modernism

Discipline: Art

(c. 1900-1930)

Artistic revolution affecting all the arts throughout Europe. Modernism is generally seen as an artistic response to a range of philosophical and social changes which undermined the securities on which 19th century literature was founded, including the impact of: writings by Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud; urbanisation; cultural alienation; world war. (See also DARWINISM, Marxism and FREUDIAN THEORY.)

In literature, key figures are the American poets EZRA POUND (1885-1972) (Cantos, from 1925) and THOMAS STEARNS ELIOT (1888-1965) (The Waste Land, 1922) and the Irish writer JAMES JOYCE (1882-1941) (Ulysses, 1922). Pound called upon poets to 'make it new'. Modernism is marked by self-consciousness and by a plethora of technical innovations designed to disrupt the 'common sense' of traditional discourse, for example: ALIENATION EFFECT (which unsettles the relationship between audience and play); CONCRETE POETRY (which heightens the materiality of the sign, a modernist strategy with many expressions); imagism (direct expression of ideas without the blurring of symbolism); STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS (new recognition of the free form of thought). Modernism was contemporaneous with the STRUCTURALISM of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) and with the formulation of DEAUTOMATIZATION by the Russian formalists (see: formalism, RUSSIAN).

Modernist architecture is usually associated with bauhaus, which was fundamental in the development of an international style (International Modernism) in which simplicity, functionalism and the use of new materials were paramount. In painting, a number of movements (such as cubism) can be grouped under this general term, but it more accurately refers to early 20th-century art as a whole.

Sources:
M Bradbury and J McFarlane, eds Modernism (Harmondsworth, 1976)
R H Wilenski, The Modern Movement in Art (1927)

Also See:

· post-modernism

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