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What are characteristics of Modernist literature, fiction in particular?


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What are characteristics of Modernist literature, fiction in particular?

Such are the makers of Symbolism and Dada and other refugees into language. Of the Symbolists, an early twentieth-century critic, Raoul Hausman, denigrated their resistance to a drastically changing world; he called their act a "naive nostalgia to see the world through human will as if it was imagined by man.

In man's quicksand entrapment, the literary icon was able to create an artificial world to serve as the vitalizing power of the writer's slipping individuality. The second mode of the premodern was a direct attack on the growing notion of a nonanthropocentric world.

It was a much more hostile and sometimes teasing reaction in verbal terms. It was flamboyantly represented as we know by Dada: Simultaneous with a rejection of language expressed in such structures as phonetic poems was the development of a language of rejection. This rejection was paralleled in the plastic arts with a challenge of the objects to which aesthetic qualities had been attributed. If the rejection of language developed a language of rejection, it is also true that in the reality of language others sought their sole comfort and strength, a replacement of the divine Logos by a new confidence in language which would equate naming with the act of creation.

Stephen Hawking, an eminent popularizer of science, suggests in A Brief History of Time that neophytes viewing the changes catalyzed by recent scientific activities take the advice of the philosopher-mathematician Wittgenstein and in their perplexities seek refuge in language.

Earlier poets had done that in a premodern era. Vicente Huidobro, Pierre Reverdy, James Joyce, the early surrealists had perceived language as an armor and a staff in the resistance to chaos. To quote Hugo Ball again, "You may laugh, language will one day reward us for our zeal, even if it does not achieve any directly visible results. We have loaded the word with strengths and energies that helped us to rediscover the evangelical concept of the word logos as a magical complex image.

But I see three other modes directly confronting the decentralized universe, modes in which language is not an end in itself but a means of making responses to the cosmos. They are the modernisms dealing with identification, representation, and revision, all responding to the expanded definition of nature. Identification or imitation with the decontrolled universe is expressed by simulation of it, signaling direct involvement with it.

This form of mimesis is demonstrated in the random spirit of collage, in happenings theatrically staged, connective structures suggesting sequence replaced by gaps suggestive of dark holes in thought, action, or human perception of time, in the fragmentation of language or object in text or canvas or celluloid to suggest correspondences between the dislocated narrator and his incohesive surroundings, wherein anger and indifference are personalized not in pathos but through irony and complacency, as if the joke were not on man but on the universe.

If life is a travesty, let art be a game! In adopting an amorphous structure and discarding even the elementary codes of art, it is as if the writer or artist were confirming that nothing short of the negation of art can be the symbol of a terminal era. It is this involvement of the perceiver with the perceived chaos, using irony as the only weapon against total dissolution and silence, that has become the literary fortune of Dada among those modernists of today, self-identified as postmodern.

If indeed there are many evidences of authors and painters who identify with flotsam and chaos through their subjective and lately minimalist response, there is also in evidence the representation of human dispersion in the form of personas who are not identified with the narrator but are his cast of characters in a dramatic narrative, creating a distance that protects the narrator from pathos and self-entrapment.

When Molloy, and not Beckett, says "I listen and the voice is of a world collapsing endlessly, a frozen world under a faint and untroubled sky," we, the readers, are joining the author in the act of observing his characters struggling with a redefined notion of reality, and in sharing the detachment of the author we are immune to the element of the tragic. The voice is not necessarily that of the author; why do critics assume that every somber utterance must necessarily represent the author's attitude?

It is significant that some of the most prominent writers who have taken the decontrolled, decentralized universe in their stride use the myth of the labyrinth. Molloy searches for the lost center in the metaphor of the return to the Mother. Robbe-Grillet's nameless, faceless character searches out his memory-stripped consciousness in a void. In neither case is mere an Ariadne in sight.

