Modernism

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Modernism
Although generally called a movement, it is more valid to see modernism as an international body of literature characterized by a new self-consciousness about modernity and by radical formal experimentation. Several literary movements and styles, notably Imagism and Vorticism, were fostered within modernism, which flourished from around 1890 until 1940. There was also a period of so-called "high modernism," 1920-5.

Generally, modernists were driven by the belief that the assurances once provided by religion, politics, or society no longer sufficed. This belief intensified after World War I, when it seemed to many that history itself was coming to an end and that modern life was horrific, chaotic, and ultimately futile. Some modernists, notably T. S. Eliot, expressed a deep sense of loss and despair. However, others responded with a fresh sense of both the freedom and the responsibilities of the artist in a new age. Ezra Pound in particular envisaged the possibility of a new society to which artists would contribute meaningfully. Many modernists shared an ambitious, aspirational belief in the role and place of the artist in contemporary life, believing that art had replaced religion in providing coherence, guidance, and insight into the human condition. For some writers this meant a fresh sense of the possibilities of ancient myths, and a revaluation of the contemporary meanings of myth was typical of high modernism. Others, especially Gertrude Stein, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Ernest Hemingway, were less convinced by the relevance of myth, believing that the creation of meaning and coherence was the task of the writer, performed in opposition to false and damaging external impositions of order. This overall sense of the serious responsibility of the artist helps to account for the large projects in which many modernists engaged, for instance the long poem or the epic.

The modernist period also saw a radical

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