Modernism Essay

3183 words - 13 pages


Modernism is defined in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary as "a self-conscious break with the past and a search for new forms of expression." While this explanation does relate what modernism means, the intricacies of the term go much deeper. Modernism began around 1890 and waned around 1922. Virginia Wolf once wrote, "In or about December, 1910, human character changed." (Hurt and Wilkie 1443). D.H. Lawrence wrote a similar statement about 1915: "It was 1915 the old world ended." (Hurt and Wilkie 1444). The importance of the exact dates of the Modernist period are not so relevant as the fact that new ideas were implemented in the era. Ideas that had never before been approached in the world of literature suddenly began emerging in the works of many great authors. Two of the pioneer Modernist writers were Joseph Conrad and T.S. Eliot. The tendencies to question the incontestable beliefs embedded in all thinking and to focus on the inner self dominated. Old viewpoints were tossed aside to make way for the discovery of modern man's personal spirituality. Two works that are considered important forbears in the Modern period are T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

One attribute of Modernist writing is Experimentation. This called for using new techniques and disregarding the old. Previous writing was often even considered "stereotyped and inadequate" (Holcombe and Torres). Modern writers thrived on originality and honesty to themselves and their tenets. They wrote of things that had never been advanced before and their subjects were far from those of the past eras. It could be observed that the Modernist writing completely contradicted its predecessors. The past was rejected with vigor and Experimentation played a key role in the new Modernist way of writing. The Modernist writers did not try to censure what they felt was the truth. Stepping outside of the box, they wrote what they perceived in their own minds to be reality. The readers in turn were given a new form of literature that was not written on the basis of beliefs that earlier had seemed indisputable. Not only were old belief systems disregarded, they were openly opposed. Even more surprising, the new thoughts were acceptable, and in turn provided an alternative route for thinking that had not formerly been considered.

Anti-Realism is another feature of Modernism. This element included the use of myth and allusion in writing. Description was a prominent feature in literature before the Modernist period; writers had set the scene using an exactness that left little room for a reader's imagination. With Modernism emerged the allusion, which meant that only certain aspects of the setting or scene were revealed. This provided freedom for the reader to think about what the author was presenting through the text. The work was created through the inner feelings and workings of the characters and the symbols hidden in the plot and setting. The way...

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