These new Theseuses are engaged in what RobbeGrillet calls "an interminable walk through the night," going nowhere, dying everywhere. A situation of impasse is very structurally staged, the decor is selected, landmarks on the journey are consciously chosen; the central character pirouetting has no recourse to human support, or reliance on a benevolent nature or outside force.

There is no possibility of battle or an act of courage at the end; because no single danger can be identified, diere is no opportunity for risk and no need to manifest resistance. Robbe-Grillet's unidentified protagonist copes with the ambiguities not only of space but also of time. We have the excellent example here of architectonic form without a content of supplied meanings.

There is the structure of allegory, explicit in the title and implemented in the geometric engineering of the composite events, but the author warns us that there is no allegory of values implied; if no interpretation is invited, then all meaning is exterior and polysemous. If human memory is emblematically present in a box that the protagonist carries around in an eternally present moment, there are no questions as to where or why. The loss of identity is spelled out in a series of maneuvers, compounding each other, and yet the character never says "I am lost.

Similarly, in Claude Simon's The Grass the author tackles the age-old theme of the devastations caused by the passage of time; the metaphor of the grass is used as the emblem for the imperceptibility of the passage of time, as a measure of growth whether on a physical or a psychological basis.

To demonstrate the difference between Proust's handling of time and the newer manipulations of the time dimension, let us presume that Proust views the past as a contained package of memories that he can retrieve according to the power of the faculty of remembering: The newer novelists represent not so much hindsight as the degree of clarity of their troubled eyes, which are not at all sure that anything remains; they believe only in the centrality of the moment.

In describing the precarious quality of the moment, man's meager and sole possession, Octavio Paz sees it as a form of instantaneous eternity in his meditative essay "The Dialectics of Solitude," included in The Labyrinth of Solitude.

Previous novelists, modern in their time, have presented alienated heroes. Famous among them are Kafka's protagonists, Dostoevsky's underground man, and Sartre's nauseated Roquentin. But it is important to note that in the case of Kafka and Dostoevsky the social rather than the ontological factor underlies the alienation; in the case of Sartre's hero, there is strong author identification rather than objective representation of character, and at the end there is a therapeutic solution to the malaise with autobiographical overtones.

Characters not judged, time deprived of continuity, space used circularly, objects distanced from their functional associations, characters unidentifiable with their creators, acceptance of inconsistencies in personality attributed to the normal interplay of degrees of consciousness, use of verbal and phenomenal chance as acceptable factors of life as of art: I have referred to identification and representation.

The other mode, that of modernism, of revision, is the mode of those who, instead of representing a changed perception of the universe, take artistic control of it. He called upon a moral rather than an aesthetic motivation to free the various forms of art from engulfment in the unreliable.

The so-called moral value of such willed revision would make both writer and painter, as well as reader and beholder, better able to cope with daily life, as he thought.

Such an objective contains a philosophy directed to a concrete and pragmatic achievement rather than to abstract levels of dialogue. Viewing surrealism in the context of realism—a correction Breton made in his definition as he proceeded from the First Manifesto to Surrealism and Painting —he explained that there can exist a process of transformation of the real into the artifact.

The primary function he demanded of himself and of his fellow surrealists was to recuperate the random and the senseless, the automatic and the fortuitous, and to submit them to the control of the artist. The artistic universe need not be decontrolled to match a decontrolled universe. Beauty, for instance, can survive the demolished canon of an art representative of an orderly world only if it is made to correspond to an unpredictable universe: It is not an attempt to represent the indeterminacy of nature but a creation of indeterminacies in those very aspects of nature that are presumed to have remained constants.

But expecting neither sympathy nor meaning in nature, the poet or painter began to project his own countenance onto the world around him. The poets and painters acted according to consorted theories that brought about great understanding of each other's work.

