Research Proposal: Modernism, Factors That Led to the Rise

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¶ … Modernism, factors that led to the rise of Modernism and the characteristics of the period.

Modernist literature is notable for its far more subjective and unreliable narrators, in contrast to the protagonists of the immediately preceding Victorian period. Modernist literature also tends to have a more fragmented narrative structure. Its tone is often pervaded by a sense of despair because of a perceived loss of faith in traditional institutions. Its focus on psychological interiority rather than exterior relationships and 'plot' also reflects a sense that it is impossible to know anything for certain, other than one's own thoughts and feelings.

The death and destruction of a generation of young men in the wake of World War I was one of the most significant factors in giving rise to the movement. Freudian psychoanalysis also was influential in disseminating the idea that a character's inner life could be just as potentially significant as a characters' outer life. What goes on in a character's mind might be more exciting than what he or she 'did' on a daily basis, as well as profoundly discordant with the protagonist's placid surface. The rise in scientific literacy gave rise to the cultural questioning of traditional religious and sexual more. Stream-of-consciousness narration, bitter irony and satire, despair at the failure of old institutions, and fairly simple plots (versus the long, epic novels of the Victorians) were all characteristic of Modernism because of cultural as well as historical influences.

It should be noted that, although Modernism was highly focused upon the individual, it was also profoundly anti-heroic in nature. In contrast to the upstanding moral protagonists of many Victorian novels, Modernist heroes and heroines were highly imperfect and riddled with doubt. They also lacked the epic brilliance of Romantic heroes, and tended to be ordinary people who aspired to greatness, to escape the limitations of their daily lives.

Q2. Give examples of Modernism using the following writers:

a) T.S. Eliot: Eliot's fragmented images of the "Wasteland" and their allusions to previous works of literature both satirize and express despair over the Modernist loss of faith. The Bible, Shakespeare, and many images of high and low culture are blended together to suggest that ordinary experience is all that is left of the great epics of the past, like the poetic refrain of "Hurry up please, it's time" to the lower-class women in the bar. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is an extended stream-of-consciousness narration whereby the placid surface of social life (where women talk of Michelangelo and drink tea) hide the painfully ordinary title character's burning feelings of passion for an unnamed woman.

b) James Joyce: Ulysses is an almost entirely non-linear stream-of-consciousness narration. The novel has no plot and merely portrays a day in Dublin, although it contains literary allusions to Shakespeare and other works in a parodic form, and has a non-believing protagonist in the form of Stephen Daedalus. Joyce's writings were frankly sexual in a way that threatened the sensibilities of many of his readers who were more accustomed to conventional morality.

c) Robert Frost: Robert Frost used very simple images from… [END OF PREVIEW]

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