1. The definition of Modernism
1. The theory of Modernism :
Broadly speaking, ‘modernism’ might be said to have been characterized by a deliberate and often radical shift away from tradition, and consequently by the use of new and innovative forms of Expression Thus, many styles in art and literature from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are markedly different from those that preceded them. The term ‘modernism’ generally covers the creative output of artists and thinkers who saw ‘traditional’ approaches to the arts, architecture, literature, religion, social organization (and even life itself) had become outdated in light of the new economic, social and political circumstances of a by now fully industrialized society. Amid rapid social change and significant developments in science (including the social sciences), modernists found themselves alienated from what might be termed Victorian morality and convention. They duly set about searching for radical responses to the radical changes occurring around them, affirming mankind’s power to shape and influence his environment through experimentation, technology and scientific advancement, while identifying potential obstacles to ‘progress’ in all aspects of existence in order to replace them with updated new alternatives. All the enduring certainties of Enlightenment thinking, and the heretofore unquestioned existence of an all-seeing, all powerful ‘Creator’ figure, were high on the modernists’ list of dogmas that were now to be challenged, or subverted, perhaps rejected altogether, or, at the very least, reflected upon from a fresh new ‘modernist’ perspective. Not that modernism categorically defied religion or eschewed all the beliefs and ideas associated with the Enlightenment; it would be more accurate to view modernism as a tendency to question, and strive for alternatives to, the convictions of the preceding age. The past was now to be seen and treated as different from the modern era, and its axioms and undisputed authorities held up for revision and enquiry.
The first half of the nineteenth century saw an aesthetic turning away from the realities of political and social fragmentation, and so facilitated a trend towards Romanticism: emphasis on individual subjective experience, the sublime, the supremacy of Nature as a subject for art, revolutionary or radical extensions of expression, and individual liberty. By mid-century, however, a synthesis of these ideas with stable governing forms had emerged, partly in reaction to the failed Romantic and democratic Revolutions of 1848. Exemplified by ‘practical’ philosophical ideas such as positivism, and called by various names – in Great Britain it is designated the ‘Victorian era’ – this stabilizing synthesis was rooted in the idea that reality dominates over subjective impressions.
Central to this synthesis were common assumptions and institutional frames of reference, including the religious norms found in Christianity, scientific norms found in classical physics and doctrines that asserted that the depiction of external reality from an objective standpoint was not only possible but desirable. Cultural critics and historians label this set of doctrines Realism, though this term is not universal. In philosophy, the rationalist, materialist and positivist movements established a primacy of reason and system.
Modernism as a literary movement reached its height in Europe between 1900 and the mid1920s.‘Modernist’ literature addressed aesthetic problems similar to those examined in non-literary forms of contemporaneous Modernist art, such as painting. The general thematic concerns of Modernist literature are well-summarized by the sociologist Georg Simmel: “The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technique of life”. The Modernist emphasis on radical individualism can be seen in the many literary manifestos issued by various groups within the movement.
The Explosion of Modernism: 1910-1930
On the eve of World War I, a growing tension and , unease with the social order, manifested itself in artistic works in every medium which radically simplified or rejected previous practice. These developments began to give a new meaning to what was termed ‘Modernism‘: it embraced disruption, rejecting or moving beyond simple Realism in literature and art.
The Great War of 1914-18 marks a fundamental break between the old world and the new. The experience of the war shattered people’s faith in society and its institutions. People were horrified by the effects of war and mechanized society in general. They were interested in recovering the unique experience of the individual by exploring his/her inner world. The Victorian moral universe collapsed and was replaced by a climate of moral ambiguity, by a sense of emptiness and lack of values. The Modernist novel broke with most of the conventions which had characterized Victorian fiction. First of all the omniscient narrator as moral guide was replaced by the direct or indirect presentation of characters’ thoughts and feelings. Secondly many novels no longer followed a linear plot or a chronological sequence of events. The Modernists turned away from the idea of the novel as a mirror of society and from the sense of social responsibility felt by the Victorian novelists. A novel can be set in one day and the analysis of a single moment can tell us more about a character than a traditional narrative life-story.
