders Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein (who coined the term) are members of the as-yet unnamed 1874-83 cohort. Like the Beat, Silent, and X Generations, then, there is no such thing as the Lost Generation.
Instead, let's call those Americans who were in their teens and 20s in the Nineteen-Oughts (1904-13; not to be confused with the 1900s), and in their 20s and 30s in the Nineteen-Teens (1914-23), the New Kids.
BRAINIAC'S GUIDE TO AMERICA'S RECENT GENERATIONS
Lost Generation The New Kids
Lost Generation Hardboiled Generation
The Greatest Generation Partisans
The Greatest Generation The New Gods
The Silent Generation Postmodernist Generation
The Silent Generation Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation
1944-53: Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers OGX (Original Generation X)
Generation X PC Generation
Generations X/Y Net Generation
Please credit Brainiac/Joshua Glenn whenever you use this guide. Got a beef with my periodization, or different generational name suggestions? Leave a comment on this post or email me. Born between 1954 and 1993 and still unsure about whether you're a Boomer, Xer, Yer, or Millennial? Here's a handy guide.
Why "New"? the generation of Americans whom I've dubbed the New Kids tended to agree with Pound: Humankind's cultural heritage should be mined for useful and beautiful artifacts, and these should be remade in a manner appropriate to modern times. Pound's Modernist program, like America's New Kids themselves, represented a queer, self-contradictory admixture of reactionary and anarchic impulses. Reactionary, because the New Kids agreed that contemporary (liberal) societies were deeply flawed; anarchic, because they rejected government, authority figures, rules and repression.
Why "Kids"? Disgusted by the world created by their elders, many New Kids looked to children -- who, as those of us who are parents realize, are both reactionary and anarchistic -- as exemplars. Randolph Bourne (b. 1886), a preeminent intellectual of the Teens, wrote constantly about the conflict between Youth and Age. The older generation ruled the world, he lamented, "hence grievous friction, maladjustment, social war." The root of social disorder, he insisted, was the destruction of freedom and spontaneity which was necessary to make children into adults. In Europe, both Ernst Bloch (1885) and Walter Benjamin (1892) argued that utopian socialism is nourished by the fairy tales and fantasies of childhood. And of course "dada," one of childhood's first words in every culture, became the moniker of a reactionary-anarchistic art movement.
Liberalism was regarded by the New Kids as a grown-up, all-too-grownup shibboleth. Illiberal New Kids in Europe and America alike were determined to retain their youthful illiberalism as they matured. In Zurich, the Cabaret Voltaire gave birth to Dada, whose founders and notable members -- Raoul Hausmann, Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Jean/Hans Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck, Arthur Cravan, Max Ernst, Georg Grosz, Hannah Höch, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Kurt Schwitters -- were all born between 1884-93. In England, D.H. Lawrence (1885) urged his friends to help him found an island commune, but to no avail; perhaps this was because his friends were either too old (E.M. Forster, Bertrand Russell) or too young (Aldous Huxley) to be New Kids. In America, meanwhile, New Kids like Floyd Dell, John Reed, Maxwell Bodenheim, and Eugene O'Neill formed an illiberal, non-repressive social order of sorts in New York's Greenwich Village.
Illiberalism is a right-wing as well as a left-wing phenomenon, one need hardly mention. Ezra Pound was an unrepentant fascist, and European New Kids include prominent fascists from Hitler to Heidegger. As Lionel Trilling would later point out in "The Liberal Imagination," it's difficult to find liberal ideas anywhere in modernist literature. Rejecting the myth of Progress, illiberal Modernists left- and right-wing alike preferred to dabble in mythopoeia, the creation of a new mythology based on motifs (e.g., birth/rebirth) and characters mined from existing mythologies; the term "mythopoeia," by the way, was coined by the European New Kid J.R.R. Tolkien.
European and American New Kids like Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Marc Chagall, Thomas Hart Benton, Milton Avery, Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau, and Alban Berg, meanwhile, were also busy mining the collective unconscious for the "clear essence" of impressions and mental images, which they expressed in the form of simple short-hand formulae and symbols -- hence the term Expressionism. Expressionists Anton Webern and Franz Kafka are honorary members of this cohort; while New Kids like horror writers H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Seabury Quinn, not to mention the American horror director James Whale, are (or ought to be, if you ask me) honorary Expressionists.
