Literary Evolution: Differentiating Romanticism And Modernist Literature

1403 words - 6 pages

The idea of what literatures function is in shaping society saw a huge change throughout the years, each one of these periods can easily be separated by what literature was used for in each specific era and the ideas that are represented in the literature of these years. The two periods I would like to analyze are romanticism and modernism, namely for the dramatic change in both the form and the use of literature, along with its value to society. Between the romantic and modernist era of literature, writing went from a complex expression of ideals and evocation of emotion to a much less explicit and much more of a social commentary meant to convey unique and new ideas and bring a much different form of realization to the reader.
A simple introduction to this idea can be observed through analyze the purpose of “lyrical ballads” by William Wordsworth. Wordsworth states the “purpose (of the writings) will be found principally to be: … to illustrate the manner in which our feelings and ideas are associated in a state of excitement… (and) to follow the fluxes and refluxes of the mind when agitated by the great and simple affections of our nature”(Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads). For those studying the Romantic period of literature this should seem awfully familiar. The key ideals found in Romantic literature are the sublime, emotion, nature, and the ability to humble yourself to the simple beauty of what you already have. This was in direct response to the industrial revolution, as literature gave us a stark contrast between the realities of the 1800s. Literature at the time was an advocate for the simple beauty and power of what surrounds us every day, and for appreciation of the simple things in life, which was meant to change the views of the aristocracy and shape middle class ideals of what it means to be lower class or from a more rural setting. While yes this was a form of protest against the aristocratic ruling class at the time, it was going about this “protesting” in a much more direct and simple way by showing the ideas and morals of a different (possibly working class) culture, and through demonstrating these ideas by commenting on what is so readily observed by even the most unobservant readers.
Modernism, much like Romanticism still served a function to awaken the audience which it addresses, but both the way it goes about this in a completely different way and the ideas carried by this literature dramatically changes from the ideas held by the romantic era authors. Modernism is characterized by feelings that the traditional ideals (much like those of romanticism are outdated or have become far too distant from our society. A great example of this is T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. In this poem we observe a picture painted much more with imagery and metaphor rather than the traditional romantic method of allowing the natural imagery to carry the message itself. The vehicle used to carry...

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