How would you define and explain modernism?
Modernism is the general name for the changes in the literary and cultural spheres of activity and influence between the mid-nineteenth century and roughly the 1960's. The movement reflected rising concern about the changes in society being brought about by increasing technology. Modernism grew out of concerns that societies were moving toward self-destruction and that the value of the human as an individual or as a lifeform was becoming irrelevant.
In the late 1800s many of society’s certainties were undermined. Marx demonstrated that social class was created, not inherent; Freud boiled down human individuality to an animalistic sex drive; Darwin provided evidence that the Bible might not be literally true; and Nietzsche argued that even the most deeply-held ethical principles were simply constructions.
Modernism was first reflected in art coming out of Europe's major cities, particularly Paris. Modernism spread to all parts of the world and to other human endeavors in cultural attitudes and concerns. It was an attempt to find relevancy and reaffirmation of the worth of human endeavors in the midst of great change.