Sunday, August 4, 2013

What is Modernism? What are the Characteristics of Modernist Literature?

‘Modernism’, in a broader sense, is modern thought, character, or practice breaking away from  the rules, traditions and existing ways of writing practiced by earlier authors before the 20th century. In art, modernism breaks away with the ideology of realism and makes use of past through the use of flashback, recapitulation, and incorporation. This rebellious attitude flourishes between 1900 and 1930 has, as its basis, the rejection of European culture for having become too corrupt and artificial. This dissatisfaction with the moral bankruptcy of everything European led modern thinkers and artists to explore other alternatives, especially primitive cultures. In literature, ‘modernism’ grows out as a reaction to realism and naturalism. Generally literary texts after World War I as well as belonging the above qualities are considered as modern text.
Characteristics of Modernism:
Modernism marks a strong and intentional break with tradition and it is also related to politics, religion etc.. Though modernism becomes prominent after traditionalism so knowing the difference between these two ‘ism’ is important. Traditionalism, which is based on tradition, is a dominant way of life,, There are always pre-determined rules, explanations for people and their life in traditionalism. Objectivism is another important point in traditionalism. There is one truth for everything in traditionalism. High class people are more important than middle or low class people in traditionalism because it gives importance for elevated style. On the other hand, as modernism is a break with tradition, so this break includes a strong reaction against established religious, political, and social views. According to modernism, there is no such thing as absolute truth. All things are relative. Another thing, where in traditionalism objectivism is an important point, modernism gives importance to subjectivism.
Championship of the individual through the celebration of inner strength is one of the most prominent characteristics of modernism and in this regard it differs from realism. This ‘ inner strength’ of the individual is expressed through four literary ‘isms’- subjectivism, impressionalism, expressionalism and surrealism. Realism attempts to portray external objects and events as the common or middle class people see them in every day life, impressionalism tries to portray the psychological impression that these objects and events make on characters, emphasizing the role of individual perception and exploring the nature of conscious and subconscious mind. Whereas realism attempts to portray external objects and events, expressionalism tries to explain the inner vision, emotion or spiritual reality. Whereas, realism attempts to portray external objects and events as they are verisimilituded, surrealism tries to liberal the subconscious to see connection overlooked by the logical mind.
Modernism in Literary texts:
In literature, Literary Modernism has its origins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mainly in Europe and North America. The period of high modernism is twenty years from 1910 to 1930. Some of the high priests of the movement in literature are T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Wallace Stevens, Franz Kafka etc.. The characteristics of the literary modernism that are followed by these writers are given below:
First of all, a new emphasis on impressionalism and subjectivism, that we mentioned earlier, which focus on how we see rather what we see. In this regard a new literary technique, stream of consciousness’, is employed by James Joyce and his followers such as Virginia Woolf in their writings. Then, regarding narrative technique modernist literary texts are away from the apparent objectivity provided by such features as: omniscient external narration, fixed narrative point of view. However, language is also an important device of modernism to differentiate a literary text from other texts. In modern literary text emphasizes on colloquial language rather than formal language.  Finally, a new liking for fragmented forms, discontinuous narratives are obvious in modernist literary texts. For example- Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot are superb example of fragmented forms.
Thus, modernism originated from the corruption, decadence and frustrations in the post-war psyche of the western people marks off from the previous literary tradition that got reduced to cold formalism and traditionalism.