Modernismo 1 - Learning Literature

Historical Background
1901-1910 – Edward VII
1902 – End of The Anglo-Boer War
1910-1936 – George V
1914-1918 – First World War
1916 – Dublin, Easter Rising
1917 – Revolution in Russia
1918 – Vote for Women over 30 years of age in G.B.
1919-20 – Treatise of Versailles – Society of Nations
1921 – Irish Free State, Ulster (Northern Ireland) belongs to the U.K.
1922 – Mussolini in Italy
1928 – Vote for Women in G. B.
1929 – Stock Market Crash and Great Depression
1933 – Hitler in Germany
1936-39 – Civil War in Spain
1936 – Edward VIII succeeds George V, but then abdicated in favour of his brother, who became king as
George VI
1939-1945 – Second World War
1941-45 – Holocaust
1945 – Hiroshima
1952 – Elizabeth II
What is Modernism?
I do not think that any previous age produced
work which was, in its own time, as
shatteringly and bewildering new as that of
the Cubists, the Dadaists, the Surrealists, and
Picasso has been in ours. And I am quite sure
that this is true….of poetry…I do not see how
anyone can doubt that modern poetry is not
only a greater novelty than any other ‘new
poetry’ but new in a new way, almost in a new
C.S. Lewis , De Descriptione Temporum, 1954
What is Modernism?
• Modernist art is […] reckoned to be the art of what Harold Rosenberg calls
“the tradition of the new”. It is experimental, formally complex, elliptical,
contains of decreation as well as creation, and tends to associate notions
of the artist ‘s freedom from realism, materialism, traditional genre and
form, with notions of cultural apocalypse and disaster. … We can dispute
about when it starts (French Symbolism, decadence; the break-up of
naturalism) and whether it has ended (Kermode distinguishes ‘paleomodernism’ from ‘neo-modernism’ and hence a degree of continuity
through the postwar art). We can regard it as a timebound concept (say
1890 to 1930) or a timeless one (including Sterne, Donne, Villon, Ronsard).
The best focus remains a body of major writers (James, Conrad, Proust,
Mann, Gide, Kafka, Svevo, Joyce, Musil, Faulkner in fiction, Strindberg,
Pirandello, Wedekind, Brecht in drama; Mallarmé, Yeats, Eliot, Pound,
Rilke, Apollinaire, Stevens in poetry) whose works are aesthetically radical,
contain striking technical innovation, emphasize spatial or ‘fugal’ as
opposed to chronological form, tend towards ironic modes, and involve a
certain ‘dehumanization of art’ Malcolm Bradbury, A Dictionary of Modern
Critical Terms
Modernism: features in common with
other movements
• Bohemia active in Paris from the 1830s
• The artist as a futurist was active throughout romantic
• Aesthetic of experimentalism common to Naturalism
• The idea of the multiplicity of consciousness (Pater
• Response of the imagination to an urbanized world
(Baudelaire: unreal city, imagination produces the
sensation of newness)
• Desecration of established conventions, witty image
and anguish (Sterne, Donne, Villon)
Dating Modernism
• 1890-1903
• For Frank Kermode the 1890s are forerunners
of modernism. Modernism: 1905-1927
• 1922 Annus Mirabilis: Eliot’s The Waste Land,
Joyce’s Ulysses
• For others (Stephen Spender, Graham Hough)
period of enhanced intensity between 1910
and WW1
Dating Modernism2
• “On or about December 1910 human nature
changed… All human relations shifted – those
between masters and servants, husbands and
wives, parents and children. And when human
relations change there is at the same time a
change in religion, conduct, politics, and
literature” V. Woolf, “Mr Bennett and Mrs
Brown”, 1924
• “It was in 1915 the old world ended” D.H.
Lawrence, Kangaroo, 1923
Flaubert on style
• “What strikes me as beautiful, what I should
like to do, is a book about nothing, a book
without external attachments, which would
hold together by itself through the internal
force of its style….a book which would have
practically no subject, or at least one in which
the subject would be almost invisible, if that is
possible.” Flaubert, Letter to Louise Colet,
January 16, 1852
Key features of Modernism
• Radical aesthetics
• Technical experimentation
• Spatial or rhythmic rather than chronological
• Self-conscious reflexiveness
• Scepticism towards the idea of a centred human
• Inquiry into the uncertainty of reality
• Focus on the city
• Championing as well as fear of technology
Key-features of Modernism2
Anti-representationalism in painting
Atonalism in music
Vers libre in poetry
Stream-of-consciousness in novel
• The sequence of Modernism […] is a very various sequence
running through different subversions of the realist
impulse: Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism,
Vorticism, Futurism, Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism. They
are not all movements of the same kind […] but one feature
that links the movements at the centre of sensibility we are
discerning is that they tend to see history or human life not
as a sequence, or history not as an evolving logic […]
Modernist works frequently tend to be ordered, then, not
on the sequence of historical time or the evolving sequence
of character, from history or story, as in realism and
naturalism; they tend to work spatially or through layers of
consciousness, working towards a logic of metaphor or
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