[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

Modernist literature

Parents: modernism - literature

Related: alienation trope - deviant Modernism - avant-garde - process philosophy - stream of consciousness

Precursors: Charles Baudelaire - Gustave Flaubert

People: Samuel Beckett - James Joyce - T.S. Eliot - Franz Kafka - Wyndham Lewis - Robert Musil - Marcel Proust - Gertrude Stein - Virginia Woolf

Compare: modern literature - postmodern literature

In modernist literature, plot is secondary to philosophical introspection, and the prose can be winding and hard to follow. [Jun 2006]

Charles Baudelaire and Gustave Flaubert are the most commonly cited figures in accounts of modernist literature's originating moment. Baudelaire for poetry, Flaubert for prose. [Jul 2006]

The intellectuals could not, of course, actually prevent the masses from attaining literacy. But they could prevent them reading literature by making it too difficult for them to understand—and this is what they did. The early twentieth century saw a determined effort, on the part of the European intelligentsia, to exclude the masses from culture. In England this movement has become known as modernism. --John Carey, The Intellectuals and the Masses, p. 16-17 [Jun 2006]


Modernist literature is the literary form of modernism, it should not be confused with modern literature, which is the history of the modern novel and modern poetry.

Modernist literature was at its height from 1900 to 1940, and featured such authors as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, W.B. Yeats, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, H.D., Franz Kafka, Menno ter Braak and Ernest Hemingway.

Modernist literature has attempted to move from the bonds of realist literature and introduce concepts as disjointed timelines.

Modernist literature is defined by its move away from Romanticism, venturing into subject matter that is traditionally mundane--a prime example being "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot. Modernist Literature often features a marked pessimism, a clear rejection of the optimism apparent in Victorian literature. In fact, "a common motif in modernist fiction is that of an alienated individual--a dysfunctional individual trying in vain to make sense of a predominantly urban and fragmented society". However, many modernist works like T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land are marked by the absence of a central, heroic figure; in rejecting the solipsism of Romantics like Shelley and Byron, these works reject the subject of Cartesian dualism and collapse narrative and narrator into a collection of disjointed fragments and overlapping voices.

Modernist literature goes beyond the limitations of the realistic novel with its concern for larger factors such as social or historical change; this is largely demonstrated in "stream of consciousness" writing. Examples can be seen in Virginia Woolf's "Kew Gardens," James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Katherine Porter's Flowering Judas, and others.

Many modernist works are studied in schools today, from Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, to T.S. Eliot's King Arthur, to James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernist_literature [Oct 2005]

Modernism in literature

This wave of the modern movement broke with the past in the first decade of the twentieth century, and tried to redefine various artforms in a radical manner. Leading lights within the literary wing of this movement include Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Guillaume Apollinaire, Joseph Conrad, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Wyndham Lewis, H.D., Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, and Franz Kafka. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism [Dec 2004]

English Modernism and Baudelaire

Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890-1930 (1978) Malcolm Bradbury, James McFarlane
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Being an international literary phenomenon, the history of English modernism cannot be separated from its Continental roots, although we tend to agree with Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane [Modernism. 1890-1930. edited by Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane, Penguin Books, 1978, pp. 175-176] that the wealth of Parisian lore about Aestheticism and Decadence, Impressionism and Symbolism was “grafted onto an ongoing native tradition”. The 1890s climate of the “Yellow Book” aestheticism is “incomprehensible without reference to Huysmans, Mallarmé and Valéry – but is equally incomprehensible without reference to Pater, Blake and the Irish folk tradition”.

In the Bradbury McFarlane version, modernism appears as a reaction against Naturalism and Parnassianism, occurring first in France, with Charles Baudelaire as its prophet. It was a “movement of movements”, a succession of phases, theories, social groupings, spanning the period from the seventies up to the thirties of our century: SYMBOLISM, IMPRESSIONISM, and DECADENCE around the turn of the century; FAUVISM, CUBISM, POSTIMPRESSIONISM, FUTURISM, CONSTRUCTIVISM, IMAGISM and VORTICISM in the period up to and over World War I; and EXPRESSIONISM, DADA and SURREALISM during and after the war. --http://www.unibuc.ro/eBooks/filologie/tupan/thefrontiersofmodernism.htm [Jul 2006]

Process philosophy

Conventional Platonic metaphysics posits the 'real' world of Metaphysical Reality as being timeless. Process philosophy on the other hand, identifies 'the real' (ie metaphysical reality) with change and dynamism. Process philosophy was greatly influential on many 20th Century Modernists: for example, D.H. Lawrence, and William Faulkner.

Process Philosophers include Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, Charles S. Peirce, John Dewey and Alfred North Whitehead. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_philosophy [Sept 2005]

See also: philosophy - modernism - stream of consciousness

Modernist readers

The Little Review, literary magazine.
Image sourced here.

The Little Review, literary magazine.
Image sourced here.

