Monday, April 3, 2017

Literary Look: Modernism

I'm finally bringing back one of my favorite series I've started on the blog: Literary Look. If you are new to these posts, I use them to take a look at the authors and works (and sometimes art pieces in other forms such as traditional art and music) that make up an artistic/literary movement.

Today, I was interested in the Modernist moment, so I decided to record my findings in a post.

You can see the past Literary Look posts here

General Information
The Modernist movement is set in the early 1900s with beginnings in the late 1800s. The movement really picks up momentum after the end of WWI in the 1910s. This movement was of course a response and rejection of earlier movements, such as Realism, as well as a physical representation of the distress caused the utter destruction and violence of WWI. The slogan of this movement was coined by Ezra Pound: "Make it new" and the movement desired to do just that. Authors explored the complexities of the human mind in new narrative styles. Literary terms such as stream of consciousness, the unreliable narrator (one of my personal favorites), and multiple points of view narration were introduced and used by many of the prominent authors in this movement. Many in this movement were inspired by the works of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, as well as the idea of questioning the rationality of the human mind. Works of psychology and philosophy were of particular importance and influence to this movement because of how heavily the works dealt with the human mind and the stream of consciousness narrative style. 

Many historians have chosen 1910 as the start date for this movement, but earlier works can be fit into the movement as well. 

Major Authors and Works 
James Joyce

Joyce's most well-known works include Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Yong Man, The Dubliners, and Finnegan's Wake. Joyce is one of the most well-known contributors to the Modernist Movement, and his novels were highly experimental for the time. Many of his works use the stream of consciousness narrative style, which adds to the difficulty of their reading. Ulysses covers the events in the life of the main character over a twenty-four hour period, in the style of Homer's The Odyssey, in a stream of consciousness narrative style. Finnegan's Wake is a stream of consciousness narrative written in puns and word-plays, much in the style of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky. Joyce's short stories are much easier to read and less intimidating than these two huge works, and they are all I have read of Joyce myself.   

Virginia Woolf 
Woolf is an author that interests me greatly, as I have not read many of her works. Her fiction pieces such as To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway are two of the most popular Modernist novels. Both use a stream of consciousness narrative style and focus on the inner thoughts of her characters. Her works were popular while she was alive and tend to focus on lyrical inner-narratives rather than plot. Woolf was also a pioneer in the literary world of writing about gender, her essay A Room of One's Own illustrates the difficulties that women writers face because of their gender, and her novel Orlando deals with gender and society's black-and-white view of it. Woolf suffered from depression and mental illness, and killed herself in 1941 by drowning.

Franz Kafka

Kafka's works, originally written in German, have come to define the Modernism Movement and Surrealist Literature. His works deal with themes of isolation, anxiety, guilt, and absurdity. His best known works include, The Metamorphosis, The Trial, and The Castle. I read The Metamorphosis quite a while ago, you can read my old review here, but I would like to read it again to see how I feel about it now that I have been studying literature for such a long time. I am also eager to try The Trial. Kafka also has a very interesting collection of drawings that accompany the Modernist Movement quite well.    

Poetry and Poets 
T.S. Elliot

Carlos Williams Carlos 

Carlos William Carlos' poems are very interesting, and much like the poems of Pound below. His poems are short and without a lot of poetic language and devices. His most famous poem is The Red Wheel Barrow, which you have probably read, but also check out This is Just to Say and Complete Destruction.

Ezra Pound 

Pound was a silent leader of the Modernism movement, offering advice and council to many authors including Elliot, but never published anything too well-known himself. He has published quite a few poems and of course they fit in with the Modernism movement. His poems are quite accessible compared to Elliot's. His poems include In a Station of the Metro, "A Girl", and A Pact

Other Art Pieces

Picasso and Cubism
Les Demoiselles D'avignon

Georgia O'Keeffe 
Ram's Head with Hollyhock 

The Treachery of Images by Rene Magritte 

 More Information

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