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An introduction and historical context

What is Modernism?

A Problem With Terminology

Unlike Romanticism and other movements the title Modernism creates some logistical problems. The term Modernism alludes to the concept of present time. However, the MOVEMENT of Modernism concerns an era of thought.

Robert Wohl Modernism is a response by clusters of intellectuals and artists to the converging processes of industrialization In Other Words


is the reaction of artists and writers to the new society formed because of industrialization.

Other important definitions

Avant-Garde, sector of the arts that draws its inspiration from the invention and application of new or unconventional techniques and is therefore on the vanguard or cutting edge of new styles. Participants in the creative process can be considered members of the avant-garde.
Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2003. 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Other important definitions

Aesthetic Movement, English artistic movement of the late 19th century, dedicated to the idea of art for art's sakethat is, art concerned solely with beauty and not with any moral or social purpose. Associated with the movement were the artists Aubrey Beardsley and James McNeill Whistler and writers Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde.
Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2003. 19932002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Other important definitions

Expatriate, somebody who has left his or her homeland to live or work in another country, usually for a long period of time.

Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2003. 1993-2002

Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Stream of Consciousness

A method of writing where the author attempts to project the feelings and emotions of a character onto the reader. (allowing the reader to get into the mind of the character)

Historical Beginnings

Most scholars credit Manet (a painter) with painting the very first signs of Modernism Manet began his controversial painting in the 1860s However, Modernism took its form slowly, and never replaced Romanticism.

Historical catalyst
The invention of the camera may have been the catalyst in the Modernism Movement. Artists suddenly found their trade replaceable and therefore quickly adopted the philosophy of Art for Arts Sake

Other important historical influences and figures

Charles Darwin Einstein's Theory of Relativity Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalysis Communism Cars Airplanes Telephones Radios WWI

Why the Modernism movement?

Modernism is complex. Therefore this list is only a brief representation of ideas.


is a direct reaction to the Romantic ideas that did not always portray truth. Individuals began to revolt against anything coming from the Romantic Era.

fact, the concept of avant-garde implies a very militant stand against Romanticism. Most Modernists wanted to go as far as destroying everything that came as a result of Romanticism and have it replaced with Modernist methods and ideas.

Why the Modernism movement?


Bradbury suggests that Christian certainties were suddenly undermined by free thought. reality was not an objective given, but was subjectively perceived through consciousness. William James Modernists also revolted against superior aesthetics (Beauty and order) and required the gradual unraveling of tradition. Mankind found themselves lost in a quickly changing world.

These thoughts had a great impact on the themes of literature

Political Disorder Mans inner anguish and anxiety.

Aspects of Modernism in Literature

Oppression and loss of hope Elevated diction and vocabulary Stream of Consciousness Negative attitude towards change and progress Embracing of new and experimental writing techniques