Marked by a proliferation of printed materials and diverse readers, the modernist period echoed in many ways the late eighteenth century reading revolution. The first half of the twentieth century simultaneously offered new texts for consumption and opened the space for competing sites of textual authority. Emerging voices of different critics, reviewers, and advertisers clashed over definitions of books, readers, and reading practices. Furthermore, new technologies and media, such as radio and moving pictures, transformed reading as a leisure activity; one could now watch a story on a screen, or listen to a tale from a box, instead of opening a book. While some authorities believed the new mass media threatened an age-old concept of reading, others welcomed the large audiences mobilized by the new technologies as potential markets for selling books. --http://www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~seg1/test/modernist.html [Sept 2005]

The Little Review
The Little Review was a American literary magazine founded by Margaret Caroline Anderson which published modernist American and English writers between 1914 and 1929, most famously James Joyce's Ulysses. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Review [Sept 2005]

See also: 1914 - 1929 - modernism - books

Modernism, Mass Culture and Professionalism - Thomas Strychacz

  • Modernism, Mass Culture and Professionalism - Thomas Strychacz [Amazon.com] In Modernism, Mass Culture and Professionalism Thomas Strychacz argues that modernist writers need to be understood both in their relationship to professional critics and in their relationship to an era and ethos of professionalism. In studying four modernist writers--Henry James, Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos and Nathanael West--Strychacz finds that contrary to what most studies suggest, modernist writers (in the period of 1880-1940) are thoroughly caught up in the ideas and expressive forms of mass culture rather than opposed to them. Despite this, modernist writers seek to distinguish their ideas and styles from mass culture, particularly by making their works esoteric. In doing so, modernist writers are reproducing one of the main tenets of all professional groups, which is to gain social authority by forming a community around a difficult language inaccessible to the public at large. While their modernism arises out of the nature of their encounter with mass culture, that encounter frequently overturns commonly-held notions of the nature of modernism. Finally Strychacz explores his own world of academia and observes that the work of professional critics in the university reproduces the strategies of modernist writers.

    The Public Face of Modernism: Little Magazines, Audiences, and Reception, 1905-1920 (2000) - Mark S. Morrisson

    The Public Face of Modernism: Little Magazines, Audiences, and Reception, 1905-1920 (2000) - Mark S. Morrisson [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Book Description
    Between the 1890s and the 1920s, mass consumer culture and modernism grew up together, by most accounts as mutual antagonists. This provocative work of cultural history tells a different story. Delving deeply into the publishing and promotional practices of the modernists in Britain and America, Mark Morrisson reveals that their engagements with the commercial mass market were in fact extensive and diverse.

    The phenomenal successes of new advertising agencies and mass market publishers did elicit what Morrisson calls a "crisis of publicity" for some modernists and for many concerned citizens in both countries. But, as Morrisson demonstrates, the vast influence of these industries on consumers also had a profound and largely overlooked effect upon many modernist authors, artists, and others. By exploring the publicity and audience reception of several of the most important modernist magazines of the period, The Public Face of Modernism shows how modernists, far from lamenting the destruction of meaningful art and public culture by the new mass market, actually displayed optimism about the power of mass-market technologies and strategies to transform and rejuvenate contemporary culture-and, above all, to restore a public function to art.

    This reconstruction of the "public face of modernism" offers surprising new perceptions about the class, gender, racial, and even generational tensions within the public culture of the early part of the century, and provides a rare insight into the actual audiences for modernist magazines of the period. Moreover, in new readings of works by James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and many others, Morrisson shows that these contexts also had an impact on the techniques and concerns of the literature itself.

    The Public Face of Modernism explores the ways in which the early British and American modernists envisioned the relationship between literary culture and institutions of publicity, the public, and public discourse (what we now call the public sphere), and challenges the commonplace understanding that modernists turned their back on mass audiences, publishing only for coteries in little magazines. It considers how modernists understood the sociocultural changes occurring between the 1890s and early 1920s that created twentieth-century mass market culture, including the beginning of highly organized mass advertising, mass-produced brand name products, and modern mass market newspapers and magazines. Examining little magazines both as primary venues for modernist publication and as public forums that marked the intersection of literary production and non-literary discourse, the author argues that the burgeoning commercial culture caused modernists to feel not only a sense of alarm at what they saw as a crisis of publicity and public discourse, but also---most surprisingly---a sense of optimism about redirecting the public function of the press. The book adds a significant new dimension to the remapping of modernism's relationship to mass culture by exploring how modernists' visions of alternative networks of publication and sites of public discourse (like those envisioned by the suffragettes, socialists, and anarchists who were their contemporaries) intersected with and borrowed from the new mass market. Morrisson's book is also the first study to explore the broad field of modernist magazines in relationship to this issue, and should add a timely voice to the current resurgence of interest in little magazines. Finally, this work sheds new light on the early work and aspirations of authors such as Ford Madox Ford, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Margaret Anderson, and many others.--via Amazon.com

    About the Author
    Mark S. Morrisson is assistant professor of English at Penn State University.

    See also: modernist literature - modernism - mass - magazine - audience

    your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

    Managed Hosting by NG Communications