The following are characteristics of Modernism:
Marked by a strong and intentional break with
tradition. This break includes a strong reaction
against established religious, political, and social
Belief that the world is created in the act of
perceiving it; that is, the world is what we say it is.
There is no such thing as absolute truth. All things
No connection with history or institutions. Their
experience is that of alienation, loss, and despair.
Championship of the individual and celebration of
Life is unordered.
Concerned with the sub-conscious.
The horrors of World War I (1914-19), with its
accompanying atrocities and senselessness
became the catalyst for the Modernist movement
in literature and art. Modernist authors felt
betrayed by the war, believing the institutions in
which they were taught to believe had led the
civilized world into a bloody conflict. They no
longer considered these institutions as reliable
means to access the meaning of life, and therefore
turned within themselves to discover the answers.
Their antipathy towards traditional institutions found its way
into their writing, not just in content, but in form. Popular
British Modernists include the following:
James Joyce (from Dublin, Ireland) - His most experimental
and famous work, Ulysses, completely abandons generally
accepted notions of plot, setting, and characters.
Ford Madox Ford - The Good Soldier examines the negative
effect of war.
Virginia Woolf - To the Lighthouse, as well, strays from
conventional forms, focusing on Stream of Consciousness.
Stevie Smith - Novel on Yellow Paper parodies
Aldous Huxley - Brave New World protests against the
dangers and nature of modern society.
D.H. Lawrence - His novels reflected on the dehumanizing
effect of modern society.
T.S. Eliot - Although American, Eliot's The Wasteland is
associated with London and emphasizes the emptiness of
Postmodern literature is a form of literature which is
marked, both stylistically and ideologically, by a
reliance on such literary conventions as fragmentation,
paradox, unreliable narrators, often unrealistic and
downright impossible plots, games, parody, paranoia, dark
humor and authorial self-reference. Postmodern authors
tend to reject outright meaning in their novels, stories
and poems, and instead highlight and celebrate the
possibility of multiple meanings, or a complete lack
of meaning, within a single literary work.
Postmodern literature also often rejects the
boundaries between 'high' and 'low' forms of art and
literature, as well as the distinctions between different
genres and forms of writing and storytelling.
Pastiche: The taking of various ideas from
previous writings and literary styles and
pasting them together to make new styles.
Intertextuality : The acknowledgment of
previous literary works within another literary
Metafiction: The act of writing about writing
or making readers aware of the fictionality of
the very fiction their reading.
Temporal Distortion: The use of non-linear
timelines and narrative techniques in a story.
Minimalism: The use of characters and events which
are decidedly common and non-exceptional characters.
Maximalism: Disorganized, lengthy, highly detailed
Magical Realism: The introduction of impossible or
unrealistic events into a narrative that is otherwise
Faction: The mixing of actual historical events with
fictional events without clearly defining what is factual
and what is fictional.
Reader Involvement: Often through direct address to
the reader and the open acknowledgment of the
fictional nature of the events being described.
Choose one of the readings we looked at for
Write a one-page essay about how that piece
fits into the Modern or Postmodern genre
You may do some outside research about
Modernism and Postmodernism
Literature Circle Presentations—
remember, you will need to turn
in all of your work