John Betjeman and Modernism. An Analysis

Bachelor Thesis, 2015

30 Pages, Grade: 100





2: Modernist Literature and Poetry in Britain
2:1 Modernist Literature
2:2 Modernist poetry

3: John Betjeman
3:1 John Betjeman's life
3:2 Features of John Betjeman’s Literary works

4: Dairy of A church mouse
4:1 Dairy of A church mouse text
4:2 Critical analysis of the poem




I would like to express my sincere gratitude and my profuse thanks to my advisor Dr. Imad Ibrahim Alsaidy, Head of English department, for the continuous support, for his patience, motivation, and immense knowledge. His guidance helped me in all the time of research and writing of this work.

Ahmed M. Hashim


This research is about the English poet John Betjeman and the modernism movement. It discusses Modernism movement in the second chapter and its features both as a general movement and as a literary movement. It also exhibits examples of the great modernist writers and poets of that time.

Chapter three deals with one of the greatest British modernist poet, Sir. John Betjeman. It discusses his life and the important things that affected him and his poetry and then shifts to his unique literary style of writing poetry and prose. It exhibits pieces of the poet's work and analyzes them adequately and shows how the poet was influenced and inspired by certain people and factors.

In chapter four, we take one of his poems as an example to analyze. “Dairy of a Church mouse. ” We, then, critically analyze the poem showing Betjeman's religious point of view via a mouse in a church.

Finally, the conclusion which contains more information about Modernism movement, the poet John Betjeman and his literary form.

Chapter Two Modernist Literature and Poetry in Britain

2:1 Modernism in literature.

Modernism is a philosophical movement that existed from transformations and conflicts in Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Modernism was emerged by a series of cultural shocks. The first and the strongest cultural shock was the First World War which was totally associated with the modernist era. The First World War caused a great deal of horror. People were unable to imagine what the world was going to be. So, Modernism arose with the desire to change, to change the horrible and ruthless situation during the war as general modernism and to change the traditional modes of writing literature and to express new sensibilities as literary modernism.

Modernism, in general, was shaped by those who saw that the traditions of art, literature, philosophy and science were becoming ill-fitted. The poet Ezra Pound's maxim “make it new!” was the beginning point of the movement's approach towards the dead culture, norms, and traditions of the past. Modernism also rejected the certainty of the Enlightenment thinking and many modernists rejected the religious belief and adopted atheism.

The main features of modernism, as a general movement, are self-consciousness and irony concerning literary as well as social traditions. The clarity of modernism refused to accept the philosophy of realism and used the works of the past by the employment of reprise, rewriting and, recapitulation, reinvention and parody (Childs, p. 17). Some modernists saw that modernism a socially progressive trend of thoughts that emphasized the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape the environment with the aid of the practical experimentation, knowledge, and technology (Berman, p. 18). Other modernists saw modernism as an aesthetic introspection.

A bunch of philosophers, like Georg Lukacs, claimed that literary modernism had its origins back to the philosophy of Walter Benjamin, who was a German Jewish philosopher and cultural critic. Literary Modernism exhibited a great deal of cohesion and similarity in types and locals. In contrast with Romanticism, nature and the overarching structure of history were not the main concern of the modernists,. The Modernism in English literature was marked as the first and the strongest reaction against the Victorian norms and aesthetic, as a result, the breaks with the traditions of the past were the main fundamental constants of modernism. In modernist literature, the fullest advantage of the new notion of change and the spirit and motivation of making new things was given to the writers and poets, suggesting and stretching the potentials of their profession as modernist writers and poets (

Modernism, as a movement adopting the notion of making new things and change the old traditions and ways of thinking, has some distinctive features. These features are:

Fragmentation and Alienation

The most important and the most distinctive element in modernism was the sense of loss, the loss of civilization and connection with nature. The poets T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pounds expressed the subject of the loss of civilization in their poems. Yeats used the loss of connection with nature in his poem “The second coming ” when he wrote “The center cannot hold \ The falcon cannot hear the falconer.” Yeats was bemoaning that the connection between humanity and nature had been compromised. “ The second coming ” expressed that the relationships between man and women were suffering the same fate, leading to the collapse and destruction of all cities and towns in the world and eventually of civilization itself.