But the painters' manifestations, as it turned out, can be more graphically perceived: All these manifestations can be summarized as the poet-painter's effort to engender purpose where we can outwardly perceive none. The ultimate question proposed to modernisms of the future is whether human desire can give direction to objective chance. In their self-referential structures the best of surrealists appeared to think so. The prophetic Apollinaire had foreseen two kinds of artists in modern time.

One instinctively and intuitively lets the representation of modern humanity seep through him into the work of art; in that respect the postmoderns are justified in claiming that there is a touch of everyman in the so-called work of art and that it is therefore a collective possession.

The other category, in which Apollinaire named Picasso as the original force, recreates a universal model, an aggregate of stylized projection to what might be called a cosmic scale of naturalism. Picasso has been much more recognized of course than his counterpart in literature, Breton. But even in Picasso's case, I wonder whether that admiration has been sufficiently focused on that moment of epiphany when he slipped out of his blue period into the stream of light coming from the depths and the edges of night.

A fundamental argument emerges among moderns concerning the destiny of the metaphor. Robbe-Grillet declared some twenty-five years ago that in view of the absence of human meaning in the universe, the practitioners of the arts should eliminate analogy in their works and thereby suppress the metaphor.

But the neosurrealists, particularly the poets of Hispano-America, have increasingly sharpened the image as the sole device to guard what Breton had recognized as the creative spirit in its efforts to overcome what would otherwise be a solipsistic existence "when the primordial connections have been broken. To quote Breton again: As we know, the element of rebellion, which is an essential feature of any and all modernism, can be expressed—and indeed was spectacularly expressed early in this century—by deconstructions in perceptions of aesthetics and in sociopolitical activisms.

But the rebellion involved in the moral concerns of any serious artist penetrates a deeper level of the art of expression. Apollinaire described the evolution of Picasso as the calm after the frenzy; "calm" in that context means mastery of process as an answer to unilateral, belligerent attitudes toward the conditions of life in the twentieth century.

What Apollinaire perceived in the development of the art of Picasso is the transformation of circumstantial rebellion into the multitiered image of subversion in painting, in poetry, in film, whereas frenzy is the overt exercise of uncontrolled, unsparing movement. One of the great changes in subsequent manifestations of modernism is the channeling of these energies of rebellion so that they are no longer the outer garment of the artist but assume through shocking analogies the double-edged meaning of reconstruction, constructing while deconstructing, espousing no single issue but catalytic of any issue.

It is too early to take inventory of all the avant-gardes that constitute the self-perpetuating modernism of the twentieth century. What matters for the moment is to proceed beyond the attempt to understand motivations, beyond tolerance of each and every one, because indeed to love the avant-garde has become as popular and trendy as it previously was to shun it.

Modernist literature rejects the old in favor of the new, embracing a newfound freedom of thought and expression. This shows itself largely in the content of modernist literature, which is unlimited and unrestricted. Previously, literature was confined to topics of natural beauty and drama. Modernist literature spoke of every aspect of reality, putting the spotlight on the ordinary and simple rather than on the extraordinary.

Coinciding closely with the second theme is the theme of the grotesque. To be grotesque means to be unpleasant or displeasing. In modernist literature, authors would take something familiar or traditional and warp it into something disturbing. By manipulating that thing, they were in a sense showing another side to a familiar story. This falls neatly in line with rejecting of the norms, as many modernist authors would use subject matter and content that had been spoken of in classical literature and turn it into something very different and unnatural.

The idea was to make the reader uncomfortable with what is commonplace and to question the true goodness of what was considered ultimately good. The fourth theme is that of technology. In an effort to leap away from the past and into the future, many modernist authors were fond of writing about technology. Technology represents a new way of doing things in education, transportation, communication, commerce, and the daily activities of life.

Much of the subject matter of modernist literature includes technology either as a main element of the story or as a background observation. It is sometimes used to show improvement, but more often used to represent the increasing isolation of society and the cold, mechanical nature of the world.

