Imagism Historical Context

Historical Context

The transition from the Romanticism and Victorianism into Modernism was one of the major shifts in the history of poetry, and some critics credit the imagists with beginning this great change. The romantics were marked by their idealism and embellished language, while the imagists proclaimed that they were realists who would write in a simple vernacular. The romantics were behind the times, the imagists believed. The older poetic form appealed to audiences that were usually made up of the upper social classes. The modernists wanted to communicate with the masses.

“Imagism has been described as the grammar school of modern poetry,” writes Perkins. The imagist poets were responsible for creating some of the basic instructions for Modernism, which included clear and precise language and suggestive and visual imagery. Modernists would experiment with ways in which to relate poetry to the other arts.

Modernism implied that the population was tired of the past and wanted to see things as they really were in the present or to think about how they might be in the future. The past was old, and the ancient casts should be broken and discarded. Modernists wanted to create something new. Experimentation and exploration were the new focus. There was a breaking away from patterned responses and predictable forms. Modernist themes often included the feeling of alienation: the individual having difficulty placing him- or herself in time because the traditional has been discarded and the present is in a state of redefinition. Other themes of the modernists were the beginnings of an exploration of the inner self, life as experienced in large urban centers, and the effects of rampant materialism and industrialization.


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