English Literature I
Definition of Modernism
and Critical Approach
We may better understand what exactly is modernism (focusing literature) if we take a look at the possible vernacular definitions or registered in a dictionary of what is modern, what makes modernism and what led us to modernity. It is wide known that whatever allow us to call something modern is still part of a ongoing process nowadays, so in order to try to define it we must take it into account. Modernism – noun
1. modern character, tendencies, or values; adherence to or sympathy with what is modern.
2. a modern usage or characteristic.
3. a deliberate philosophical and practical estrangement or divergence from the past in the arts and literature occurring especially in the course of the 20th century and taking form in any of various innovative movements and styles.
Modern – adjective
1. of or pertaining to present and recent time; not ancient or remote: modern city life.
2. characteristic of present and recent time; contemporary; not antiquated or obsolete: modern viewpoints.
3. of or pertaining to the historical period following the Middle Ages: modern European history.
4. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of contemporary styles of art, literature, music, etc., that reject traditionally accepted or sanctioned forms and emphasize individual experimentation and sensibility. The etymology of these words already gives us a couple of very good hints on what it is supposed to mean too. From the Latin modus, a noun, it is a manner or method of doing something; also from the Latin modo, an adverb, for something that occurred recently or just now. In a broad sense these terms describe the activities and lives of people who felt that the traditional art, literature, social values etc were now outdated, old fashioned for the new reality emerging, this industrialized world we are part of.Thus one of the very best characteristic of modernism is the self-consciousness of these many movements, leading to high experimentalism with forms and the creative process. Modernist would be the recognition that the world got much more complex then.
2. Contextualized definition
Modernity usually refers to a post-traditional, post-medieval historical period; the period in which many cultures around the world moved from the feudalism system toward capitalism, highly industrialized, a rationalized age and in many cases secularist.
It is possible to identify major movements influenced by these facts during the mid-19th century and on particularly (though it is possible to say that it started way before that, however in a more isolated slower pace). In philosophy it was Nietzsche, for instance and just to name one person concerning it, that with his turn to aphorisms (strong, short and precise way of argumentation) that found a new way of writing, of self-expression; a characteristic that would relate to the modernist aesthetic practice. Nietzsche and the first so called modernist shared a dark look at society, for him it was now sick and weak due to the constraints of traditional values that got unquestioned for too long.
For these new modernists reality was not unique, only one, “reality was personal; it was individual and therefore subjective. As a general rule, modernism was less concerned with reality than with how the artist or writer could transform reality. In this way, the artist made reality his own. Whereas the middle class industrial society of the nineteenth century valued reason, industry, thrift, organization, faith, norms and values, the modernists were fascinated by the bizarre, the mysterious, the surreal, the primitive and the formless. In a word, the modernist fashioned a world shaped by the Irrational. In this way, the modernist artist and writer reflected the concerns of Nietzsche”.
According to him, men could only be saved by a new type...