Modernism And The Modern Novel Essay

510 words - 2 pages

Modernism and the Modern Novel

The term modernism refers to the radical shift in aesthetic and
cultural sensibilities evident in the art and literature of the
post-World War One period. The ordered, stable and inherently
meaningful world view of the nineteenth century could not, wrote T.S.
Eliot, accord with "the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which
is contemporary history." Modernism thus marks a distinctive break
with Victorian bourgeois morality; rejecting nineteenth-century
optimism, they presented a profoundly pessimistic picture of a culture
in disarray. This despair often results in an apparent apathy and
moral relativism.

In literature, the movement is associated with the works of (among
others) Eliot, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound,
Gertrude Stein, H.D., Franz Kafka and Knut Hamsun. In their attempt to
throw off the aesthetic burden of the realist novel, these writers
introduced a variety of literary tactics and devices:

the radical disruption of linear flow of narrative; the frustration of
conventional expectations concerning unity and coherence of plot and
character and the cause and effect development thereof; the deployment
of ironic and ambiguous juxtapositions to call into question the moral
and philosophical meaning of literary action; the adoption of a tone
of epistemological self-mockery aimed at naive pretensions of
bourgeois rationality; the opposition of inward consciousness to
rational, public, objective discourse; and an inclination to
subjective distortion to point up the evanescence of the social world
of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie. (Barth, "The Literature of
Replenishment" 68)

Modernism is often derided for abandoning the social world in favour
of its narcissistic interest in language and its processes.
Recognizing the failure of language to ever fully...

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