What is meant by such terms as Expressionism, Dada, and Socialist Realism?

Expert Answers
wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Such terms as these (and there are many others) refer to the only partially successful attempt by scholars to taxonomize literature.  It is a natural reaction to creative expression for scholars to label every innovation as it occurs, or, more often, long after the fact.  These three specific terms differ in important ways—Dada was self-named, by a group of experimental artists in the early 20th century who strove to free themselves from the restrictions of logic and reason—they named their departure dada, a nonsense word itself, emblematic of their desire to free their creations from the limitations of reason.  Expressionism was named after the fact, as a word to delineate experiments (mainly dramatic texts) that sought to dramatize the inner turmoil, the ineffable chaos, the subconscious struggles of personhood, not their manifested actions in society, but the internal “expression” of chaos and unreason.  The final term, Social Realism (its extreme form, Socialist realism, advocated political reform), refers to the dramas that depicted social struggles, between classes, between traditions and innovation, between unstated rules and the ethics that superseded them; the earliest of the terms (late 19th century; Ibsen, for example) it is the only one of these terms that refers to drama’s function in society, rather than referring to the artists’ personal creative attempts.