Modernism Essay

1476 words - 6 pages

The modernist period in British and Irish literature was one of the most important and exciting times in literary history. The term modernist stemmed from the beginning of the 20th century labelled the modern period. The modern period was a time of confusion and transitions, mostly due to the result of people returning from World War I. The modern period was an era of massive unemployment and technological changes. Freud, Jung, and Marx were redefining human identity, Assembly lines and factories were being introduced, and gender differences were starting to crumble. The modern period was a time of change, and the field of Literature was no exception. Susan Gorsky, in her book titled Virginia Woolf, states that " Virginia Woolf perhaps spoke for the writers coming of age around WWI:" " We are sharply cut off from our predecessors. A shift in the scale - the sudden slip of masses held in position for ages has shaken the fabric from top to bottom, alienated us from the past and made us perhaps too vividly conscious of the present." (Virginia Woolf, 280). The continuous change in life and the constant "shift in the scale" forced writers to take a new approach to literature, creating some of the most read work of the twentieth century.

Modernist authors of the twentieth century reinvented literature. Instead of placing the main focus of storytelling on the story itself, they went one step further and based their novels on the concepts of truth, and the understanding of self. They explored the ideas of consciousness, alienation, and inner conflict within the mind, and asked important questions of the reader while testing the boundaries of the soul. Susan Gorsky, perfectly defines literary modernism, in her book Virginia Woolf "In striving to present the rapid and often disturbing changes in their world, the writers of this era felt it essential to reform their means of expression. Poetry, Drama, and fiction were subjected to intensive scrutiny and extensive redefinition, producing some of the most unusual and often difficult literary creations in English: Eliot's Wasteland, Yeat's Plays for Dancers, and the fiction of Joyce and Lawrence is some examples. Modernist literature reflects in it's structure as well as in it's content the overturning of tradition; the instances upon new design produced plays and stories without plots or recognizably human characters, poems without rhyme or meter"(16, 17). The Modernist author was able to identify with their audience by creating stories that not only asked important questions, but also got under the reader's skin. In George Orwell's essay titled Inside the Whale, he addresses the fact that James Joyce's Ulysses is remarkable due to the fact of its "commonplaceness of its material." (Inside The Whale and Other Essays, 11). The reader is able to put themselves in the characters shoes, the characters are very three dimensional, and like modern life their stories are not so much like a fairy tales, as...

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