Modernist Literature

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185 books · 61 voters · list created September 18th, 2011 by Sarah (votes) .
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Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Ben (new)

Ben I need a ruling. Do Erich Maria Remarque and Thomas Mann qualify as Modernist writers?


message 2: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Thanks for adding to the list - its nice to meet another person who appreciates Modernist literature! I particularly enjoy the Imagists in poetry, Theatre of the Absurd and the Southern Modernists (well... Faulkner). I started this list in order to learn of other Modernist writers that I wasn't already aware of, so you've certainly helped there. I'm very pleased to see plenty of writings in translation here.

Good question. Personally, I think that whilst Remarque certainly wrote within the correct period, he did not connect with the aethetic and ways of thinking as the writers above did. By this I refer to a focus on simple, concise and very direct writing, rejection of the Romantic, connection to and dialogue with the avant-garde, subjects with severe selfconsciousness, train of consciousness etc. Incidentally, for this reason I would also argue that DH Lawrence was not a Modernist either. As for Thomas Mann, I haven't heard of him (!) so can't really comment. For what reason would you suggest that he is, and which works of his would you recommend for this list?


message 3: by Ben (last edited Sep 20, 2011 11:38AM) (new)

Ben I'm not very knowledgable about the different artistic movements, but I do get the impression that "modernism" has a somewhat slippery definition. I have, however, seen it consistently refer to works of literature (or art, or philosophy) that were created AFTER World War I. Therein lies (what I thought) one of the components of Modernism: critique of the societal institutions that were revered before the war. What shifted in literate circles is that war was no longer depicted as a valiant, glorious venture (think "Charge of the Light Brigade") but depicted for the horrible, disgusting, pointless exercise it is. World War I brought that home, and the lesson was preserved in works such as All Quiet on the Western Front and the Wilfred Owen poem "Dulce et Decorom est."

Thomas Mann similarly provides a post-World War I social critique in his The Magic Mountain. Set in a sanitarium in the Swiss Alps, the sick patients from a range of European origins are a microcosm of the political and moral sickness that plagued the whole of Europe in the years leading up to the Stupidest War Ever Fought.

Anyway, that's just my understanding. Maybe I'm way off! :o)


message 4: by Acontecimal (new)

Acontecimal When we think of Modernism we think of Joyce, Kafka,Woolf,Eliot... But this writers are defined as "high modernists" and usually wrote around the 20's, sort of like Byron being defined as "ultraromantic", they are influenced by avant-garde movements in the beggining of the century if not, are part of them like Kafka with the Expressionism.
But for me writers like Thomas Mann, Steinbeck,D.H. Lawerence, Fitzgerald are Modernists because of the time they were writing and because they don't use a 19th century language, but they are equally influenced by the realists and the "high modernists". I would call them "realist modernists" or something.
Also, why Beckett is considered a modernist. I always thought post WW2 writers like him and Nabokov were considered post-modernists. When do you think Modernism "ends". But I guess that is not very inportant


message 5: by vi (last edited Jan 03, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

vi macdonald Luiz wrote: "When we think of Modernism we think of Joyce, Kafka,Woolf,Eliot... But this writers are defined as "high modernists" and usually wrote around the 20's, sort of like Byron being defined as "ultrarom..."

It's generally agreed - as far as my personal, and admittedly limited, knowledge goes - that Post-Modernism begins with Joyce's Finnagan's Wake and that Modernism officially ended somewhere thereafter (with Finnegan's Wake informing then general style and philosophical direction of Post-Modernist works to come - especially from Beckett)

Samuel Beckett is one writer who you can argue either way really, some people see him as the late peak in Modernism, before it finally came to an end. Others, myself included, see him as the beginning of Post-Modernism.

[EDIT]:
Also, I completely agree with you on the "realist modernist" angle - the idea of Lawrence, Steinbeck and Co. as Modernists really doesn't seem to get much air-time and I'm really glad you've brought it up here.


message 6: by Evan (new)

Evan Modernism implies a certain critical response to the modern experience (rapid progress, urbanization, industrialization, acceleration of life). As Marshal Berman put it, the central experience unifying disparate modernist writers of the perception that, as Marx put it, "all that is solid melts into air", i.e. that traditions, social structures, experiences of life that had been taken for granted for centuries were (with stunning rapidity) becoming obsolete.

Somewhat more controversially, "post-modernism" is marked by a loss of faith in the ability of art to chart a course through the chaos of modern life. The argument goes that whereas modernists felt that use of radical forms and technical experimentation might generate revolutionary effects and actually bring about new, better modes of human existence, post-modernism abandoned such faith (as well as its attendant nostalgias), and simply embraced superficiality, the aesthetics of infinite choice unfettered by the dream that any aesthetic is radical in itself.

From that perspective, Beckett bridges modernism and post-modernism. Murphy fits squarely within the tradition of interwar novels, whereas the short "installation" plays he increasingly wrote from the 1950s onward are imagistic and lay the groundwork for such clearly po-mo theatre artists as Heiner Muller and Robert Wilson.

At the other end of the spectrum, one can argue that 19th century realism and naturalism were among the first "modernist" aesthetics. They broke from prevailing conventions of romanticism and melodrama to depict less heroic subjects and expose the challenges of modern life. It was one of the hallmarks, though, of modernism, for each new movement or "-ism" to denounce what had come before (and especially realism) as regressive and counter-revolutionary.


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