What is the difference between Impressionism and Expressionism in literature?

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literaturenerd's profile pic

Posted on

To answer your question, one must first define both Impressionism and Expressionism.

Impressionism was a period which emerged in the Nineteenth century and was prominent during the 1870s and 1880s. Impressionistic literature characteristically detailed the author's impression (idea, opinion, or feeling about something) regarding a scene. Impressionism is sometimes related to symbolism given that impressionists characteristically offer a description of life using emotions and sensations.

Expressionism was a period which emerged during the late Nineteenth century and moved into the early Twentieth. This movement was most prominent from 1910 to 1925. Expressionistic literature characteristically detailed

distorted objective features of the sensory world using symbolism and dream-like elements in their works illustrating the alienating and often emotionally overwhelmed sensibilities.

While both movements relied upon the senses, Expressionists focused upon the overwhelming aspects of emotions while Impressionists used emotions to describe life in general.

Basically, Expressionists are using their emotions to define their words and Impressionists are using their words to define their emotions.

estoverl's profile pic

Posted on

The expressionism and impressionism literary movements occurred alongside the art movements of the same names and shared some of the same characteristics.

Impressionism as a literary movement, much as the art movement of the same name, referred to works that were not true to realism. In a sense, they were the opposite of it. The impressionist style was not meant to represent reality but instead to give the author's impression of reality. With attention to the descriptions of color and movement, the impressionist author painted his view of the world with descriptive words and figurative language that drew the reader in and allowed the reader to have the same impression of the text. 

Expressionism similarly has the intent of depicting the author's view of reality but rather than using color and movement, the expressionist author attempts to elicit strong emotion from the reader that give the text a particular meaning. Events and characters are described in such as way as to cause the reader to experience shock or other strong emotions.


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