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What constitutes Modernism in literature? Show more Show less
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In the 19th to early 20th century, Modernism heralded a radical transformation of culture. With its renewed outlook of a post-industrial, post-WW1 society, past beliefs and styles were rejected in favor of the ‘new’. Literary Modernism is characterized by innovative literary techniques such as stream of consciousness, interior monologue, and multiple viewpoints, which reflect an interest in psychology and human nature. Despite its prominence, the movement is notoriously hard to define. So, what elements make up Modernist literature?

Modernism in literature involves favoring relativism over absolute truth Show more Show less

The human experience is confused, wild, jumbled, and completely subjective. There is a belief that people cannot fully know themselves, so their understanding of the world is bound to be piecemeal and full of contradictions. So, Modernist literature asserts that everything is relative.
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Modernism in literature involves absurdism

Appearing towards the end of the Modernist movement, Absurdism is another manifestation of post-war disillusionment. Absurdists note the inherent desire to find value in a meaningless world and represent this in the structure of their work.
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The Argument

Is Absurdism a part of, or response to Modernism? The style, mainly embraced by those in the Avant-Garde camp, and decidedly a major moment in theatre shares much in common with Nihilism and also criticizes ‘idealistic’ sentiments in the same vein as the spearheading Modernist authors and poets. But, in its very nature, Absurdism is a slippery thing. By the 50s, not long before the counterculture explosion of the 60s, Modernism was assuming a different shape. While literary Modernism had historically been a very loose and hard to define movement (some prefer to call it a period), it had, in retrospect, been defined by the correspondence and conversation between a number of prominent figures. The Modernist approach was centralized within certain literary circles or came about from collaboration in sub-movements, like Imagism, Surrealism, or Impressionism.[1] While notable writers such as Franz Kafka may have explored Absurdity in their fiction, the style gained traction with playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Luigi Pirandello, and Harold Pinter. These writers were preceded by The Theatre of the Absurd in France during the 1940s and visionary practitioner Antonin Artaud.[2] The style became defined by fragmentary dialogue, subversion, esoteric structure, and lack of resolution. The best summation of the movement’s philosophy comes from Albert Camus, who coined the term in his book The Myth of Sisyphus: Sisyphus endlessly pushes his rock up the mountain only for it to roll back down each time he gets to the top.[3] Unlike Nihilism, it’s not about the admittance of meaninglessness, but the repetitive and bizarre struggle to look for it when there is none. Even today, Absurdity seems to be an appropriate mode to address the chaos of the world. After all, did we ever stop pondering meaninglessness?

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References

  1. https://poemanalysis.com/glossary/literary-modernism/?ver=true
  2. https://schoolworkhelper.net/comedy-of-manners-modernism-theater-of-the-absurd/
  3. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/camus/
This page was last edited on Tuesday, 3 Nov 2020 at 17:47 UTC

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