Thursday, September 12, 2019


Literary modernism, or modernist literature, has its origins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mainly in Europe and North America, and is characterized by a very self-conscious break with traditional ways of writing, in both poetry and prose fiction. Modernists experimented with literary form and expression, as exemplified by Ezra Pound's maxim to "Make it new." This literary movement was driven by a conscious desire to overturn traditional modes of representation and express the new sensibilities of their time.The horrors of the First World War saw the prevailing assumptions about society reassessed.

ModernismStylistic origins19th-century EuropeCultural originsIndustrial Revolution


Acmeist poetry
DadaLocal scenesThe Lost Generation, the Bloomsbury Group

Origins and precursors

In the 1880s increased attention was given to the idea that it was necessary to push aside previous norms entirely, instead of merely revising past knowledge in light of contemporary techniques. The theories of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), and Ernst Mach(1838–1916) influenced early Modernist literature. Ernst Mach argued that the mind had a fundamental structure, and that subjective experience was based on the interplay of parts of the mind in The Science of Mechanics (1883). Freud's first major work was Studies on Hysteria (with Josef Breuer) (1895). According to Freud, all subjective reality was based on the play of basic drives and instincts, through which the outside world was perceived. As a philosopher of science, Ernst Mach was a major influence on logical positivism, and through his criticism of Isaac Newton, a forerunner of Einstein's theory of relativity.

Many prior theories about epistemologyargued that external and absolute reality could impress itself, as it were, on an individual, as, for example, John Locke's (1632–1704) empiricism, which saw the mind beginning as a tabula rasa, a blank slate (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690). Freud's description of subjective states, involving an unconscious mind full of primal impulses and counterbalancing self-imposed restrictions, was combined by Carl Jung (1875–1961) with the idea of the collective unconscious, which the conscious mind either fought or embraced. While Charles Darwin's work remade the Aristotelianconcept of "man, the animal" in the public mind, Jung suggested that human impulses toward breaking social norms were not the product of childishness or ignorance, but rather derived from the essential nature of the human animal.

Another major precursor of modernism was Friedrich Nietzsche,especially his idea that psychological drives, specifically the "will to power", were more important than facts, or things. Henri Bergson (1859–1941), on the other hand, emphasized the difference between scientific clock time and the direct, subjective, human experience of time.His work on time and consciousness "had a great influence on twentieth-century novelists," especially those modernists who used the stream of consciousness technique, such as Dorothy Richardson for the book Pointed Roofs (1915), James Joyce for Ulysses(1922) and Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) for Mrs Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse(1927).Also important in Bergson's philosophy was the idea of √©lan vital, the life force, which "brings about the creative evolution of everything."His philosophy also placed a high value on intuition, though without rejecting the importance of the intellect.These various thinkers were united by a distrust of Victorian positivism and certainty.Modernism as a literary movement can also be seen as a reaction to industrialization, urbanization and new technologies.

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Today's Question

Arrange the following words of Chomsky in chronological order in which they appeared: (i) Current issues in Linguistic Theory (ii) Syntactic...