The development of the Modernist novel was deeply influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), who proposed a theory of human consciousness as multi-layered, involving different levels of experience and memory. The most significant level was the unconscious, accessible through dreams only. Freud argued that much of man’s conscious behaviour was governed by irrational unconscious drives. This represented a challenge to the idea that the world was rationally ordered. Freud suggested that man’s perception of reality was fundamentally subjective, because man organised the information he received from the outside world according to his interior experience, desires and impulses. Man’s childhood experience therefore had a great influence on his behaviour as an adult because the memory of it was preserved in his unconscious and continued to influence his adult self. Another thinker who influenced the techniques of Modernism was Henri Bergson (1859-1941), who argued that time could not be measured according to units (such as hours, minutes, etc.) because it is a flow, a duration and not a series of points. We do not experience the world moment by moment but in a continuous way. Instead of perceiving time as linear, we experience a mixture of past, present and future in the same moment. His theories contributed to Modernist fiction challenge to the traditional idea of linear narrative. Linked to Bergson’s notion of time is the psychologist William James’s (1842- 1910) notion of “stream of consciousness” discussed in The Principles of Psychology (1890). Consciousness, James said, “does not appear to itself chopped up in bits” but is something that “flows”.
Modernist literature attempted to move from the bonds of Realist literature and to introduce concepts such as disjointed time lines. Modernist literature can be viewed largely in terms of its formal, stylistic and semantic movement away from Romanticism. It often features a marked pessimism, a clear rejection of the optimism apparent in Victorian literature in favour of portraying alienated or dysfunctional individuals within a predominantly urban and fragmented society. Modernist literature, moreover, often moves beyond the limitations of the Realist novel with a concern for larger factors such as social or historical change, and this is particularly prominent in ‘stream of consciousness’ writing or technique. Examples can be seen in the work of among others, earnest Hemingway (1899.1961).
Modernism describes a series of reforming cultural movements in art and architecture, , music, literature as well Embracing change in the present, it includes the works of thinkers who rebelled against nineteenth century academic traditions.
Modernism in Literature is not a chronological designation; rather it consists of literary work possessing certain loosely defined characteristics.
This set modernists apart from 19th century artists, who had tended to believe in ‘progress’.
Modernism, while it was still “progressive” increasingly saw traditional forms and traditional social arrangements as hindering progress, and therefore the artist was recast as a revolutionary, overthrowing rather than enlightening.
Modernist literature is marked by a break with the sequential, developmental, cause-and-effect presentation of the ‘reality’ of realist fiction, toward a presentation of experience as layered and discontinuous. To achieve this writers use devices such as fragmentation and juxtaposition, motif, symbol, allusion.
American Modernism Known as “The Lost Generation” American writers of the 1920s Brought Modernism to the United States. For writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, World War I destroyed the illusion that acting virtuously brought about good. Like their British contemporaries, American Modernists rejected traditional institutions and forms.
Characteristics of Modernism
* Modernism is marked by a strong and intentional break with tradition. This break includes a strong reaction against established religious, political, and social views.
* Modernists believe the world is created in the act of perceiving it; that is, the world is what we say it is.
* Modernists do not subscribe to absolute truth. All things are relative.
* Modernists feel no connection with history or institutions. Their experience is that of alienation, loss, and despair.
* Modernists champion the individual and celebrate inner strength.
* Modernists believe life is unordered.
* Modernists concern themselves with the sub-conscious.
Themes of modernist literature :
Modernist literature is marked by the appearance of various typical themes, such as: questioning the reality of experience itself; the search for a ground of meaning in a world without God; the critique of the traditional values of the culture; the loss of meaning and hope in the modern world and an exploration of how this loss may be faced.
Stream of consciousness
“The stream of our thought is like a river. On the whole easy simple flowing predominates…But at intervals an obstruction, a set-back, a log-jam occurs, stops the current, creates an eddy, and makes things move the other way.” William James (1842 – 1910) U.S. psychologist and philosopher.
Stream of Consciousness, literary technique, first used in the late 19th century,
employed to evince subjective as well as objective reality. It reveals the character’s feelings, thoughts, and actions, often following an associative rather than a logical sequence, without commentary by the author. It is often confused with interior monologue, but the latter technique works the sensations of the mind into a more formal pattern: a flow of thoughts inwardly expressed, similar to a soliloquy. The technique of stream of consciousness, however, attempts to portray the remote, preconscious state that exists before the mind organizes sensations. Consequently, the re-creation of a stream of consciousness frequently lacks the unity, explicit cohesion, and selectivity of direct thought. Stream of consciousness, as a term, was first used by William James, the American philosopher and psychologist, in his book The Principles of Psychology (1890). Other exponents of the form were American novelist William Faulkner and British novelist Virginia Woolf.
