General Background to Modernist Poetry

General Background to
Modernist Poetry
Res. Asisst. Neşe Şenel
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Romantic Poetry (1789-1832)
Early 19th century
 Romanticism: “like the old romances” =popularity of the 17th
century French historical romances
Romantic: (improbable adventures away from ordinary life)
“unreal, farfetched, fictitious”
Most of the writers of the era turned away from the principles of
the neo-classical period toward a more imaginative and individual
approach to life and literature.
 A focus on the individual.
 Optimistic due to their belief in progress and improvement for
 A rising against the dogma of reason. (limitation of the vision)
Neo-classicism (18th century)( Age of Enlightenment)
 Importance on the sober reason
 Universality of the reason
 A compact, stable society
 Works of prose/ age of prose
 Focus on the ordinary
 Evil as the basic part of human nature
 Usual, simple, direct
 Indifferent to social problems
 Importance of passion and sensibility
 Emphasis of the diversity of the truth
 Unstable, revolutionary society
 Works in poetry, age of poetry
 Focus on the extraordinary, imagination
 Innate goodness of the man, corrupted by the society and
 Unusual complex and fanciful: symbolism
 Everyday language
 A broad humanitarianism
 An attempt to go beyond what is ordinary reality into a
deeper one.
 Unlike neo-classics, romantics enjoyed the medieval
atmosphere, mystery and super natural.
 But NATURE was always in the center of their vision
 Return to Nature
An awareness of the nature comes to foreground.
For its wilderness, magnificence and solitude.
New meanings to the common things that are present in the
 Romantic Melancholy
The pleasures of nature were filled with melancholy. A
harsh and gloomy one. Philosophizing upon man, death,
 Primitivism
The natural condition of men is the best condition.
Glorification oh the primitive and the natural.
Idealization of the child and childhood.
 Sentimentalism
Man’s emotions, instincts and passions.
The poor and the oppressed gained dignity.
All the living people are respected as the parts of humanity.
The sense of brotherhood.
 Individualism and Exoticism
Imaginative sensibility is reflected without any moral or
social restraint.
Confessing the sins, passions, desires, aspirations, grief etc.
Self-revelation poems
 The Medieval Revival
Not classics nut the romantic poets
Providing the material with the distant, unfamiliar and
 William Blake
 William Wordsworth
 Samuel Taylor Coleridge
 Lord Byron
 Percy Bysshe Shelley
 John Keats
Victorian Age (1830-1901)
 England as the most powerful empire.
William IV – Queen Victoria
 Bourgeoisie dominancy/ A transition between the
stability of the 18th century and instability of the 19th
 Contradictions, rebellions, rapid transformations
 Industrial and scientific revolution
 Early Victorian Period(1832-1870)
From an agricultural society to industry
Problems like poverty, prostitution, unemployment
Emergence of the working class
 Mid-Victorian Period (1848-1870)
Debate between science vs. religion.
England as the shining country. Rich and prosperous.
Man’s accidental existence in an indifferent universe.
Utilitarianism: using the facilities of the government for the benefit of
the majority.
“Religion is useless”
Oxford Movement: going back to traditional kind of religion
 Late Victorian Period
The power of England is threatened by the USA and
Communist and Marxist ideas affecting people ( Karl Marx)
Several movements, bills, acts, unions, labor parties.
Literary Background
 Novel as the most popular genre.
 Dickens, Hardy, Eliot, Bronte sisters, Austen
 Romantic tradition could not be followed because the
rebellious feature of the romantic poets was not tolerable due
to the new social structure.
 Romantic imagination -excessive for Victorian rationality
 Romantic love of nature remained yet merged together with a
new scientific observation.
 Fascination with the medieval past continued.
 Alfred Tennyson
Nationalistic poet, commonly accepted social values of
the period.
The emotional and intuitive technique
 Robert Browning
The emotional and intuitive technique
A new technique by adding a dimension of realism
Dramatic monologue: objective person speaking-poetic
 Mathew Arnold
Pessimistic about Victorian society.
No reconciliation between science and religion.
 An England, which is no more secure ( Germany, USA)
 Pessimism, escapism were dominant.
 Two major attitudes toward poetry:
1. Religious Poetry
2. Pre-Raphaelite Poetry
Art for art’s sake. An aesthetic movement.
Painters who lived before Raphael.
An escape from the realities of the Victorian Period into
a world of aesthetics.
Highly descriptive poetry.
Poetry of World War I
 No patriotic poems anymore for the British superiority.
 Those poets who fought at the front realized the full
horror of war, affecting their imaginations and poetic
 Poetry of Negation: Poets alienating themselves from
the society, negating the communicative function of art.
 The Narrative Protest: VS. Poetry of Negation.
Connection between art and life. Content is more
important than the form.
Edwardian Period, 19011910
 A period of uncertainty. Criticized for its luxury.
 Alfred Austen.
 A nostalgia for the past.
 How to live in a scientific world? How to cope with the
impacts of Industrial revolution?
 A reaction to “Art for art’s sake”
 Thomas Hardy belonged to this period.
Georgian Period
 A revolt against Edwardian period in two different ways.
1. Revolutionary and experimental (T.S. Eliot -Ezra Poundmodernist poetry)
2. A moderate attitude. Optimistic style on rural life,
beauty of nature as a subject matter. Escaping from
modernist topics.
 A style of writing and criticizing poetry articulated by
Ezra Pound, 1912. A manifesto of imagism against the
dictation of romanticism.
 T.E. Hulme. The Poet’s club. Free verse, concrete
language, primacy of image. The ground for modernism
is established by Hulme, yet it as a movements started by
Pound when he announced to poets to be imagists.
 Imagist doctrine:
 Direct treatment of the “thing” whether objectibe or
 The use of absolutely no word that does not contribute
to the presentation
 A freer metrical sequence- FREE VERSE
 In France, 1860s- 1920s. An indirect expression. A
symbol is not a representation of life but an evorsion of
it. Suggestive and allusive images.
Modernism (1890-1930)
 A radical break with the 19th century aesthetics.
 Developing new forms of artistic expression to go beyond the
conventional ideas of life and art.
 Freud and Jung: Human mind is disorderly and ideas are
discontinues. Recurrent motifs. Accidental interruptions.
Collective unconsciousness. Myths are interpreted into
modern experience.
 Henri Bergson. Time. Clock time is artificial but the mental
time which is the stream of non-thinking impulse is real.
 Poetry reflects complexity of existence. Multiplicity of reality.
 Experimenting with the new forms.
 Private language is used as they believed that there is no
common general truth.
 The poems have moment’s context.
 Urban life, corrupted city. They forbidden such matters as sex
and challenged the subject matter of the bourgeoisie.
 Poet’s inner reality came to the front.
 Open ended poems.
 Social , traditional values and the sense of unity is
 Poet should be someone elite with a privileged mind,
speaking to an elite audience. Avant- Garde.
 Modernist art is about individuals and minds.
 Against materialistic society.
 Multiple and individual realisms.
 The corrupted city life, the wastedness of the individuals,
death, frustration, disillusionment, alienation,
fragmentation were pre-occupying the artists’ minds.
 Truth is temporary not absolute, gained by personal