Modernist literature has its beginning in the late 19th and early 20th century Europe and America. Modernism was a revolt against the conservative values of realism. Arguably the most paradigmatic motive of modernism is the rejection of tradition and its reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody in new forms. Ezra Pound's maxim to "Make it new" is a tag word of modernism. It rejected the lingering certainty of Enlightenment thinking and also rejected the existence of a compassionate, and the concept of all-powerful creator God.It is an intellectual and artistic movement that developed in conjunction with, and eventually in opposition to, fully developed modernity. Modernistartists and intellectuals were disgusted with the banality and "dehumanized" quality of life in industrial capitalism. They responded to this degradation of the quality of life by retreating into a nostalgia for pre-capitalist organic social order (F. R. Leavis, T. S. Eliot), by embracing fascist leaders and ideologies (Ezra Pound's support of Mussolini, Gertrude Stein's support of Marshal Petain, etc.) by seeking refuge in radical and sometimes anti- social individualism (Hemingway, J. D. Salinger, etc.) or agrarian populism (Faulkner, John Crowe Ransom and the agrarian "fugitives," of the 1930's, etc.). High modernist art often features fragmentation and disruption at the level of form (e.g. James Joyce), though it generally attempts to recuperate a sense of order and faith in universal values at the level of content or overall effect. In this way the modernists attempted to "shore up" (invoking Eliot's phrase from "The Waste Land") the grand narratives, the "absolute" truths and values, of the western tradition. Modern British literature is the literature of 20th century. Many events contributed to the concept of ‘modern’ which are given below.
1. Charles Darwin and his book ‘Origin of Species’ published in 1859. It brought out a new world outlook especially among religious communities.
2. Emergence of socialism and later communism by the advent of Karl Max by his book Das Capital.
3. Appearance of Sigmund Freud and the psycho analysis theory influenced the age a lot.
4. Albert Einstein’s Theory of Realtivity combined with Quantum theory.
5. World War I.
All these events dramatically influenced 20th century and the consequence is modernism. New trends emerged in all disciplines, such as Painting, Music, Arts, Science, and Literature. Traditional tools and techniques and notions were rejected, and new approaches and ideas are emerged. The boundary-breaking art, literature, and music of the first decades of the century are the subject of the topic “Modernist Experiment.”
The term impressionism comes from the school of mid-nineteenth century French painting, which was in reaction to the academic style of the day. The name of the style derives from the title of a Claude Monet’s work, Impression, soleill evant (Impression, Sunrise).Impressionist painting characteristics include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles. The literary use of the term ‘impressionism’ is far less precise. Many of the French symbolist poets have at one time or another been called Impressionists. The impressionistic technique is apparently subjective. In the modern novel, ‘impressionism frequently refers to the technique of centering in the mental life of the chief character rather than the reality around him. Writers such as Proust, Joyce, and Virginia Woolf dwell in their characters’ memories, associations, and inner emotional reactions.
Imagism, a movement in early 20th-century Anglo-American poetry was formulated in about 1912 by Ezra Pound—in conjunction with fellow poets Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), Richard Aldington, and F.S. Flint--and was inspired by the critical views of T.E. Hulme. It has been described as the most influential movement in English poetry since the activity of the Pre-Raphaelites. The poets who followed the Imagist poetry movement were T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings, and Allen Ginsberg. Imagist poetryfavored precision of imagery, and clear language. The Imagists rejected the sentiment and discursiveness typical of much Romantic and Victorian poetry. This was in contrast to their contemporaries, the Georgian poets, who were by and large content to work within that tradition. Group publication of work under the Imagist name appearing between 1914 and 1917 featured writing by many of the most significant figures in Modernist poetry in English, as well as a number of other Modernistfigures prominent in fields other than poetry. Imagist publications appearing between 1914 and 1917 featured works by many of the most prominent modernist figures, both in poetry and in other fields. The Imagist group was centered in London, with members from Great Britain, Ireland and the United States. Somewhat unusually for the time, a number of women writers were major Imagist figures. Major feature of the Imagism is that it makes use the language of common speech, but to employ the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word, and the individuality of a poet may often be better expressed in free verse than in conventional forms. Another feature of imagist poetry is that it relies on absolute freedom in the choice of subject. Imagists try to produce the poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.
