Characteristics Of Modernism
What are some specific features of Modernism?
One of the critical elements of modernism is the belief that the guiding structures and principles that helped to define consciousness are no longer present. This absence creates a void where individuals are left to fend for themselves in the search for meaning. I think that this can be seen in writers like Yeats and Joyce. When Yeats writes in "The Second Coming," that "the center cannot hold" and "things fall apart," he is expressing a critical sentiment of Modernism. In this world, "the best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity." What individuals were taught as to be true and valid are not actually so. Modernists were profoundly impacted by the First World War, a conflict where individuals were told to willingly sacrifice for nation and for honor and then were exposed to the most horrific of circumstances where tens of millions military and civilian deaths ruled the landscape, where nations were literally obliterated and villages razed for no tangible reason, and where millions of children were orphaned. Individuals willingly sacrificed for nations and leaders, uncertain as to why. The guiding narrative structure that helped to provide meaning to parents and grandparents were not able to articulate any reason to the children of this war. When Joyce writes in a stream of consciousness style and does so in rejecting national, religious, and familial identity in the embrace of his own personal "non serviam credo," he does so because the defining structures, the existent plan, is no longer present.
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