The Decline of Religion

Another important and distinctive element of Modernism was the decline of the religion. Many modernist writers created some kind of a new form of symbolism instead of traditional religions. Ezra Pound revived the ancient Greek poetry in his poem “The Cantos. ” James Joyce emphasized rejecting the importance of religious faith in his characters' lives. In Joyce's novel “Ulysses, ” Leopold Bloom was a nonpracticing Jew and Stephen Daedalus was a nonpracticing Catholic. Religion, at that time, was totally mocked and atheism arose, but modernism's main critique of religion was that religion was not strong enough to provide the foundation for civilization.

New Narrative Modes

Modernist writers performed new methods of narration and borrowed from the literary tradition. James Joyce's “Ulysses ” used what T.S. Eliot talked about as the “mythic method.” In this style of narration, the ancient distant past and the modern scene were presented simultaneously. In “Ulysses ” Leopold Bloom's traveling back to his wife Molly was identical to Odysseus returning back home to his wife, Penelope. Advances and discoveries in psychology also participated in the new methods of narration. For example, the stream of consciousness; readers were presented with the inner thoughts and ideas of the characters of the literary work. William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf were famous practitioners of that new writing style.

Rising Industrialism :

Author Upton Sinclair spent two months in Chicago's “Packingtown” to investigate how the workers in the meat-packing plants live. He found unhygienic conditions in 1906. His novel “The Jungle ” exhibited these unhygienic conditions as well as inequity, corruption, poor living and the horrible and merciless working conditions of those workers, compared to their wealthier bosses. “ The Jungle ” was symbolic which criticized the economic injustices that was like cancer to society at that time. The industrial society was associated with few laws which paved the way for ruthless bosses to profit from these practices.


As Modernism, in general, has some distinctive features, literary modernism enjoys also some features which are so explicit in the modernist literary works. These features are :

Individualism :

In modernist literary works, the individual was more important than society. Modernist writers were explained in their literary works how the individual adapted to changing world. Modernist literature glorified characters who triumphed over obstacles. Writers presented the world or society as a challenge to their integrity of their characters. For example, in Ernest Hemingway's novella “The old man and the sea ” the character of “Santiago” who triumphed over the obstacles in his life. Ernest Hemingway was famous for his characters who accepted their circumstances and worked to change the world.


Modernist writers rejected old forms and techniques. Modernist poets abandoned the traditional rhyme schemes and wrote in free verse. Novelist defied all expectations. Writers created some kind of mix between images from the past with modern languages and themes, creating new literary and poetic styles. Psychology had its space in Modernism too, the inner thoughts of consciousness were a common subject for the modernist writers. This effort of changing every traditional thing led to a form of narration called “stream of consciousness”, where the point of view of the novel is presented by a pattern that is similar to human thought. Authors like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, and poets like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, were all well-known for their experimental literary works.


The massacre of the two world wars deeply affected the writers of that period. Several English poets got killed or were wounded in the First World War. At the same time, global capitalism was getting strong and started to rearrange society to different levels according to their estate. The world was going to be a more absurd place so fast. Daily life and its rush were about to destroy and destruct the the mysteriousness of life. The ruthless violence of the First World War was an evidence that humanity had lost its innocence. Modernist authors and poets depicted this absurdity in their works. Franz Kafka's “The Metamorphosis, ” in which a traveling salesman was changed into an insect-like creature, is a good example of modern absurdism.


Modernist writers mixed objects, people, places and events with meanings. They redefined reality with multiple layers, many of these layers were hidden or in a sort of code. Modernist poets invented a new poetic style in which the poem was just like a riddle to be cracked. Symbolism was not a new concept in literature, however the modernists' use of symbols was like an innovation. They left a lot to the reader's imagination, leading to open-ended narratives with multiple interpretations. For example, James Joyce's “Ulysses ” had distinctive, open-ended symbols in each chapter.


Writers of the modernist period considered literature a craft rather than a flowering of creativity. They believed that poems and novels were made from smaller parts instead of internal process that earlier generations had described. The notion of literature as craft enriched the Modernists' desire for creativity and originality. Modernist poetry also borrowed foreign vocabulary from different foreign languages,like Greek and Latin. The poet E.E. Cummings, for example, abandoned all structure and spread his words all across the page (


Excerpt out of 30 pages


John Betjeman and Modernism. An Analysis
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
481 KB
John Betjeman, Modernism, Diary of a Church mouse
Quote paper
Ahmed M. Hashim (Author), 2015, John Betjeman and Modernism. An Analysis, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: John Betjeman and Modernism. An Analysis

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free