What significant historical and human events may have influenced Modernism?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The literary period of Modernism (1900-1945) followed the Realist movement. This period was not the typical literary movement (signified by a somewhat universal ideology of the writers of the period). Instead, the Modernist movement existed as numerous small groups of writers. Historically, the most significant event during this literary period was that of World War I. In a sense, the literature of the period mirrored the conflict, division, and destruction of the war. Writers of this period tended to speak out against conformity (acting as literary rebels). 

Human events which fueled the movement were also ground in the war. Prior to WWI, literary texts illustrated the breaking away from conformity (as seen in James Joyce's Ulysses), while, after the war, texts illustrated the reality behind destruction (as seen in T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land").

The themes of the period placed value on the human experience. Alienation, the past, and the stream of consciousness all played a part in many Modernist texts. Given that the period led America into the human rights era, it is of no surprise that Modernist texts forced readers to examine life from a very different perspective. Modernists relied upon the flow of thoughts (stream of consciousness) which led readers through the texts. This mode of narration illustrated more than one's literal experience in life. Instead, it illustrated how people thought about things such as conformity, war, violence, destruction, and change.


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