Modernist Literature Essay

Modernism emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century, following World War I and flowing through the “roaring twenties.” Materialism, crime, depression, and change filled this era. Reflecting the revolutionary time period, modernism itself was a revolution of style. Musicians, artists, and writers broke away from traditional, conventional techniques to create new, rebellious art. Modernism, in other words, was a change in how artists represented the world in their works. Passionate, sporadic jazz music—referred to as “jungle music”—danced through the music scene. Painters such as Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky stroked over the paintings of impressionist, representationalist artists, such as Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas. Poets like T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams broke the rules of conventional poetry. Lastly, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald replaced the plot-driven novels of the nineteenth century with their works: The Sun Also Rises and The Great Gatsby.

New was in, and new meant new ways of looking at and experiencing literature, poetry, and other forms of art. Modernists realized that there was more than just understanding a work, declaring that one could also enjoy art. Therefore, pleasure became extremely important. Pleasure filled the streets, with people unlawfully drinking alcohol, engaging in sexual relationships, and benefiting from the current prosperity; pleasure filled the arts. With pleasure came a preoccupation with perspective as well. A person’s perspective determines whether or not he or she enjoys art and really life itself. For the first time, therefore, pleasure and perspective were the main focus and interest of artists, thus formi…

…this new art. However, the mind did not suffer from its new flesh. The style of modernist writers is actually deceivingly simple. Although the sentences and words of modernist works seem uncomplicated and plain, the emotion and underlying problems are still very complex. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, for instance, is about more than drunk people. However, realizing that the reader may struggle to comprehend his difficult ideas, Hemingway, as well as the other modernist writers, added these revolutionary components—such as symbolism and leaner sentences—to allow the reader to enjoy the art. One can communicate with and take pleasure in another being without fully understanding or delving into his complicated mind. One can enjoy art’s flesh without completely grasping its mind. Art as this full being was a new, modern idea that caused a revolution of style.

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