Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What is Modernism?

Modernism in general terms, may be applied to a large selection of artistic or social movements in the early twentieth century that responded to the many technological, cultural, and religious changes at the turn of the century. Modernism in literature, as I understand it, is in the most general definition, a constant experiment with literary form. As Ezra Pound insisted it was the responsibility of the author to “make it new,” this experimentation in literary form resulted in forms such as fragmentation, polyvocality, stream-of-consciousness, and pastiche for just a few examples. Modernism is often interpreted as the end of literary tradition and convention, to which Pericles Lewis argues rises a contradiction. If literary modernism seeks to make it new through a "new, more authentic set of conventions" (Lewis 5), then it is somewhat contradictory to argue the "originality of modernism (Lewis 5)." The argument is perceived to be contradictory however, as it is according to Lewis the "renewal" of literary tradition and conventions that brings originality to modernism. The modernists wanted very much to understand representations and perceptions; both of themselves and the literature and art of
Modernism, in a social and cultural context as Bonnie Kime Scott introduces it in The Gender of Modernism (1990), is concerned with the gendered construction of language and feminine writings, and that by studying modernism through the lens of gender, a more profitable interpretation is yielded. Specifically, the modernist age was a time period that promoted the interests of the white, male writer. In Scott's "Introduction: A Retro-Perspective on Gender in Modernism," she illustrates that the debate on modernism is still a hot topic seventeen years later, and more specifically to Scott's interests, the role and importance that gender plays in modernism.

It seems that Modernists like Pound and his friend T.S. Eliot, were very interested in carrying on the quest for a national American literary identity into the twentieth century.

So interested that they continued all the way to Europe, like many of the other modernists, living for the remainder of their lives, as citizens of European countries.
As my previous studies in Modernism deal primarily within the American context, the idea of the American artist living and producing in England, and other European countries raises interesting concepts I hope to explore in this class. I’m curious if the American modernists living in Europe, or more specifically, England, influenced modernism in an “American” way, or if it was more likely the other way around. Given some of the major social changes that influenced modernism were prevalent in both America and Europe, it will be intriguing to me, to analyze possible distinctions between the American expatriates living in London, and those from England.

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