Characteristics of Modernism ; Modern Literature

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Last updated: May 5, 2019
Doubt and rejection of traditional ideas about religion and morality.

Atheism and an evolutionary view of man. (influenced by Naturalism)

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Morality is man-made (not given by God).

It is up to us to determine what is right or wrong, good or bad. We make our own rules.

Open about sexuality and indulgence. Do what feels good.

Individuals are isolated, disillusioned, and/or depressed about life.

Society is fragmented, not unified.

Result of Modernism
Struggle to find meaning in the wake of chaos. It is impossible to find true meaning in life, so the only meaning is what you create for yourself. (tragic!)

Less flowery language.

Writing is more streamlined. (influence from Realism)

….against former rules of literary structure and content in literature.

Stream of consciousness
A literary style in which the character’s thoughts are recorded in detail, including feelings, observations, thoughts, and reactions, usually done without the interruption of objective description or conversational dialogue.

Interior Monologue
(Part of stream of consciousness) More interest in the psychology of what goes on inside the head of what people are thinking.

Influenced by figures like Sigmund Freud.

A new type of literary character. A central figure who lacks heroic qualities. Someone you want to support, but you are not sure because of glaring, obvious flaws.

Multiple Perspectives
In modern literature, the point of view can change suddenly, then change back. Also, there is the introduction of the ‘unreliable’ narrator who isn’t always right.

You can no longer trust in an omniscient, trustworthy third person narrator.

The speaker is not always identified directly, if at all. You learn details about characters through their dialogue.

Major Events
WWI; Roaring 20’s; Great Depression; WWII


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