For William James stream of thoughts says consciousness doesn’t appear to itself chop up in bits such words as chain or train do not describe it fitly. A river or stream are metaphors by which it is most naturally described in talking of it here after let us call it a stream of thoughts or consciousness or a subjective life.
Bergson the French philosopher developed the theory of duration (time is mobile and incomplete ),for any individual time speeds up slows down to explore the real time, we need to explore the inner life of men, duration is neither a unity nor a multiplicity. It is changing and it cannot be showed indirectly through images, images can never reveal the complete picture of duration, and duration can only be grouped through intuition and imagination.
In the 20th century, experiments with stream of consciousness, a literary technique in which authors represent the flow of sensations and ideas, added to the depth of character portrayal. English novelist Virginia Woolf followed this approach to explore the characters of an Englishwoman and a young former soldier in Mrs. Dalloway (1925). Sometimes stream of consciousness challenges the reader. In To the Lighthouse (1927), Woolf achieves a deliberately disorienting effect by moving subtly from character to character, from past to present, and from external events to internal thoughts.
Stream of consciousness in literature as a technique aims to provide a textual equivalent to the stream of fictional characters consciousness. It creates the impression the reader is discovering or dropping on the flow of conscious experience in the characters mind.
Internal monologue is a particular kind of stream of consciousness. It presents characters thoughts exclusively in the form of silent inner speech as verbalized thoughts into sentences. It represents also characters speaking silently to themselves and quotes their inner speech often without speech marks. The internal monologue is a particular technique in which the narrator almost disappears and the point of view overlaps with the internal thoughts of the characters. Grammar rules are respected and punctuation is used to reproduce the sequence of thoughts, memories, feelings, considerations of the characters. The main features of the interior monologue are as follows: it is a verbal expression of a psychic phenomenon; it is immediate (this distinguishes it from both the soliloquy and the dramatic monologue, where conventional syntax is respected); it is free from introductory expressions like “he thought, he remembered, he said”; there are two levels of narration: one external to the character’s mind, the other internal; it lacks chronological order and the presence of subjective time; it disregards the rules of punctuation; it lacks formal logical order.
The internal/interior monologue is possibly one of the least used points of view these days. An internal monologue is something associated more with the soliloque of the theatre than a standalone piece of literature.
Internal monologue, also known as inner voice, internal speech, or verbal stream of consciousness is thinking in words. It also refers to the semi-constant internal monologue one has with oneself at a conscious or semi-conscious level.Much of what people consciously report “thinking about” may be thought of as an internal monologue, a conversation with oneself. Some of this can be considered as speech rehearsal. It is necessary to distinguish three kinds of interior monologue: – the indirect interior monologue, where the narrator never lets the character’s thoughts flow without control, and maintains logical and grammatical organization; the character stays fixed in space while his/her consciousness moves feeling in time. – The interior monologue, characterized by two levels of narration: one external to the character’s mind, the other internal. – The interior monologue where the character’s thoughts flow freely, not interrupted by external events. An extreme form of interior monologue is the stream of consciousness, a sort of experimental technique in which the narrator disappears and thoughts are represented in their free flow. Grammar rules are not respected and punctuation is not used. This particular technique very often makes the text incomprehensible. The American psychologist William James (1842-1910) coined the phrase “stream of consciousness” to define the continuous flow of thoughts and sensations the characterize of the human mind. This definition was applied by literary critics to a kind of 20th-century fiction which focused on this inner process. At the beginning of the 20th century writers gave more and more importance to subjective consciousness and understood it was impossible to reproduce the complexity of the human mind using traditional techniques; so they looked for more suitable means of expression. They adopted the interior monologue to represent, in a novel, the unspoken activity of the mind before it is ordered in speech. Interior monologue I soften confused with the stream of consciousness, although they are quite different. The former is the verbal expression of a psychic phenomenon, while the latter is the psychic phenomenon itself. Differently from Joyce’s characters who show their thoughts directly though interior monologue, sometimes in an incoherent and syntactically unorthodox way, Woolf never lets her characters’ thoughts flow without control, and maintains logical and grammatical organization. Her technique is based on the fusion of streams of thought into a third-person, past tense narrative. Thus she gives the impression of simultaneous connections between the inner and the outer world, the past and the present, speech and silence.