The phrase ‘stream of consciousness’ refers to an uninterrupted and unhindered collection and occurrence of thoughts and ideas in the conscious mind. In literature, the phrase refers to the flow of these thoughts, with reference to a particular character’s thinking process. It is first used by William James in Principles of Psychology. It is one of the major techniques used in the 20th century novelists such as Dorothy Richardson, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. This type of writing is also called as subjective novel or psychological novel. Stream of consciousness is a method of narrative representation of "random" thoughts which follow in a freely-flowing style.Some writers attempted to capture the total flow of their characters’ consciousness, rather than limit themselves to rational thoughts. To represent the full richness, speed, and subtlety of the mind at work, the writer incorporates snatches of incoherent thought, ungrammatical constructions, and free association of ideas, images, and words at the pre-speech level or his or her sensory reactions to external occurrences.
The stream-of-consciousness novel commonly uses the narrative techniques of interior monologue. Probably the most famous example is James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), a complex evocation of the inner states of the characters Leopold and Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus; Virginia Woolf’s The Waves (1931), a complex novel in which six characters recount their lives from childhood to old age. Toni Morrison also used the stream-of-consciousness technique of writing in many of her novels depicting the life of African-American women, such as Beloved(1987).
“The Movement” poetry is a kind of poetry which was written by a few poets during the nineteen-fifties and that found to be very different from the modernist poetry written in the nineteen-thirties and nineteen-forties. “The Movement” is a title first used to the anthology of poets such as Kingsley Amis, John Wain, Elizebeth Jennings, Thom Gunn, Donald Davie, and D.J. Enrightthat published in 1950s. Soon after, another anthology called “New Lines”, containing the work of the same poets, appeared; and in it a number of poems by Larkin were also included. In the introduction to this anthology, its editor (Robert Conquest) wrote that these poems of the nineteen-fifties were vastly different from the poems which had been written in the preceding two decades. This new poetry, he wrote, did not submit to any great systems of theoretical constructs or to any agglomerations of unconscious commands. This new poetry was free from both mystical and logical compulsions, and was empirical in its attitude to all things.
Actually, the poets of the Movement were not an organized group with any well- defined and deliberately formulated aims shared by them all. The poetry of each member of this group differed in several ways from the poetry of every other member. All the same, there were certain features which were identified by critics as being common to the poetry of most of the members of this group. Questioned on this point, Larkin said that the members of this group did not have many artistic aims in common but that they agreed, in general, in things which they found funny or derisible. Larkin did not give any clear definition of the poetry of the Movement, though he did agree that certain features were. common to the work of all the poets of this group. Talking about his own poetry, he emphasized the expository, documentary, empirical, and rational elements in his poems; and these qualities were evident in the work of other members of the group also. The poetry of the Movement aims at stark realism; it is rational, empirical, and argumentative; it employs traditional syntax, using ordinary diction; and it is most often
colloquial in style. The symbolist or Yeatsian poetry, on the other hand, aims at
transcendental effects; it employs symbols which tend to make it difficult to understand; it
is most often vague in its meaning and it therefore mystifies the reader; it is highly allusive;
it is very learned and demands from the reader a high degree of intelligence and vast
knowledge; it generally tends to obscurity. The poetry of the Movement seeks to establish a
direct relationship between the poet and his audience; and that is why it deals with ordinary
and common themes in an ordinary and plain style. The symbolist or modernist poetry, on
the other hand, appeals to the elite among the intelligentsia, thus losing touch with the
common people. And it so happens that most of Larkin’s poems represent the aims of the
Movement, and that some of his poems represent the symbolist or the modernist mode of
writing. Both sides can claim him for their own; and this is the reason why his work may be
regarded as representing the Movement’s poetic scene as one of the temperate zone.
