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American Expatriates in Europe

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 2 months ago

American Expatriates in Europe: The Lost Generation

Created by Abigail Andrews
Table of Contents
I.     Background
II.    Gertrude Stein
III.   F. Scott Fitzgerald
IV.   Ernest Hemingway
V.    Works Cited
VI.   Further Reading
I.     Background 
During the 1920s, a group of American expatriate authors became quite prominent members of the European literary scene. Most notable amongst this group were Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Dos Passos. Although Stein invented the phrase "lost generation," Hemingway made it his own in the preface to The Sun Also Rises. In their writing, both Stein and Hemingway used the term to characterize their generation.  According to these authors, World War I had shattered people's values and thus left them with a sense of alienation. Through the plot of and characterization within The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway develops the feeling of despondency and alienation. The main character is a veteran soldier whose depression results from the psychological and physical injuries which he endured during the war. He himself had been wounded and felt that his family and friends did not completely understand how his experiences had transformed his life.  The discouragement felt by many during this traumatic period following World War I is often referred to as postwar disillusionment. A majority of the expatriates, as well as other disillusioned authors, expressed their frustrations through their writing.
Most of the expatriates congregated in Paris, France where they lived for several weeks, months, years, or even for the rest of their lives. During the 1920s, Paris was a bustling cosmopolitan hub where a rich history converged with a blossoming artistic community. It was considered to be the cultural capital of the early twentieth century. Attracted by this atmosphere, the expatriates settled in Paris hoping to establish their literary identities and find a market for their work. Nevertheless, each author found a varying degree of success while living and writing in Paris.  F. Scott Fitzgerald, as compared to his friend and fellow author Ernest Hemingway, was much less productive in the mid-1920s. 
Each author had different, specific reasons for leaving America. Many left because of their disagreement with American policies enacted after World War I. They protested the "wealth and complacency" which was exhibited by many Americans (Cowley 236). Additionally, writers lamented the lack of adventure and excitement in their lives after a war which had "immensely widened their horizons [and] sharpened their enjoyment of life by the real or imagined nearness of death" and then suddenly ended (235). This restlessness led them to seek new experiences in cities such as Paris. Many writers also thought that they could reduce their expenses by living in Paris, since life in France was less expensive than in America. A large literary community existed in Paris, which boasted publishers, bookshops, and eager audiences (Fitch 163). Many of the expatriate writers paid homage to and became friends with Stein, Pound, and T.S. Eliot (Earnest 251). Furthermore, the French had different moral standards than those held by the Americans in the years after the war. This generation of writers decided to "revolt against American puritanism" and traditional middle class values (252). For instance, Hemingway was annoyed by American prohibition. The French also held more liberal ideas concerning sexuality and were not disturbed by the illicit love affairs in which many expatriates were engaged. In general, the expatriates of the Lost Generation were "dissatisfied with American civilization" (253). As Earnest explains, "[n]ever before had the expatriates tried so hard to shake off the dust of their native land; yet perhaps no group of expatriates were so thoroughly American" (274). A specific example of a writer who chose to move to Paris is Ezra Pound. His decision was a quest for purpose, belonging, and appreciation which he could not find in America. Although the expatriate authors had their own personal, unique reasons for relocating, dissatisfaction with America was the underlying, universal cause which motivated them to depart from their homeland.
Two literary magazines of that time, The Little Review and The Dial, published many pieces written by the expatriates.  For example, The Little Review printed a portion of James Joyce's novel Ulysses in a series of installments (Earnest 252). Since many publishers were not willing to print the work of relatively unknown and unconventional authors and poets, the expatriates were forced to establish their own presses in Paris. The most well-known company was Robert McAlmon's Contact Publishing Company (257). One of the centers of expatriate life was Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Company bookstore, opened in 1919. 
