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How Modernism Evolved Into Postmodernism Essay

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Updated: Nov 24th, 2021

The modernism movement originated from Europe and then moved towards America in the early 20th century. The movement was a reaction to the turmoil and folly that were marked during the First World War. Modernism comprised the activities of people who felt that the traditional forms of art were turning out to be out-of-date in the new social-economic circumstances of a rising industrialized globe.

As a result of the suffering and the miserable state of affairs that emerged after World War I, several literary modernist writers rose intending to represent the society around them and brought into perspective their agony through writing. Their work is mainly characterized by images, colloquial language, and mockery. This was meant to reflect on the level of their aggravation towards their society. Their main aim was to revolutionize people’s understanding and perception of language and humanity at large. Modernist writers such as T.S Eliot, Ezra Pound, and WB Yeats revealed social disarray in most of their writings. They adopted the tenets of exclusiveness and oppression and put aside the unrestricted standards of many social theorists in the previous century. In most of the work done by T.S Eliot, there is an indication of discontent and vagueness of the highly structured bourgeois way of thinking (Amiran, Eyal & Unsworth 34). The modernist school of thought ended just as World War II began. This is because, several literary authors who had influence went to exile in Tunisia, while others fought in the military. Their attention turned into issues of survival.

At the end of World War II, a new movement, postmodernism, came up. Postmodernism is related to art that reacts against earlier modernist principles. In literature, the term refers to contemporary literature in the late 20th century. The trend of style and appraisal which evolved during this period explored the mind of 20th-century mankind deeply (Geyh, Paula, Fred & Leebron 63). Postmodernism emerged as a more drastic response to the worsening conditions of moral issues in society. It rejects the Western culture citing that it represents only a small percentage of the overall human experience. This is different from the modernism era which appeared to be more devoted to western ideas and customs. Unlike several modernists, postmodernists were more apprehensive of being reflective and preferred to deal with external imagery. They avoided drawing conclusions and instead focused on creating unguided work open to the readers’ interpretation. Their main focus was on creating an image of a conflicting, split, vague, and indefinite world. (Geyh, Paula, Fred & Leebron, 62).

Scholars such as Jacques Derrida defied the view that the classical meaning and conventions of literary work should be rejected wholly and instead, sought to acknowledge some values of past literary work while seeking dramatic change. On the other hand, Sylvia Plath, a postmodernist literary author, portrays the need to reorganize meaning and reject the principles and ostentation of classical writers. Her work shows a lot of dissatisfaction and protests against societal norms and values. She indicates tremendous power in her protest when she calls for reforms in literature and the society at large.

Although modernists slowly broke from the earlier conventions of writing, the postmodernists reach for the dismantling of meaning in a more aggressive thrust against the established literary practice. On the whole, both modernism and postmodernism expose the century’s quest by writers such as Eliot, Woolf, and Derrida to seek truths that were ignored, or not emphasized in the previous centuries. They have achieved this by adopting radical tactics (Amiran, Eyal & Unsworth 36).

Work cited

Eyal, Amiran, and Unsworth, John. Eds. Essays in Postmodern Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Geyh, Paula, Fred G. Leebron, and Andrew Levy, eds. Postmodern American Fiction: A Norton Anthology. New York: W. W. Norton, 1998.

Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Oxford and Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1989.

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