The last theme is the theme of structure and geometry. It is partially related to technology, in that it emphasizes functionality over decoration. This theme is displayed in the authors streamlining of description and embellishment, favoring instead shortened, functional definitions. Along the same line with the themes of modernism are the styles used in modernist literature.

Although there are many styles used in modernist literature, there are four many styles of writing that we will discuss. Firstly, the style of imagism was highly present. Imagism involves using precise, clear, and sharp language in writing, rather than over-embellishment and exaggeration. Imagism called for a return to the directness of presentation and economy of language, as well as a willingness to experiment with non-traditional views.

A distinct feature of imagism is its attempt to isolate a single image and reveal its essence. This focus on concisely describing a singularity, rather than a vast topic, is a definite stylistic change from the previous romantic and Victorian literary works. Secondly, modernist literature uses very symbolic language and content.

This is noticeable in the amount of metaphors used by modernist writers. In general, nothing is skin-deep in modernist writing. There is a deeper, symbolic meaning behind most characters, places, names, and other elements of the story. This was a very anti-idealist style of writing as it attempted to show life in its gritty particulars and humble realities. Symbolism takes the literature away from realism, abstracting the ugly truth from any and all situations.

Those who wrote with this style believed that there were some absolute truths that could not be written about directly, choosing instead to represent these things through metaphorical and suggestive writing. They endowed images and objects with symbolic meaning in order to point the reader in the direction of the truth without saying it straight-out.

Symbolism brought with it a freer flow in the writing of poetry. Modernist authors did not want to hinder themselves or their message by being confined to consistency of stanzas, rhyming, or any other traditionally accepted norms in poetry. They chose instead to follow whatever form and flow that would best suit their particular pieces of literature, without paying any attention to specific rules or consistency.

Third on the list of styles used is vorticism. This was a style of writing that attempted to relate art to industrialization and machinery. It opposes sentimentality and promotes the mechanical and futuristic. Lastly, there is the style of expressionism. Expressionism was the tendency of modernist authors to present the world from a subjective perspective, distorting the view in order to evoke an emotional response.

Although similar to symbolism, expressionism is different in that the author wished more to lead the reader to the specific personal emotions, moods, and ideas of the author instead of general feeling and emotion. This style was brought about largely by the perceived dehumanization effect of industrialization and the growth of cities. These are the styles and themes of modernism used by those who are considered the major writers of the modernist movement.

This literary movement was mostly displayed in British literature. The most notable authors who wrote in the UK are T. Eliot was a poet who lived from He was born in St. Eliot had a distinguished career in literature, and even received the Nobel Prize in literature in James Joyce was born in and died in That's a weird word that reminds me of orcs from The Lord of the Rings. What are alliteration and assonance? What is New Historicism?

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Modernism Essay Words | 5 Pages. The modernist period in British and Irish literature was one of the most important and exciting times in literary history. The term modernist stemmed from the beginning of the 20th century labelled the modern period.

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Literature has kept changing as it adjusts with the modern world. The manner in which literature is being expressed today is different compared to the past when technology was not well developed. For instance in the field of art, it is believed that modernism began during the time of high and low art.

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André Breton's most important contribution of the groundwork of the literature of modernism as it is shaping up today was his earlier adjustment to the new factors in a way to make literature and art and their need for determined absolute values viable in a relativist world. Modernism in Literature Introduction The horrors of World War I (), with its accompanying atrocities and senselessness became the catalyst for the Modernist movement in territorios-luchas.tkist authors felt betrayed by the war, believing that the institutions in which they were taught had led the civilized world into bloody conflict.

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To this end, modernist literature is marked by a blurred distinction between the internal and the external. The second major theme in modernism is the rejection of norms. At the very core of modernism is the defiance of society’s established standards and traditions. Modernism is marked by experimentation, particularly manipulation of form, and a strong and intentional break with tradition. Modernist literature has a tendency to lack traditional chronological narrative, break narrative frames or move from one level of narrative to another without any warning through the words of a number of different characters.