Surrealism is amovement in literature and the fine arts, founded by the French poet and critic Andre Breton. He published his Surrealist Manifesto in Paris in 1924 and consistently dominated the movement. Surrealism grew directly out of the movement known as Dadaism, an art and literary movement reflecting nihilistic protest against all aspects of Western culture. Like Dadaism, surrealism emphasized the role of the unconscious in creative activity, but it employed the psychic unconscious in a more orderly and more serious manner. The surrealists claimed as their literary forebears a long line of writers, outstanding among whom is the Comte de Lautreamont, author of the lengthy and complicated workLes chants de Maldoror (1868-1870). Besides Breton, many of the most distinguished French writers of the early 20th century were at one time connected with the movement; these include Paul eluard, Louis Aragon, Rene Crevel, and Philippe Soupault. Younger writers such as Raymond Queneau were also influenced by its points of view. Pure surrealist writers used automatism as a literary form—that is, they wrote whatever words came into their conscious mind and regarded these words as inviolable. They did not alter what they wrote, as that would constitute an interference with the pure act of creation. The authors felt that this free flow of thought would establish a rapport with the subconscious mind of their readers. Like their forerunners, the Dadaists, the surrealists broke accepted rules of work and personal conduct in order to liberate their sense of inner truth. The movement spread all over the world and flourished in America during World War II (1939-1945), when Andre Breton was living in New York City.
In literature, expressionism is often considered a revolt against realism and
naturalism, seeking to achieve a psychological or spiritual reality rather than record external
events in logical sequence. Expressionism attempts to portray the inner workings of a
person's mind by, effectively, turning them ‘inside out’ and allowing mental states to shape
their face, body, and even the world in which they live. In theatre, expressionism results in a
drama of social protest, in which representation of the outer world took second place to the
inner turmoil experienced by the main character, which is expressed via long
monologues. This can be seen as a reaction against a comfortable, unthinking, uncaring and
increasingly mechanized society .In the novel, the term is closely allied to the writing of
Franz Kafka and James Joyce. In the drama, Strindberg is considered the forefather of the
expressionists, though the term is specifically applied to a group of early 20th-century
German dramatists, including Kaiser, Toller, and Wedekind. Their work was often
characterized by a bizarre distortion of reality. The movement, though short-lived, gave
impetus to a free form of writing and of production in modern theater.The objectives of
expressionism in literature, notably in the novel and the drama, are similar to those in art.
The characters and scenes are presented in a stylized, distorted manner with the intent of
producing emotional shock.The early expressionist playwrights, August Strindberg of
Sweden andFrank Wedekind of Germany, exerted an international influence on the next
generation of playwrights. These included the Germans Georg Kaiser and Ernst Toller, the
Czech Karel Capek, and the Americans Eugene O'Neill and Elmer Rice.Expressionist
drama gave rise to a new approach to staging, scene design, and directing. The object was
to create a totally unified stage picture that would increase the emotional impact of the
production on the audience. Among prominent directors were the Germans Max
Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator and the RussianVsevolodMeyerhold. Set designers such
as Edward Henry Gordon Craig of Britain and Robert Edmond Jones of the United States
used techniques similar to those of expressionist painters to provide visual stimulation
consonant with the dramas. Expressionist painting and drama also influenced the cinema, as
can be seen in the German films The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari (1919), with its nightmarish
perspectives and masklike makeup, and The Last Laugh (1924), notable for the brilliant use
of lighting and camera angles to convey the bitter story.
Central characters, particularly in the work of Austrian novelist FranzKafka, are
trapped inside a distorted vision of the world that either reflects their own psychological
conflicts or those of the society in which the original readers lived. German novelists
associated with expressionism also include Max Brod, and Karl Kraus. Expressionist
literature in Germany was effectively wiped out by the Nazis in the 1930s.
In expressionist literature, the physical consequences of a distorted situation are followed
through as if it were completely real. Expressionist writers divide over the final
consequences of this. Personal tragedies usually end in the destruction of the character.
However, when the focus is the state of society a positive ending can result, with the victory
of traditional human values over repression and mass production. This is particularly
apparent in the theatre. Expressionist drama flourished in Germany, in the work of Reinhard
Johannes Sorge, Georg Kaiser, Ernst Toller, Paul Kornfeld, Reinhard Johannes Sorge,
Georg Kaiser, Ernst Toller, Paul Kornfeld, Fritz von Unruh, and Walter Hasenclever.
AVANT GARDE MOVEMENT
Refers to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with
respect to art, culture, and politics.Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of
what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The notion of
the existence of the avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as
distinct frompostmodernism. One of the key things about being avant-garde in literature is that it is all about
breaking the existing rules about writing, and whether these are in poetry or in fictional
writing, pushing the boundary and expressing themselves in a different way that doesn't
conform to the existing rules is vital. It is as much about the form as it is about the content.
