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Perceived problems with the ideals of the movements that preceded modernism: Romanticism, Victorianism, and Edwardianism.
-Artists belittled the capacity of science to provide accounts of the things that matter, like subjective experiences and moral issues. -Victorianism and Edwardianism also proved inadequate: The first seemed too morally earnest, complacent, and, at times, overly squeamish about sexual matters; the second, a reaction to its predecessor’s conservatism, began to doubt authority, but not always very deeply. After the Edwardian period, the movement to the ideas of modernism seemed almost inevitable.
Modernism and modern poetry
Modernism is a comprehensive movement which began
in the closing years of the 19th
century and has had a
wide influence internationally during much of the 20th
reveals breaking away from established rules,
traditions and conventions, fresh ways of looking at
man’s position and function in the universe and many
experiments in form and style.
It is particularly concerned with language and how to
use it and with writing itself.
style or movement in the arts that aims to break with
classical and traditional forms”
Embracing change and present, modernism encompasses
the works of thinkers who rebelled against nineteenth
century academic traditions
believing the "traditional" forms of art, architecture,
literature, religious faith, social organization and daily
life were becoming outdated
They directly confronted the new economic, social and
political aspects of an emerging fully industrialized world.
Rebelled against Victorian artificialities, moral
bankruptcy and historicist traditions
Encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of
existence (e.g. commerce / philosophy)
The roots of Modernism emerged in the middle
of the nineteenth century; and rather locally, in
France, in literature and painting.
The "avant-garde" was what Modernism was
called at first, and the term remained to
describe movements which identify themselves
as attempting to overthrow some aspect of
There were real shifts in the natural sciences,
social sciences, and liberal arts occurring at
this time as well.
In the 1890s, a strand of thinking began to assert that it
was necessary to push aside previous norms entirely,
instead of merely revising past knowledge in light of
It was argued that, if the nature of reality itself was in
question, and if restrictions which had been in place
around human activity were falling, then art, too, would
have to radically change.
Thus, in the first 15 years of the twentieth century a
series of writers, thinkers, and artists made the break
with traditional means of organizing literature, painting,
This movement originated when some writers felt that
they required a new form of writing to express their
ideologies and outlook towards life.
The beginning of the 20th century is an extremely
convenient starting point. It saw the end of Queen
Victoria’s reign, marking a symbolic break from the
Modernism enabled writers to pursue highly
individualistic forms of writing.
Modernism was set in motion through a series
of cultural shocks.
The first of these shocks was the Great War
which ruined many lives in Europe. At that time
this “War to End All Wars” was looked upon
with such ghastly horror that many people
simply could not imagine what the world
seemed to be plunging towards.
The horror of WW I also fed the urge for a new
way to express the protest towards the social
atmosphere prevalent at that time.
Growth of Modern Science
Influence of Austrian Sigmund Freud
Influence of German Karl Marx
from country to city
from farm to factory
from native born to new citizen
introduction to “mass” culture (pop culture)
split between science and the literary
Conviction that the previously sustaining
structures of human life, whether social,
political, religious, or artistic, had been either
destroyed or shown up as falsehoods or
fantasies. Therefore, art had to be renovated.
Modernist writing is marked by a strong and
conscious break with tradition. It rejects
traditional values and assumptions.
“Modern” implies a historical discontinuity, a
sense of alienation, loss, despair and nihilism.
It rejects not only history but also the society of
whose fabrication history is a record. Poetry
tended to provide pessimistic cultural criticism
or loftily reject social issues altogether.
A breaking with tradition and conventional modes of form, resulting
in fragmentation and bold, highly innovative experimentation
a disappearance of character summary, of discrete well-demarcated
characters as in Dickens; the representation of the self as diverse,
contradictory, ambiguous, multiple
skepticism about linear plots with sudden climactic turning points
and clear resolutions; the use instead of discontinuous fragments, no
proper beginning, middle and end; a-chronological leaps in time,
multiple plots, open unresolved endings
modernist story was often more of a "stream of consciousness"--
tracing non-linear thought processes, moving by the "logic of the
unconscious"; imagistic rather than logical connection
multiple point of views used; rejection of the single, authoritative,
omniscient point of view for a narrative focalized instead through the
consciousness of one character whose point of view is limited.
Irony, comparisons, juxtaposition and satire are some
common elements found in modernist writing.
Juxtaposition usually represents something which is
unusual, for example, a cat and mouse sharing a good
often does not have a proper beginning, middle and/or
end. Hence, the readers may get slightly confused as to
what the writer is trying to communicate to them.
Modernist writers use irony and satire as tools that aid
them in making fun of something and point out faults,
usually, problems within their society.
The plot, theme and the characters are not necessarily
Modernist writings usually focus more on representing
the writer's ideas, opinions and thoughts and presenting
them to the public at as high a volume as possible.
Some past modernist writers different fonts, symbols,
colors etc in their writing
Modern fiction tends to be written in the first person or to
limit the reader to one character’s point of view on the
action. The selected point of view was often that of a naïve
or marginal person—a child or an outsider—to convey
better the reality of confusion rather than the myth of
Modernists sometimes used a collection of seemingly random
impressions and literary, historical, philosophical, or religious
allusions with which readers are expected to make the connections
on their own.
This reference to details of the past was a way of reminding
readers of the old, lost coherence.
T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land is arguably the greatest example of this
allusive manner of writing; it includes a variety of Buddhist,
Christian, Greek, Judaic, German and occult references, among
Imagism was a movement in early 20th-century Anglo-American
poetry that favored precision of imagery and clear, sharp language.
The Imagists rejected the sentiment and discursiveness of much
Romantic and Victorian poetry.
They wrote short poems that used ordinary language and free verse
to create sharp, exact, concentrated pictures.
