The horrors of World War I (1914-19), with its accompanying atrocities and senselessness became the catalyst for the Modernist movement in literature. Modernist authors felt betrayed by the war, believing that the institutions in which they were taught had led the civilized world into bloody conflict. They no longer turned to these institutions as a reliable means to decipher the meaning of life but instead sought for the answers within themselves. Thus, the Modernism as a literary movement exhibits themes of individualism, the randomness of life, mistrust of institutions (government, religion) and the disbelief in any absolute truths, and to involve a literary structure that departs from conventionality and realism. Modern authors include: James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, D.H Lawrence, Aldous Huxley etc
The break away from tradition
Modernism is marked by experimentation, particularly manipulation of form, and a strong and intentional break with tradition. Modernist literature has a tendency to lack traditional chronological narrative, break narrative frames or move from one level of narrative to another without any warning through the words of a number of different characters. It was also self-reflexive about the act of writing and the nature of literature (meta-narrative). The prevailing “stream of consciousness” writing technique, which focuses on a character’s consciousness and subconscious, became notably recurring in novels. Furthermore, unlike the literature of 19th century, there is a breaking down of the traditional beginning-middle-end linear narrative in the Modernist novel, leaving an impression of enigma and open-endedness to the work. In poetry, rhyme and traditional form were frequently overthrown, and fragmentation, deliberate obscurity and the juxtaposition of images from seemingly unrelated ages and cultures were often featured.
The four “isms” of modernism
Some critics see Modernism as...