                 The members of the Lost Generation became associated with the modernist period not only because of their work, but also their rejection of American values and culture. While some American authors considered the country's problems through the writing of distinctively regionalist pieces, the expatriates distanced themselves from American society.  They chose to move to countries where they believed they would find the freedom to pursue their creative and social ´╗┐endeavors.
  Gertrude Stein with Pepe, her dog
Gertrude Stein was one of the most highly regarded American expatriates living in Paris. Although not a part of the Lost Generation, she influenced such writers as Ernest Hemingway. In addition to her writing, she became an art critic and collector, encouraging such painters as Picasso and Matisse. Her literary style emphasizes the importance she placed on feelings above the story (Saltzman 884). Some of her best known works include The Making of Americans (1925) and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). 
F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda
F. Scott Fitzgerald was perhaps the quintessential American expatriate writer of the 1920s. His novels, such as This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby, exemplify the characteristics of the Roaring Twenties. His early success with This Side of Paradise, published before his first move to France, prompted the beginnings of an extravagant lifestyle. He and his wife, Zelda, originally moved to France with their daughter Scottie in order to reduce their expenses. Fitzgerald's life during this time period was marked by alcoholism, debt, and reckless living (de Koster, Fitzgerald 27). 
Ernest Hemingway at Shakespeare and Company
Ernest Hemingway began his literary career as a journalist for the Kansas City Star in 1917. As a journalist, he developed the concise writing style which would later become the hallmark of his prose (de Koster, Hemingway 17). In 1921, Hemingway moved to Paris as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. While there, he met and became friends with Stein and Ezra Pound. Stein deeply influenced his style of writing. His novel The Sun Also Rises exemplifies the postwar disillusionment that characterized many American soldiers after the end of World War I.
Cowley, Malcolm. A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation. New York: Viking, 1973. 
de Koster, Katie, ed. "Ernest Hemingway: A Biography." Readings on Ernest Hemingway.  Literary Companions Series. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1997. 
de Koster, Katie, ed. "F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography." Readings on F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Literary Companions Series. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. 
Earnest, Ernest. Expatriates and Patriots: American Artists, Scholars, and Writers in EuropeDurham: Duke UP, 1968.
Fitch, Noel Riley. Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties. New York: Norton, 1983.  
Saltzman, Arthur M. "Stein, Gertrude." World Book Encyclopedia.  2000 ed.  
Baum, Nina, ed.  The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. 6. Vol. D. New York: Norton, 2003.
Bradbury, Malcolm.  Second Countries: The Expatriate Tradition in American Writing.  The Yearbook of English Studies.  8 (1978): 15-39.  full text
Miller, Lynn C.  "Writing is Hearing and Saying: Gertrude Stein on Language and in Performance."  Text and Performance Quarterly. 13 (April 1993): 154-167.
Ward, David.  "Lighting Out For the Territories: American Expatriates, Paris, and Modernism."  Sewanee Review.  105 (Summer 1997): 423-428.  full text 
Zwerdling, Alex.  "The European Capitals of American Literature."  Wilson Quarterly.  17 (Issue 1): 126- 137.  full text
University of North Carolina.  "Geniuses Together: Literary Expatriates in Paris."  24 April 2007.  http://www.lib.unc.edu/rbc/french_expatriates/paris.html 
The Hemingway Resource Center. "Ernest Hemingway Biography." 24 April 2007.   http://www.lostgeneration.com/ww1.htm




"Portrait of Gertrude Stein, with dog Pepe, Biliguin."  24 April 2007.  aam.waynesburg.edu/images/image16.html


"Hemingway's Paris: Writers and Books: F. Scott Fitzgerald."  24 April 2007. www.mala.bc.ca/~lanes/english/hemngway/fitz.htm 


"Sylvia Beach Papers."  24 April 2007.  libweb.princeton.edu/.../rbsc/aids/beach/





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Comments (2)

Anonymous said

at 9:47 am on Mar 5, 2007

Good start, Abigail. You may want to get in to or provide some focus on the question of expatriatism in relationship to America itself. Why did these writers leave? Did they consider themselves American writers or something else? What did Europe give them than America did not? Not necessarily all these questions, but something along these lines. Could also usefully reference a specific work as well. Is the Sun Also Rises a European novel or an American novel, and why?

Anonymous said

at 7:17 am on Apr 25, 2007

Abigail, on your reference section, give titles of the internet pages you link to. In the text of your stuff on American expatriates you can perhaps take advantage of the internet to do more linking from main terms in your text to either other wiki pages that we're generating as a class, or to other external resources. (i.e., you could link titles of novels to internet pages that provide summaries or discussions of those novels.

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