A weave of associations composes this term, the hazy romanticism of which connotes a people afflicted by insatiable wanderlust; and while its invocation is expansive enough to include anyone born between the two World Wars, and whose lives were thus affected... [more]
A weave of associations composes this term, the hazy romanticism of which connotes a people afflicted by insatiable wanderlust; and while its invocation is expansive enough to include anyone born between the two World Wars, and whose lives were thus affected by the enormity of the events therein, contemporary usage most typically alludes to a group of young American writers, many of whom were expatriates in Europe. Thus utilized, the title loses some of its poignancy – Ernest Hemingway claimed that Gertrude Stein is responsible for its coinage and, self-inflicted, it seems a kind of off-putting, self-pitying self-aggrandizement –, but it has proved a fitting one for many of its High Modernist members, whose work often explores, formally and diegetically, a displacement from traditional existential and geographic arenas.
The work of writers of the “Lost Generation” is therefore often typified by not only a sense of being lost, but of having lost, and the primary pursuit – as emblematized by such seminal works as Ezra Pound’s “Cantos,” John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. Trilogy, or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” – is of a kind of search, with the ostensible object of this search diffuse and opaque. Technical and formal experimentation are frequently among the most notable attributes of these texts, thereby highlighting a focus on the means, so to speak, as opposed to the ends. The detachment and desire for connection – whether explored through experimentations in style, technique, or narrative – that typifies much Lost Generation literature has defined a method by which to interpret this politically virulent period, and it forged a great deal of the like-minded literary experimentation of the following decades.