An essay on modernism

In early uses the word had a pejorative meaning, implying that what was new and modern could not be as good as what had the prestige of approval over a period of time. Baudelaire as both poet and critic was one of the first to splice the meaning of "modern" in a modest article relating to his viewing of the art of his time.

An essay on modernism

Literature The literary movement that spanned from the late 19th century until roughly is referred to as modernism. The word modern refers to what is new, recent, and updated.

Although modernism does deal with the futuristic and the new, it also covers vastly more topics and themes. Modernism reaches into rebellion, struggle and harsh realities.

An essay on modernism

Modernism is only modern in the sense that it comes from the desire of those involved to break away from the old, traditional ways of thinking and expression and to come into their current situations with a new view of reality and art.

Most notably, World War I caused a drastic change of mind to all involved. This historical event gave momentum to the modernist movement by putting realities in front of people that were vastly different from the serene and beautiful ideals described in romantic or Victorian literature. It was difficult to associate these works of art with the way the world had become; therefore, it was necessary to create a new way of expression.

Modernist authors did not want to be confined by the traditional boundaries of literature, so they experimented in terms of style and content.


The world changed and literature followed. There five major themes displayed in modernist literature. The first is a representation of inner reality. Modernist authors placed a greater emphasis on the psychological experience of the individual than on the outer realities. This caused much more focus to be placed on individual interpretation of circumstances and events.

Modernist authors did not write clear-cut, chronological stories as their predecessors had. Instead, their work followed no set order or boundary, mimicking the rapidly changing thoughts we would see if we could look into the mind of another person.

Modernists had the desire to express their own individual thoughts as well as to encourage others to think for themselves and define their own experiences. To this end, modernist literature is marked by a blurred distinction between the internal and the external.

The second major theme in modernism is the rejection of norms. This includes structures such as the family structure, government, religion, gender roles, socioeconomic hierarchies, and perception of different races. Modernist literature rejects the old in favor of the new, embracing a newfound freedom of thought and expression.

This shows itself largely in the content of modernist literature, which is unlimited and unrestricted. Previously, literature was confined to topics of natural beauty and drama. Modernist literature spoke of every aspect of reality, putting the spotlight on the ordinary and simple rather than on the extraordinary.

Coinciding closely with the second theme is the theme of the grotesque. To be grotesque means to be unpleasant or displeasing. In modernist literature, authors would take something familiar or traditional and warp it into something disturbing.

By manipulating that thing, they were in a sense showing another side to a familiar story. This falls neatly in line with rejecting of the norms, as many modernist authors would use subject matter and content that had been spoken of in classical literature and turn it into something very different and unnatural.

The idea was to make the reader uncomfortable with what is commonplace and to question the true goodness of what was considered ultimately good. The fourth theme is that of technology. In an effort to leap away from the past and into the future, many modernist authors were fond of writing about technology.

Technology represents a new way of doing things in education, transportation, communication, commerce, and the daily activities of life. Much of the subject matter of modernist literature includes technology either as a main element of the story or as a background observation. It is sometimes used to show improvement, but more often used to represent the increasing isolation of society and the cold, mechanical nature of the world.

The last theme is the theme of structure and geometry. It is partially related to technology, in that it emphasizes functionality over decoration.

This theme is displayed in the authors streamlining of description and embellishment, favoring instead shortened, functional definitions. Along the same line with the themes of modernism are the styles used in modernist literature. Although there are many styles used in modernist literature, there are four many styles of writing that we will discuss.

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It is the purpose of this work to achieve this by conversing on memory, spiritual .

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