What are the major differences between Victorian and Modernist literature?  

Modernist literature profoundly questions the omniscience (all-knowing qualities) of the Victorian narrator. Influenced by feminism, the trauma of World War I, and Freudian psychology, the modernists moved towards the idea of a subjective form of narration that captured slivers of reality through techniques like stream-of-consciousness. This reflected the modernist belief in the provisionality of knowledge , the belief that no one person knows everything or can speak authoritatively about everything.

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The main difference between Victorian and Modernist literature is the shift towards questioning the omniscient narrator. There was a shift from an objective (all knowing) to a subjective (provisional) narrative form.

Victorians used the godlike, all-knowing narrator largely without thinking about it. Even writers who told a story from one character's point of view would break in with wisdom from on high. (The best source for a detailed explication of this difference between Victorianism and modernism is Erich Auerbach's final essay, "The Brown Stocking," in his book Mimesis.)

The modernists found the omniscient narrator—the backbone of the "realist" novel—unrealistic. A writer like Woolf, for example, was an early questioner of what today we would call 'man-'splaining.' She, of course, didn't have that term, but she questioned the authority with which male writers would make assertions about women. As a woman, she felt these authoritative assertions were distortions of reality: they...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1067 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 20, 2020
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