Realism as a literary technique
Broadly defined as “the faithful representation of reality” or “verisimilitude,” realism is a literary technique practiced by many schools of writing. Although strictly speaking, realism is a technique, it also denotes a particular kind of subject matter, especially the representation of middle-class life. A reaction against romanticism, an interest in scientific method, the systematizing of the study of documentary history, and the influence of rational philosophy all affected the rise of realism. According to William Harmon and Hugh Holman, “Where romanticists transcend the immediate to find the ideal, and naturalists plumb the actual or superficial to find the scientific laws that control its actions, realists center their attention to a remarkable degree on the immediate, the here and now, the specific action, and the verifiable consequence” (A Handbook to Literature 428). Many critics have suggested that there is no clear distinction between realism and its related late nineteenth-century movement, naturalism. As Donald Pfizer notes in his introduction to The Cambridge Companion to American Realism and Naturalism: Howells to London, the term “realism” is difficult to define, in part because it is used differently in European contexts than in American literature. Pfizer suggests that “whatever was being produced in fiction during the 1870s and 1880s that was new, interesting, and roughly similar in a number of ways can be designated as realism, and that an equally new, interesting, and roughly similar body of writing produced at the turn of the century can be designated as naturalism” (5). Put rather too simplistically, one rough distinction made by critics is that realism espousing a deterministic philosophy and focusing on the lower classes is considered naturalism. In American literature, the term “realism” encompasses the period of time from the Civil War to the turn of the century during which William Dean Howells, Rebecca Harding Davis, Henry James, Mark Twain, and others wrote fiction devoted to accurate representation and an exploration of American lives in various contexts. As the United States grew rapidly after the Civil War, the increasing rates of democracy and literacy, the rapid growth in industrialism and urbanization, an expanding population base due to immigration, and a relative rise in middle-class affluence provided a fertile literary environment for readers interested in understanding these rapid shifts in culture. In drawing attention to this connection, Amy Kaplan has called realism a “strategy for imagining and managing the threats of social change” (Social Construction of American Realism ix). Realism was a movement that encompassed the entire country, or at least the Midwest and South, although many of the writers and critics associated with realism (notably W. D. Howells) were based in New England.
Characteristics of Realism
* Renders reality closely and in a comprehensive detail. Selective presentation of reality with an emphasis on verisimilitude, even at the expense of a well-made plot. * Character is more important than action and plot; complex ethical choices are often the subject. * Characters appear in their real complexity of temperament and motive; they are in explicable relation to nature, to each other, to their social class, to their own past. * Class is important; the novel has traditionally served the interests and aspirations of an insurgent middle class. * Events will usually be plausible. Realistic novels avoid the sensational, dramatic elements of naturalistic novels and romances. * Diction is natural vernacular, not heightened or poetic; tone may be comic, satiric, or matter-of-fact. * Objectivity in presentation becomes increasingly important: overt authorial comments or intrusions diminish as the century progresses. Interior or psychological realism a variant form.
Other Views of Realism :
* “The basic axiom of the realistic view of morality was that there could be no moralizing in the novel The morality of the realists, then, was built upon what appears a paradox–morality with an abhorrence of moralizing. Their ethical beliefs called, first of all, for a rejection of scheme of moral behavior imposed, from without, upon the characters of fiction and their actions. Yet Howells always claimed for his works a deep moral purpose. What was it? It was based upon three propositions: that life, social life as lived in the world Howells knew, was valuable, and was permeated with morality; that its continued health depended upon the use of human reason to overcome the anarchic selfishness of human passions; that an objective portrayal of human life, by art, will illustrate the superior value of social, civilized man, of human reason over animal passion and primitive ignorance” (157). Everett Carter, Howells and the Age of Realism (Philadelphia and New York: Lippincott, 1954).
* “Realism sets itself at work to consider characters and events which are apparently the most ordinary and uninteresting, in order to extract from these their full value and true meaning. It would apprehend in all particulars the connection between the familiar and the extraordinary, and the seen and unseen of human nature. Beneath the deceptive cloak of outwardly uneventful days, it detects and endeavors to trace the outlines of the spirits that are hidden there; the measure the changes in their growth, to watch the symptoms of moral decay or regeneration, to fathom their histories of passionate or intellectual problems. In short, realism reveals. Where we thought nothing worth of notice, it shows everything to be rife with significance.”
— George Parsons Lathrop, ‘The Novel and its Future,” Atlantic Monthly 34 (September 1874):313 24.
* “Realism is nothing more and nothing less than the truthful treatment of material.” –William Dean Howells, “Editor’s Study,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (November 1889), p. 966.
* “Realism is The art of depicting nature as it is seen by toads. The charm suffusing a landscape painted by a mole, or a story written by a measuring-worm.” –Ambrose Bierce The Devil’s Dictionary (1911).