Modernism is not identical to modernity or modernization, though these terms' meanings overlap.
Modernization or modernity is ongoing since emergence of humanism and modern science in Classical Greece, or at least since the Renaissance.
Modernization replaces or transforms traditions, collective identities, and past-orientations with revolutionary activities such as doubt, inquiry, individualism, and future-orientation.
The simplest understanding of modern culture is in contrast with tradional cultures, which prevailed through most human history and prehistory and still survive today in family life, rural and religious communities, etc.
Modernism occurs approximately 100 years after Romanticism (late 1700s - mid-1800s or later) and, more precisely, after the Realistic period in American literature and the Victorian / Edwardian periods in England.
Modernism begins in the late 1800s or early 1900s--a convenient starting point is just before World War 1 (1914-18).
Modernism continues till the mid-1900s (end of World War 2 in 1945) when it may be succeeded by Post-Modernism
Or Modernism continues even now, if Post-Modernism or postmodernism is just more Modernism.
Historic Dimensions of Modernism (esp. in literature)
Modernism begins in the late 1800s or early 1900s, climaxing from the 1910s to 1930s as writers and artists throughout Europe, the USA, and beyond create and publish numerous revolutionary works that are still recognized as titanic and influential, even if, a century later, their application as models grows more remote and limited.
The great decades of Modernism parallel profound world events, particularly the two World Wars (1914-18 & 1939-45) and the Great Depression (1929-1940?).
World War 1 is often seen as a starting event of Modernism. The devastation and disillusion of Western Civilization in the Great War accelerated and deepened Modernist thinking. However, harbingers of Modernism are visible in late fiction of Henry James and Joseph Conrad, poetry of Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, or late Impressionist paintings by Manet or Monet.
Monumental political revolutions or reforms are contemporary with cultural Modernism: Russian Revolution (1917), Nazism & Fascism (1930s), USA New Deal (1930s), Chinese Revolution (1946-52).
Modernism may or may not end at mid-20th century, depending on definitions of postmodernism, but certainly the heroic age of Modernism has passed; the current cultural era may be, like Realism following Romanticism, both an extension of and an exhaustion from a revolutionary period.
Breakdown of Western Civilization in World Wars 1 & 2 > intense questioning of cultural sources and aims
Reaction against formal limits of Realism and optimism of Victorian literature > experimental forms, pessimism.
Among Modernism's most controversial legacies is a divorce or schism between high art in perpetual revolution from established forms appealing to elite audiences, and low or popular art appealing to base instincts and nondiscriminating tastes.
Characteristics of Modernism (esp. in literature)
destabilization and fragmentation of reality > surprising and sometimes inconsistent metaphors for interior states
narration through fragmented, internalized, or multiple perspectives or viewpoints; e.g. Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (1929); Woolf''s To the Lighthouse (1927)
unification of fragmenting reality through internalized or interior perception, as in stream-of-consciousness (< influence of Freud, theories of conscious and unconscious)
non-linear time, or other distortions of time-conventions in Realistic fiction; e.g., Joyce's Ulysses (1922), Faulkner's Sound & Fury (1929)
Classical or mythic forms refashioned or made new (<archetypal psychology of Jung; advanced classical scholarship)
Primitivism: ("Belief, thought, or behaviour of a primitive or instinctive nature; the advocating or idealization of that which is simple, unsophisticated, or primitive"--OED); a.k.a. atavism
Invocations of classical or non-western forms including the Primitive, but Ezra Pound: "Make it new."
sexuality depicted more frankly and directly, though still symbolically, sometimes as obsession or fetish.
Like Romanticism, Modernism mixes revolutionary and reactionary elements.
Modernist Artists of various disciplines or media
Ireland: James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Becket
England: Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, Dylan Thomas, D.H. Lawrence
France: Marcel Proust, Jean-Paul Sarte, Albert Camus, Paul Eluard
Germany: Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann, Herman Hesse
other European authors: Franz Kafka, Luigi Pirandello
South America: Jorge Luis Borges
prose: Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Katherine Anne Porter, Dashiell Hammett, late Henry James, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston, Djuna Barnes, Patricia Highsmith, Jean Toomer
Modernist prose fiction marked by symbolism, narrative disruption, internalization of meaning, stream-of-consciousness
poetry: Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, H.D., Langston Hughes
Modernist poetry marked by free verse and freer verse with formal variations, symbolism, internalization of meaning or personal symbolism
Modern Classical Music
Early Modernist: Debussy & Mahler
Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring, The Firebird
Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris
much experimentation with rhythm, tone--disruption of audience expectations
like Romanticism, some adaptation of folk melodies
"representational" > "abstraction"
conventional exteriors > conflicted interiors
cultivated conventions > pure forms
classical motifs > distortions, non-Western figures, fragmentation of classical whole
(Spanish > France)
Piet Mondrian (Netherlands)
Marchel Duchamp (1887-1968, France)
Nude Descending a Staircase (1912)
Matisse (1869-1954, France)
Two Girls in a Yellow and Red Interior (1942)
Marc Chagall (1887-1985, Belarussia)
Paris through a Window
Giorgio de Chirico
The Double Dream of Spring
Sagrada Familia Basilica
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
designed by Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926)
under construction since 1882, completion target 2026
consecrated 7 November 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI
gothic influences modernized
Casa Vicens, Barcelona