James Joyce is one of the biggest exponents of Avant- garde experimentation in Literature.
Angry Theatre refers to various British novelists and playwrights who emerged in
the 1950s and expressed scorn and dissatisfaction with the established sociopolitical order
of their country. Their impatience and resentment were especially aroused by what they
perceived as the hypocrisy and mediocrity of the upper and middle classes.
The Angry Young Men were a new breed of intellectuals who were mostly of
working class or of lower middle-class origin. “Look Back in Anger” is the representative
work of the movement.When the Royal Court Theatre’s press agent described the play’s 26- year-old author John Osborne as an “angry young man,” the name was extended to all his
contemporaries who expressed rage at the persistence of class distinctions, pride in their
lower-class mannerisms, and dislike for anything highbrow or “phoney.”The major
characteristics of the Angry Young Men Movement are revolt against Social Inequality, criticism of mannerism, portrayal of social Status of youth, revolt against conventionality, and unconventional hero.
Epic theatre refers to a theatrical movement first recognized in the 1920's and 30's.
The purpose of this movement was to emphasise more on the meaning of a play rather than
the aesthetics of it.Brecht and his fellow epic theatre artists devised a set of staging and
acting techniques meant to teach their audience to criticize the injustices and inequalities of
modern life. Two keys to their technique are the notion of "theatricalism" and the concept
of the "distancing" or "alienation" effect.The first, theatricalism, simply means the audience
aware that they are in a theatre watching a play. Brecht believed that "seducing" the
audience into believing they were watching "real life" led to an uncritical acceptance of
society's values. He thought that by keeping stage sets simple, showing exposed lighting
instruments, breaking the action into open-ended episodes, projecting labels or photographs
during scenes, or using a narrator or actors to directly address the audience, a production
would allow an audience to maintain the emotional objectivity necessary to learn the truth
about their society.The second key to epic theatre, the "distancing" or "alienation" effect in
acting style, has these same goals. Brecht wanted actors to strike a balance between "being"
their character onstage and "showing the audience that the character is being performed."The use of "quotable gesture," (the employment of a stance, mannerism, or repeated action
to sum up a character), the sudden shift from one behavior to another to put the audience
off-balance, and the suggestion of the "roads not taken" in each moment of a character's
decision-making are all the means to the didactic end of teaching us to criticize the society
we see onstage in Epic Theatre.
Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from modernist approaches that
had previously been dominant. The term "postmodernism" comes from its critique of the
"modernist" scientific mentality of objectivity and progress associated with the
Enlightenment. Developed in the second half of the twentieth century, it is largely
influenced by a number of events that marked the period. Genocide that occurred during the
Second World War, Soviet gulags, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, mass destruction
caused by atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, insecurity of Cold War Era,
post colonialism issue, as well as the supremacy of multinational corporations and postindustrialism
with new technologies, violence, counter culture and consumer culture
shapedthe perception of new authors. While postmodernism had a little relevance to poetry
and only a limited influence on modern drama (applied only to the Absurd Theatre), it had a
huge impact on fiction, especially to the novel. Characterized by an attempt to establish
transhistorical or transcultural validity, it claims that search for reality is pointless, as the
"real" is conditioned by time, place, race, class, gender, and sexuality. There is no
knowledge or experience that is superior or inferior to another.
Literary postmodernism is generally characterized by features such as: a mixing of
styles ("high" and "low," for example) in the same text; discontinuity of tone, point of view,
register, and logical sequence; apparently random unexpected intrusions and disruptions in
the text; a self-consciousness about language and literary technique, especially concerning
the use of metaphor and symbol, and the use of self-referential tropes. Even though the
writers most often associated with postmodernism may deal with serious themes, their work
often has absurd, playful, or comic aspects, and sometimes makes special use of parody and
pastiche and of references to other texts and artifacts.
Chief characteristics of post modernism isthat it deals with the complex absurdity of
contemporary life - moral and philosophical relativism, loss of faith in political and moral
authority, alienation etc. It employs blackhumor, parody, grotesque, absurdity, and
travesty. It tries to erase boundaries between "low" and "high" culture. Post modern works
lack of a grand narrative. It avoids traditional closure of themes or situation. It condemns
commercialism, hedonism, mass production, and economic globalism.