Modernism Essay

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Modernism

“An inclination to subjective distortion to point up the evanescence of the social world of the nineteenth century bourgeoisie.”

-Barth, “Literature of Replenishment” (www.iath.virginia.edu/elab/hfl0255.html)

Modernism was rebellion against not only the repressive principles of the Victorian era but also the emergence of the fast-changing, materialistic corporate society. The period preceding modernism held up Victorian virtues, which accepted the worldview of everything being ordered, neat, stable, and meaningful. While fundamentally optimistic, Victorian culture featured hypercritical moralism as it had a very narrow, strict
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Stream-of-consciousness writing employed by Joyce and Woolf and other expressions of inward consciousness in narration threw asunder the safeguard of the reliability of the narrator and required active contemplation by the readers. Perspective assumed a far greater importance in literature as writers offered more impressionistic work without omniscient narrators and clean resolutions.

The proliferation of the experimental spirit in modernist works of literature often alienated popular readership, and such exclusivity served as a mark of quality to a certain extent as it went in hand with the modernist intellectuals’ disdain towards the mass-consumption-driven popular culture. Modernist intellectuals rejected popular culture, as they perceived that creating work that would be universally accepted often involved certain sacrifices of their genius and ultimately degraded art. The movement was certainly not egalitarian in nature. Modernism in fact strayed away from the idea of thinking in terms of groups, opting instead to focus on the individual. It strove for self-knowledge, and the almost narcissistic interest in the self led to the “spiritual alienation, self-exile, and cultural criticism” that pervaded the period.

The place that Hemingway and Fitzgerald occupied in literary modernism is difficult to pinpoint. They both dabbled with modernist writing styles earlier
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