I should also mention that modern advertising -- an expressionist and mythopoetic endeavor -- was the handiwork of New Kids like Leo Burnett (1891), who singlehandedly gave us the Marlboro Man, the Jolly Green Giant, Charlie the Tuna, the Keebler Elves, Morris the Cat, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Tony the Tiger.
I could go on and on! The New Kids are a fascinating cohort of Americans. But after mentioning that most of the Algonquin Round Table (inc. Heywood Broun, Robert Benchley, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber, George S. Kaufman, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker, Harold W. Ross, and Alexander Woollcott); as well as The New Yorker's founding editor (Ross), and many of that magazine's notable early writers, and cartoonists (Woollcott, Benchley, Parker, James M. Cain, Janet Flanner, Charles Brackett, Helen Hokinson, and -- honorary New Kid -- James Thurber) were born between 1884 and 1893, I'll stop.
Meet the New Kids!
1884: Harry S. Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Damon Runyon, Norman Thomas, Waldo Peirce, Roger Nash Baldwin, Sara Teasdale. Elsewhere: Hugo Gernsback, Walter Huston, Emil Jannings, Max Brod, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Georges Duhamel, Gerald Gardner, Theodor Heuss, Bronislaw Malinowski, Amedeo Modigliani, Hideki Tojo, Max Beckmann, Marie Vassilieff, Hugh Walpole.
1885: Ezra Pound, Leadbelly, Sinclair Lewis, George S. Patton, Will Durant, Ring Lardner, Charles Merrill, Milton Avery, Theda Bara, Wallace Beery, Harry Blackstone, Hedda Hopper, Jerome Kern, Edna Ferber, Gabby Hayes, DuBose Heyward, Frances Parkinson Keyes, Billie Burke, Louis Untermeyer, Carl Van Doren. Elsewhere: D.H. Lawrence, Erich von Stroheim, Emmy Hennings, Louis B. Mayer, György Lukács, Ernst Bloch, Alban Berg, François Mauriac, Allan Dwan, Lionel Atwill, Niels Bohr, St. John Philby.
1886: Van Wyck Brooks, Randolph Bourne, Ma Rainey, H.D., Aldo Leopold, Ed Wynn, Margaret Anderson, Willis O'Brien, Clarence Birdseye, Ty Cobb, Henry King, Edward Everett Horton, Joyce Kilmer, Alain Locke, Fred Quimby, Charles Ruggles, Rex Stout, Edward Weston, Nell Brinkley. Elsewhere: Hugo Ball, Martin Heidegger, Al Jolson, Raoul Hausmann, Olaf Stapledon, Karl Korsch, Oskar Kokoschka, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jean/Hans Arp, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Diego Rivera, David Ben-Gurion, Michael Curtiz, Karl von Frisch, Frank Lloyd, Hugh Lofting, George Mallory, Kay Nielsen, Siegfried Sassoon, Charles Williams.
1887: John Reed, Sylvia Beach, Raoul Walsh, Robinson Jeffers, Chico Marx, Alexander Woollcott, Marianne Moore, Georgia O'Keeffe, Floyd Dell, George Abbott, Fatty Arbuckle, Ruth Benedict, Walter Connolly, Jim Thorpe, Jack Conway, John Cromwell, Norman Foerster, William Frawley, Conrad Hilton, Alvin York. Elsewhere: Marcel Duchamp, Juan Gris, Kurt Schwitters, Marc Chagall, Le Corbusier, Marcus Garvey, Arthur Cravan, Rupert Brooke, James Finlayson, Julian Huxley, Chiang Kai-Shek, Boris Karloff, Paul Lukas, Erwin Schrödinger, Edith Sitwell, Blaise Cendrars, Bernard Montgomery, Ernst Roehm.
1888: T.S. Eliot, Irving Berlin, Raymond Chandler, Eugene O'Neill, Harpo Marx, Maxwell Anderson, Beulah Bondi, Anita Loos, John Foster Dulles, Heywood Broun, Richard E. Byrd, Dale Carnegie, S.S. Van Dine, Joseph P. Kennedy, Robert Moses, Franklin Pangborn, John Crowe Ransom, Tris Speaker, Edgar Church. Elsewhere: Josef Albers, F.W. Murnau, Katherine Mansfield, Vicki Baum, Georges Bernanos, Nikolai Bukharin, Joyce Cary, Maurice Chevalier, Giorgio de Chirico, Barry Fitzgerald, T. E. Lawrence, Fernando Pessoa, Knute Rockne, Ernst Heinkel.
