• Answering the question: what is modernism?
• “Any of various movements in art,
architecture, literature, etc., generally
characterized by a deliberate break with
classical and traditional forms or methods of
expression” Oxford English Dictionary
• “ache of Modernism” Hardy Tess of the
D’Urbevilles (1891)
• Robert Graves and Laura Riding, A Survey of
Modernist Poetry, 1927.
• Bradbury and McFarlane, Modernism a Guide,
• Calinescu, Faces of Modernity, 1977.
• Stan Smith, The Origins of Modernism, 1994.
• Rabatè, The Ghosts of Modernity, 1996.
• Mc Neil, “Vortex Marsden: A Little Magazine
and the Making of Modernity”, 2000; Brooker
and Perril, “Modernist Poetry and its
Precursors”, 2001.
• Whitworth, Modernism,
• Peter Childs “time-bound art form” between the
second half of the nineteenth century and the
first half of the twentieth century. More precisely
• “genres-bound art form”.
Modernism is
associated with innovations and novelty. It has
been stretched to include such British and Irish
figures as John Donne, William Blake, Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, and Lawrence Sterne.(Technical
experimentation, self-conscious reflexiveness,
uncertainty of reality)
• Virginia Woolf (1924) “on or about December
1910 human charachter changed”
• 1912 Imagism
• 1913 Armory Show-New York
• 1922 Annus Mirabilis Eliot’s The Waste Land
• Joyce’s Ulysses
Modernism: Characteristics
Ezra Pound: Make it new
1) Concerned with modern life
2) Complex
3) Chaos and fragmentation
4) History as a story of decline
5) Experimentation with the category of time
• 6) Importance of myth
• 7) Man in his primitive state
• 8) It is more concerned with the mind than the body
(free indirect speech, free direct speech, interior
monologue, stream of consciousness).
• Dramatic monologue: Browning, “My last duchess”
• 9)Dichotomy between self and mass
• 10) It prefers abstraction to empathy
• 11) It prefers the concrete to the abstract
• 12) Controversial subject matter
• Readerly/writerly text
Henry James : psychological realism
Unreliable narrator
Point of view
Narrative voice. Centres of consciousness
The Portrait of a Lady (1881)
The Turn of the Screw (1898)
• Conrad
• Experiments with the temporal ordering of
the chronological story
• Reappearing tellers (Marlow: Lord Jim; Heart
of Darkness
• Henry James-H. G. Wells
• Virginia Woolf
• “Modern Fiction” (1925)
• “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown” (1923)
• Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary
day. The mind receives a myriad impressions- trivial,
fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of
steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of
innumerable atoms. [… ]Life is not a series of gig lamps
symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semitransparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning
of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the
novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and
uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien
and external as possible? Virginia Woolf, Modern Fiction,
• Modernist Poetry
• France:Symbolism (Rimbaud, Mallarmè
Baudelaire). Influence on Yeats
• United States: T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound
• Imagism Hulme
• Pound, A few Don’ts by an Imagiste (1913) A
Retrospect (1919)
• Flint, Imagisme (1913)
• Eliot «Tradition and the Individual Talent»
1919 first published in The Egoist and later
included in The Sacred Wood: Essays on
Poetry and Criticism (1920)
• «the pastness of the past» but also «its
• Filament of platinum; oxygen and sulphur
dioxide, sulphuric acid

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