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I can explain to you some of the important features of modernism with particular reference to T.S.Eliot's "The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock":
1. The poem is a detailed record of the random thoughts -subjective consciouness-represented just as they are going on in the mind of Prufrock.
2. Modernist writers were influenced by Freud's psychoanalytical method by which a person was able to speak freely to release all his repressed emotions just like Prufrock in the poem: "To spit out all the butt ends of my days and /ways?"
3. The poets used avant garde methods like the 'Stream of Consciousness' technique to faithfully portray the complex ways in which the human mind works-psychologically by association rather than logically.
4. This resulted in their characters having multiple personalities like Prufrock who is both the speaker and the listener in the poem.
5. The modernist writers were influenced by contemporary artistic movements like 'Collage.' The poem is a mosaic of quotations from Dante, Shakespeare and the Holy Bible.
6. Eliot, like other modernist writers, deals with chronological (past,present and future), historical and most importantly subjective time.
7. Pessimism and loneliness: The entire poem is a desperate attempt by Prufock to relate to another human being.
8. The poem is dedicated to his friend who died in the 1st World War. The first world war left a lasting impact on the modern age and its literature.
One of the critical elements of modernism is the belief that the guiding structures and principles that helped to define consciousness are no longer present. This absence creates a void where individuals are left to fend for themselves in the search for meaning. I think that this can be seen in writers like Yeats and Joyce. When Yeats writes in "The Second Coming," that "the center cannot hold" and "things fall apart," he is expressing a critical sentiment of Modernism. In this world, "the best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity." What individuals were taught as to be true and valid are not actually so. Modernists were profoundly impacted by the First World War, a conflict where individuals were told to willingly sacrifice for nation and for honor and then were exposed to the most horrific of circumstances where tens of millions military and civilian deaths ruled the landscape, where nations were literally obliterated and villages razed for no tangible reason, and where millions of children were orphaned. Individuals willingly sacrificed for nations and leaders, uncertain as to why. The guiding narrative structure that helped to provide meaning to parents and grandparents were not able to articulate any reason to the children of this war. When Joyce writes in a stream of consciousness style and does so in rejecting national, religious, and familial identity in the embrace of his own personal "non serviam credo," he does so because the defining structures, the existent plan, is no longer present.
the effects of world wars on the people lead to isolation,loss of hope,fragmentation and hope. Therefore ,pessimism is an inevitable characteristics of modernism. Art as art is a common slogan. Self-consciousness is very important. Culture is culture rejection between low and high culture. Sudden and unexpected breaks with traditional ways of viewing and interpreting the world lead to unreliable narrators so stream of consciousness comes out. Ambiguous endings are inevitable.
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