1889: Walter Lippmann, Thomas Hart Benton, Conrad Aiken, Seabury Quinn, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman, Ray Collins, W. S. Van Dyke, Waldo Frank, Erle Stanley Gardner, Alfred E. Green, Lambert Hillyer, Edwin Hubble, Shoeless Joe Jackson, William Keighley, Robert Z. Leonard, Donald MacBride, DeWitt and Lila Wallace. Elsewhere: Adolf Hitler, Charlie Chaplin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Hannah Höch, Jean Cocteau, Arnold Toynbee, James Whale, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Anna Akhmatova, R. G. Collingwood, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Gabriel Marcel, John Middleton Murry, Claude Rains.
1890: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Man Ray, H. P. Lovecraft, Groucho Marx, Frank Morgan, E. E. "Doc" Smith, Marc Connelly, Robert Armstrong, Edward Arnold, Robert L. Ripley, Clarence Brown, Jelly Roll Morton, Katherine Anne Porter, Frederick Lewis Allen, Edwin H. Armstrong, Birdman of Alcatraz, Conrad Richter, Eddie Rickenbacker, Colonel Sanders. Elsewhere: Fritz Lang, Charles de Gaulle, Ossip Zadkine, Egon Schiele, Ho Chi Minh, Karel Capek, Agatha Christie, Stan Laurel, Michael Collins, Naum Gabo, Vyacheslav Molotov, Aimee Semple McPherson, Claude McKay, Adolphe Menjou, Boris Pasternak, Jean Rhys.
1891: Henry Miller, Cole Porter, Fanny Brice, Leo Burnett, W. Averell Harriman, Zora Neale Hurston, George E. Marshall, Archie Mayo, Irving Pichel, Carl Stalling, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, Earl Warren. Elsewhere: Antonio Gramsci, Max Ernst, David Sarnoff, Otto Dix, Rudolf Carnap, Edward Bernays, Mikhail Bulgakov, Ronald Colman, Reginald Denny, Edmund Goulding, Pär Lagerkvist, Gene Lockhart, Osip Mandelshtam, Sergei Prokofiev, Erwin Rommel.
1892: Harold W. Ross, Grant Wood, James M. Cain, Janet Flanner, Maxwell Bodenheim, Oliver Hardy, Gummo Marx, Archibald Macleish, Charles Atlas, Djuna Barnes, William Powell, William Beaudine, Charles Brackett, Joe E. Brown, Pearl S. Buck, Eddie Cantor, William Demarest, Alfred A. Knopf, Gregory La Cava, Alfred Lunt, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Reinhold Niebuhr, Mary Pickford, Hal Roach, Frank Tuttle, Wendell Willkie. Elsewhere: Walter Benjamin, Ernst Lubitsch, Richard Huelsenbeck, J.R.R. Tolkien, Leo G. Carroll, J. Paul Getty Sr., Erwin Panofsky, Basil Rathbone, Haile Selassie, Manfred von Richthofen, Jack L. Warner, Rebecca West.
1893: Dorothy Parker, Lillian Gish, Anita Loos, William Moulton Marston, Helen Hokinson, Charles S. Johnson, Walter Francis White, Beatrice Wood, Clark Ashton Smith, Dean Acheson, Russel Crouse, Donald Davidson, Allen W. Dulles, Jimmy Durante, Edsel Ford, Harold Lloyd, Huey Long, John P. Marquand, Hattie McDaniel, Karl Menninger, Mae West. Elsewhere: George Grosz, Joan Miro, Hermann Goering, I. A. Richards, Chaim Soutine, Dorothy L. Sayers, Leslie Howard, Victor Gollancz, Alexander Korda, Karl Mannheim, Mao Zedong, Edward G. Robinson.
HONORARY MEMBERS OF THIS GENERATION: Franz Kafka, Anton Webern, Walter Gropius, Lon Chaney, Sr., Karl Jaspers (1883), Ben Hecht, Donald Ogden Stewart, James Thurber, Rudolf Hess (1894).
MEMBERS OF THIS COHORT WHO ARE HONORARY HARDBOILEDS: Anita Loos, Edward G. Robinson, Charles S. Johnson, Walter Francis White, Joan Miró (all born 1893), plus Zora Neale Hurston (1891, but claimed she was born in 1901)
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.