What are some major characteristics of the modern age, as constructed in literary modernism?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Modernism was the major literary and artistic movement of the first half of the twentieth century. It was an international and interdisciplinary movement that saw itself as responding to the new situation of modernity. It constructed modernity often in terms of change and loss. It was generally an urban movement, and saw "modernity" as associated with the city, while the countryside was seen as a relic of an older more natural order. Modernity was also concerned with the artificial and constructed as opposed to the natural. Many modernists focused on the loss of the "old verities", whether religious, political, or even scientific (the certainty of Newtonian vs. uncertainty of quantum physics).

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In terms of literary modernism, authors of the mid- to late 20th century were more interested in the modern possibilities of language, style, narrative teniques, etc. than content or social issues (compared to the 19th century).  Writers such as Joyce, Beckett, Proust, and Robbe-Grillet changed forever what the reading experience is; "plot", "character", dialogue" all took a back seat to linguistic exploration.  The reader is challenged to follow an ur-logical combination of sounds and signifiers, even the exhaustive variations on syntactical combinations, as in Joyce's Finnegan's Wake; Beckett removed psychology from character; Proust juggled narrative time itself.


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