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Laurel
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What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

Ilena, you say that your specialty in literature is modernism. Would it be too far off topic for you to explain to us just what modernism is in literature? Is it a form of literature? A range of topics? I know what modernism is in religion and it art, but I'm not sure what it is in literature, perhaps because I read mostly classics.
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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IlanaSimons
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a quickie response!

Hi Laurel,
I'm excited you're asking about modernism.

Literary modernism is the movement that ranged from the around beginning of the 20th Century to the Second World War. It’s typically characterized by a couple things:
—A focus on individual perspectives and psychology rather than absolute metaphysical truths.
—the sense that the old form of Christianity was exhausted, or a need to reinvent spirituality
—a fragmentation. Fragmented texts revealed a sense of fragmentation in life

You can date literary modernism even earlier than the 20th C, really, because you see the central ideas in Nietzsche’s lyrical philosophy too (1844-1900). He focused on the notion that “God is Dead”—that we have to reinvent ourselves, and understand humans through psychology, not through metaphysics.

Lots of people also connect modernism to WWI, because modernist literature represents that fragmentation that came with modern warfare.
Some big names involved are Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Sigmund Freud, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Sam Beckett…
And: some people accuse modernists of being elitist—looking for a refined, “high” art.
That’s a very quick response—but I’d love to carry on this discussion for whoever wants to.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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Laurel
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Re: a quickie response!

Thanks, Ilana. (That's a beautiful name, by the way.) I had a vague sense that it was connected with existentialism, but I've read hardly any of those authors other than Eliot, and then mostly his later works. I know I'm going to have to come to grips with them sometime, though I keep hearing that we're in a Post-modernist or Post-post-modernist era now. I heard part of "Waiting for Godot" on Canadian radio. It reminded me vaguely of Garrison Keilor's two cowboys, but I couldn't really make any sense of it and fell asleep making note to try it again later. It is interesting to me that T. S. Eliot brought back awareness of my favorite poet, George Herbert. Where would be a good place to put one's toe in?



IlanaSimons wrote:
Hi Laurel,
I'm excited you're asking about modernism.

Literary modernism is the movement that ranged from the around beginning of the 20th Century to the Second World War. It’s typically characterized by a couple things:
—A focus on individual perspectives and psychology rather than absolute metaphysical truths.
—the sense that the old form of Christianity was exhausted, or a need to reinvent spirituality
—a fragmentation. Fragmented texts revealed a sense of fragmentation in life

You can date literary modernism even earlier than the 20th C, really, because you see the central ideas in Nietzsche’s lyrical philosophy too (1844-1900). He focused on the notion that “God is Dead”—that we have to reinvent ourselves, and understand humans through psychology, not through metaphysics.

Lots of people also connect modernism to WWI, because modernist literature represents that fragmentation that came with modern warfare.
Some big names involved are Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Sigmund Freud, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Sam Beckett…
And: some people accuse modernists of being elitist—looking for a refined, “high” art.
That’s a very quick response—but I’d love to carry on this discussion for whoever wants to.


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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IlanaSimons
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Re: a quickie response!



Laurel wrote:
Thanks, Ilana. (That's a beautiful name, by the way.) I had a vague sense that it was connected with existentialism, but I've read hardly any of those authors other than Eliot, and then mostly his later works. I know I'm going to have to come to grips with them sometime, though I keep hearing that we're in a Post-modernist or Post-post-modernist era now. I heard part of "Waiting for Godot" on Canadian radio. It reminded me vaguely of Garrison Keilor's two cowboys, but I couldn't really make any sense of it and fell asleep making note to try it again later. It is interesting to me that T. S. Eliot brought back awareness of my favorite poet, George Herbert. Where would be a good place to put one's toe in?


yes yes modernism itself is dead, and these authors can often look romantic to us now. They ached for an _answer_ or truth, in ways that the post-modernists, in all their irony, don't.
a good place to dip in? To The Lighthouse by V. Woolf happens to be my favorite book.
I also love Cather's My Antonia.
And Rhys: Good Morning, Midnight
I'd like to hear what others say....



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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Laurel
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Re: a quickie response!

Ah! I do know and love "My Antonia." How does it fit into Modernism? I started "To the Lighthouse" once and know I should get back to it sometime, but I keep putting it off.



IlanaSimons wrote:


Laurel wrote:
Thanks, Ilana. (That's a beautiful name, by the way.) I had a vague sense that it was connected with existentialism, but I've read hardly any of those authors other than Eliot, and then mostly his later works. I know I'm going to have to come to grips with them sometime, though I keep hearing that we're in a Post-modernist or Post-post-modernist era now. I heard part of "Waiting for Godot" on Canadian radio. It reminded me vaguely of Garrison Keilor's two cowboys, but I couldn't really make any sense of it and fell asleep making note to try it again later. It is interesting to me that T. S. Eliot brought back awareness of my favorite poet, George Herbert. Where would be a good place to put one's toe in?


yes yes modernism itself is dead, and these authors can often look romantic to us now. They ached for an _answer_ or truth, in ways that the post-modernists, in all their irony, don't.
a good place to dip in? To The Lighthouse by V. Woolf happens to be my favorite book.
I also love Cather's My Antonia.
And Rhys: Good Morning, Midnight
I'd like to hear what others say....


