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Unformatted text preview: Modernism Modernism is a movement in the arts whose nature is hard to define and whose roots are hard to locate. Modernism began to coalesce in the mid-19 th century from radical movements like French Impressionism in painting and French Symbolism in poetry. We can identify this coalescing movement as a proto- modernism that paved the way for modernism proper, or as its often called, high modernism. High modernism, which flourished from about 1910 to about 1930, is primarily distinguished by its radical experimentation with form. Modernism in general rejected the conventionality and sentimentality of Victorian bourgeois culture in favor of a more radical and intensely personal engagement with the world. Critic Bernard Bergonzi on the characteristic tenets of modernism: [Our] perceptions of reality are necessarily uncertain and provisional; the unparalleled complexity of modern urban life must be reflected in literary form; supposedly primitive myths can help us to grasp and order the chaos of twentieth-century experience; the intense but isolated image or moment or epiphany provides our truest sense of the nature of things; the unconscious life of the mind is as important as the conscious; personality is precarious and fragmentary rather than substantial and unchanging; contradictions in experience can be accommodated in literature by the technique of ironic juxtaposition or superimposition; literary works can never be given a final or absolute interpretation. (Quoted in An Outline of English Literature , ed. Pat Rogers) My own account of the characteristics of modernism: Highly developed technical skill. Attention to inner experience (stream of consciousness)....
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