Modernism is a movement in European and American literature, which occurred in the late 19th century and lasted until the middle of the 20th century. It involved both prose and poetry and is characterized by its revolutionary change in the way of narration, its negativism, questioning the progress of civilization and taking a close look into the subconscious of the human mind. If you are assigned to write a Modernism in literature essay, you will have to consider the historical background of the topic, the characteristics of Modernism in general, and give a well-reasoned answer to your topical essay question.
How did Modernism in literature occur
Every generation of artists expressed their desire to reach beyond past traditions and rules, to react to the tendencies of the changing world and to satisfy the needs of their new eras. Every generation has to rebel against the past and call its ways modern as opposed to old-fashioned customs. The need for change was especially strong in the beginning of the 20th century, when both America and Europe were on the edge of hard and confusing times.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Europe faced First World War and America experienced the Great Depression. At the same time, the rapid development of capitalism seemed to turn the ordinary human being into a soulless part of a big industrial machine, and the value of human life was truly put in question by the war. The standards of Victorian literature, Realism and Naturalism could no longer satisfy the urgent need for looking deep inside the individual (not only in the mind but in the sub consciousness), to find ground to stand on when the whole world seemed to be falling apart.
Characteristics of the literary Modernism
Modernism in English literature begins in the end of 19th century and holds a time span roughly through the middle of the 20th century, though as any other literary movement, it is defined not only by the era in which it occurred, but also by its characteristics. The literature of Modernism rebelled against industrialization, globalization, capitalism, and against how little the human life was valued. They broke the rules of styles and manners, and even tried to conflict with the reader in order to convey the need for change and re-evaluation. In your Modernism in literature essay, you may delve into the following characteristics of this movement:
Modernists saw the decline of civilization inside industrialization and globalization, the alienation of a person, the feeling of a person being lost in the modern society.
Instead of the usual narrative structure, which included the introduction, the conflict and the ending, Modernists wrote their stories with no clear structure. They use the “stream of consciousness” manner, they try to get inside the inner dialog of a person, to convey the essence of the struggle of an ordinary human being.
Modernists rebel against the rules of ethics by talking about the things which were not accepted in their society, they bring up topics of loneliness, suffering, and sexuality.
Modernist authors often explore the conflict between the true nature of a person and the mask they have to wear, the lie they have to live by. They question human morals, ethics and the human soul itself, mirror self-consciousness, let their characters have self-reflecting thoughts.