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modernist literature

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Introduction

In your opinion what are the two most significant characteristics of modernist literature? Use any TWO texts from the course to substantiate and illustrate your argument. In my opinion, the two most significant characteristics of modernist literature are the pessimistic view of modern society or modern doubt, expressed through alienation and fragmentation, and the technique of stream of consciousness. In this essay I will discuss these characteristics and several important texts to illustrate my argument. Gertrude Stein's work is a perfect example of fragmentation, or rather in her case, literary cubism. In art, cubism means showing multiple perspectives, taking a form and breaking it down to rebuild it on canvas (analytical cubism) or taking materials to create a sort of collage (synthetic cubism). In modernist literature the same process occurs: people, feelings, locations are fragmented, only bits and pieces are described instead of the whole picture. As Picasso said: "I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them." Stein was inspired by modernist artists such as Picasso, and wrote a series of literary portraits, including one on Picasso. She defended the representational nature of Cubism and believed that through the distortion, repetition and altering of a subject one could get a resemblance of human perception. ...read more.

Middle

The quote: "Do I dare?" is repeated often throughout the poem. He asks himself time after time whether he should be himself or the person other expect him to be. Because of his alienation Prufrock feels unable to act on his desires, since he feels that people will automatically reject him. This can be seen as a reflection of the fast-paced modern American lifestyle, with people feeling trapped and unable to connect with other people and to society. Another example of the alienation evident in modernist literature is Heart of Darkness. Modernist writers often present the world as desolate, and Conrad's Heart of Darkness is no exception. As Marlow describes: My isolation amongst all these men with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and languid sea, the uniform sombreness of the coast, seemed to keep me away from the truth of things, within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion (p.30) Marlow's journey is at one point described as a "weary pilgrimage amongst hints for nightmares" (p.31). This all seems to help create the common modernist image of a desolate world. Throughout Heart of Darkness the theme of alienation is very important. ...read more.

Conclusion

Woolf successfully transitions the point of view and the character in focus with each swing of emotion and mood, and the reader must always be alert to the change of focus for each character. Virginia Woolf never assumes the role of narrator. In To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf develops the "stream of consciousness" technique as a means of exploring the inner lives of her characters, and she displays life as an aspect and function of the mind. Conrad also uses this technique to emphasise the feelings of confusion and isolation Marlow experiences. In conclusion, in my opinion the two most important characteristics of modernist literature are the theme of modern doubt conveyed through fragmentation and alienation, and the use of stream of consciousness. However, I think it is quite difficult to pinpoint just two, because I feel that the central themes and techniques used in modernism are all interrelated and complement each other. Word count 1541 Works used Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness with The Congo Diary, London: Penguin Classics, 1995. Eliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2, 8th ed., New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006: 2289-2292. Stein, Gertrude. "Picasso" Literary Portraits, 1911. Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd, 1974. ?? ?? ?? ?? Merel Hamann Literature C 5643619 Midterm 1 ...read more.

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