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Modernism, slightly misnamed, refers to the changes in dramatic situations after the classical and Victorian periods; it dramatized everyday people rather than high-station people like kings and queens. Instead, it dealt with the domestic dramas – see Ibsen, Chekhov, Strindberg. While this switch seems quite natural to us, it was revolutionary at the time (late 19th-early 20th century). Contemporary, on the other hand, refers to the dramas of our time, and especially the movements away from realism, such as surrealism, expressionism, and the Absurd, but also those dramas dealing with current social problems: AIDS, nuclear war, etc. The terms, while similar on the surface, dictionary-definition level, really signify different dramatic styles and subjects.
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