Expressionism arose in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a response to bourgeois complacency and the increasing mechanization and urbanization of society. At its height between 1910 and 1925, just before and just after World War I, expressionist writers distorted objective features of the sensory world using symbolism and dream-like elements in their works illustrating the alienating and often emotionally overwhelmed sensibilities. Painters such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Edvard Munch helped to lay the foundation for Expressionism in their use of distorted figures and vibrant color schemes to depict raw and powerfully emotional states of mind. Munch’s The Scream (1894), for example, a lithograph depicting a figure with a contorted face screaming in horror, epitomized the tone of much expressionist art. In literature, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche emphasized cultivating individual willpower and transcending conventional notions of reasoning and morality. His Thus Spake Zarathustra (1885), a philosophic prose poem about the “New Man,” had a profound influence on expressionist thought. In France, symbolist poets such as Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire wrote visionary poems exploring dark and ecstatic emotional landscapes.
In Germany in the twentieth century, poets such as Georg Trakl and Gottfried Benn practiced what became known as Expressionism by abandoning meter, narrative, and...
(The entire section is 371 words.)