Guide to Literary Terms

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What is a literary movement?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A literary movement is a general term for pieces of literature by different authors (usually over the same time period) who share a similar impetus for writing in some way.  Usually these authors are considered part of a "movement" because they have similar ideas about something. 

These terms, helpful for curricula or anthologies, evolved over time to group certain writers who are often loosely related.

Note the quotation above which indicates the literary movement titles are more important for learning in a future time than they are for the actual writers writing within them.  Still, the selections of works from this literary movement might have similar content, thought, form, style, or philosophy. 

Please realize that scholars are continually debating the dates and even the "titles" of literary movements.  The answers to these questions are not cut and dry.  For example, sometimes a literary movement is simply created to counter another.  For example, the beautiful nature-driven philosophy of Transcendentalists like Thoreau (who wrote the very philosophical work about simplicity and solitude called Walden) was countered by the destruction of nature found in the Anti-Transcendentalists like Melville (such as in his famous novel, Moby Dick).

Even though the dates and "titles" are debated, they do have to congeal in the same general time in history.  Because of this, the literary movement of a time period is often influenced by the historical happenings (and politics) of a time.  For example, look at the intense Classicism espoused by the writers before and during the Revolutionary War.  Further, the emotional and nature-loving Romantics correspond with the writers...

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