They used the exact word instead of decorative words, language of
common speech, Created new rhythms that express new moods,
allowed complete freedom in the poet's choice of subject and
produced clear, instead of blurred and indefinite, poetry.
Symbolism in France began as a reaction against Naturalism and
Realism, movements which attempted to objectively capture reality.
The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of
attributing symbolic meaning to objects, events or relationships.
Symbolism was marked by a belief that language is expressly
symbolic in its nature and provide imagery and detail to an object.
It makes the writing more interesting and represent meaning that
goes beyond what is literary being said.
As symbolism sought freedom from rigidity in the selection of subject
matter, so it desired to free poetry from the restrictions of
During the 20th
century the use of symbolism became a major force in
British literature. T. S. Eliot adapted it in the development of his
individual style and praised it in his criticism.
The most outstanding development of symbolism was in the art of the
The term ‘Impressionism’ comes from the school of mid-
nineteenth century French painting.
The impressionists made the act of perception the key for the
understanding of structure of reality. They developed a technique
by which objects were not seen as solids but as fragments of color
which the spectator’s eye unified.
The basic premise involved was that truth lay in the mental
processes, not in the precise representation of external reality.
Impressionism frequently refers to the technique of centering on
the mental life of person rather than on reality around him.
Characteristics of Impressionist painting include visible
brushstrokes, emphasis on light in its changing qualities, ordinary
subject matter and unusual visual angles
It is representation of reality through impressions.
century art movement that inspired other art forms.
In cubist artworks, objects are broken up and reassembled
into an abstract form.
Analytic cubism used geometric shapes rather than color
to represent the real world.
cubism incorporated the idea of collage: pulling together a variety of
materials to create a new whole.
Cubist poetry attempts to do in verse what cubist painters
do on canvas; that is, take the elements of an experience, fragment
them ( “destructions”), and then rearrange them in a meaningful new
synthesis ( “sum of destructions”).
In writing, it involves using different narrators for different chapters
or even different paragraphs, so as to describe how each character
views the others, put in the words, thoughts and feelings of the
A nihilistic art movement especially in painting
that flourished in Europe early in the 20th
based on irrationality and negation of the
accepted laws of beauty.
It is a protest against the barbarism of war
the rejection of prevailing standards of art and
ignored logical relationship between idea and
statement, argued for absolute freedom,
delivered itself of numerous provocative manifestoes.
It is a literary and artistic movement flourished in Germany
after World War 1.
It arouse as a reaction against materialism, rapid
mechanization and urbanization.
Expressionists concern was general truths rather than with
particular situations. Expressionism, term used to describe works of art and
literature in which the representation of reality is distorted to communicate
an inner vision.
The expressionist transforms nature rather than imitates it.
Writers express an inner vision, emotion, or spiritual reality to assert their
alienation from an industrial society whose inhumanity repels them; they
subordinate conventional rational style and let emotion dictate the structure
of their works, emphasizing rhythm, disrupted narrative line and broken
syntax, and distorted imagery
forms derived from nature are distorted or exaggerated and colors are
intensified for emotive or expressive purposes.
The revolt against realism, the distortion of the objects of the outer world,
and the violent dislocation of time sequence .
century aesthetic, artistic
and cultural movement developed
in France that attempts to express
the workings of sub-conscious mind.
They focused upon using all forms
of art as a means to express the
real functioning of human mind.
It is highly concerned with dreams and expresses the imagination as
revealed in dreams, where objects, people and shapes are greatly
Surrealism inherited an anti-rationalist sensibility from Dadaism, and
was shaped by emerging theories on our perception of reality,
especially Sigmund Freud's model of the subconscious.
It is a concept that became popular during the Second World War in
It proposes that man is full of anxiety and despair with no meaning in
his life, just simply existing, until he made decisive choice about his
own future. That is the way to achieve dignity as a human being.
Existentialists believe that life is very difficult and that it doesn't have
an "objective" or universally known value, but that the individual must
create value by affirming it and living it, not by talking about it.
Existentialism deals with the recurring problem of finding meaning
within existence. From this perspective, there are no meanings or
structures that precede one’s own existence, as one finds in
organized religion. Therefore, the individual must find or create
meaning for his or her self.
It emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of individual experience in
a hostile universe, regards human existence as unexplainable and
stresses freedom of choice.
In the 1920's and 1930's the term Futurism was loosely used to
describe a wide variety of aggressively modern styles in art and
the futurists love speed, noise, machines, pollution and cities as
they embraced the exciting new world that was then upon them.
Futurist paintings were made to glorify life
Futurists developed to glorify urban life as well as machinery and
After 1900 the English scene becomes terribly chaotic. In the field
of poetry-as also in other fields of literature-we find a tremendous
We find a lot of experimentation and innovation in modern poetry.
Most of the poets have broken away from tradition completely, as
they feel that poetry should change with the changing times.
Modern poetry exercises a great freedom in the choice of themes.
The two wars and impending danger of a third have cast a gloomy
shadow on much of the poetry of the twentieth century.
The modern age been called "the age of anxiety." In spite of
material prosperity poets were full of tensions and anxieties which
are almost an inseparable feature of modern living.
Add to them the disappearance of religious faith and
disillusionment is natural in modern poetry.
Traditional "poetic diction" and even regular metre have
been discarded almost completely.
Though rhyme has almost completely gone, rhythm
freed from the artificial demands of metrical regularity
is still used.
A language with the flow and turns of common speech
is mostly employed.
Free verse is the most usual mode of all serious poetry
In the twentieth century many experiments have been
made on the technique and diction of poetry
Juxtaposition of ideas
use of allusions and multiple association of words
borrowings from other cultures
unconventional use of metaphors
massive use of alliteration and assonance
no regular rhyming scheme
visual images in distinct lines
William Butler Yeats