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Laurel
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Re: a quickie response!

Does Chekhov fit in here? I'm thinking especially of "Chaika," "The Seagull."



IlanaSimons wrote:


Laurel wrote:
Thanks, Ilana. (That's a beautiful name, by the way.) I had a vague sense that it was connected with existentialism, but I've read hardly any of those authors other than Eliot, and then mostly his later works. I know I'm going to have to come to grips with them sometime, though I keep hearing that we're in a Post-modernist or Post-post-modernist era now. I heard part of "Waiting for Godot" on Canadian radio. It reminded me vaguely of Garrison Keilor's two cowboys, but I couldn't really make any sense of it and fell asleep making note to try it again later. It is interesting to me that T. S. Eliot brought back awareness of my favorite poet, George Herbert. Where would be a good place to put one's toe in?


yes yes modernism itself is dead, and these authors can often look romantic to us now. They ached for an _answer_ or truth, in ways that the post-modernists, in all their irony, don't.
a good place to dip in? To The Lighthouse by V. Woolf happens to be my favorite book.
I also love Cather's My Antonia.
And Rhys: Good Morning, Midnight
I'd like to hear what others say....



"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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IlanaSimons
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Re: a quickie response!

Well My Antonia has that modernist "ache" down really well-- an almost romantic view about history, how we can be whole if we return to some more organic, basic relationship to ourselves....



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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holyboy
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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know



Laurel wrote:
Ilena, you say that your specialty in literature is modernism. Would it be too far off topic for you to explain to us just what modernism is in literature? Is it a form of literature? A range of topics? I know what modernism is in religion and it art, but I'm not sure what it is in literature, perhaps because I read mostly classics.




Laurel

I'm very much interested in intellectual history. Modernism was important in many 20th century intellectual endeavors: music, art, architecture, and literature to name a few. Take a look at Modernism in the Wikipedia at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism
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Laurel
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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

Thanks, holyboy. I was a little bit surprised to see Joseph Conrad in the list of authors.



holyboy wrote:


Laurel wrote:
Ilena, you say that your specialty in literature is modernism. Would it be too far off topic for you to explain to us just what modernism is in literature? Is it a form of literature? A range of topics? I know what modernism is in religion and it art, but I'm not sure what it is in literature, perhaps because I read mostly classics.




Laurel

I'm very much interested in intellectual history. Modernism was important in many 20th century intellectual endeavors: music, art, architecture, and literature to name a few. Take a look at Modernism in the Wikipedia at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know



Laurel wrote:
Thanks, holyboy. I was a little bit surprised to see Joseph Conrad in the list of authors.



holyboy wrote:


Laurel wrote:
Ilena, you say that your specialty in literature is modernism. Would it be too far off topic for you to explain to us just what modernism is in literature? Is it a form of literature? A range of topics? I know what modernism is in religion and it art, but I'm not sure what it is in literature, perhaps because I read mostly classics.




Laurel

I'm very much interested in intellectual history. Modernism was important in many 20th century intellectual endeavors: music, art, architecture, and literature to name a few. Take a look at Modernism in the Wikipedia at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism




a big yes to both Chekhov and Conrad.
In light of the earlier ideas I listed:
Conrad sees the dark heart and insanity at the heart of human nature. He's interested in the possessive ego. He also embeds his story in one narrative, told to another, told to another--giving us a trail of purely human contact that delivers us to the heart of the account.

Anyone want to describe Chekhov's modernist side?



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

Chekhov isn't someone I've read yet. I do remember a skit on Mad TV called "Chekhov does Chekhov" when the actor who played Chekhov on Star Trek was performing a Chekhov play. Each character that showed up on stage looked more and more like a Star Trek character, the first just had pointy ears and the final one was a Klingon in full battle array causing Chekhov to storm off stage in disgust at everyone's lack at taking his transition seriously! I'll have to move on to the original Chekhov eventually!

Denise
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holyboy
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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know



donyskiw wrote:
Chekhov isn't someone I've read yet. I do remember a skit on Mad TV called "Chekhov does Chekhov" when the actor who played Chekhov on Star Trek was performing a Chekhov play. Each character that showed up on stage looked more and more like a Star Trek character, the first just had pointy ears and the final one was a Klingon in full battle array causing Chekhov to storm off stage in disgust at everyone's lack at taking his transition seriously! I'll have to move on to the original Chekhov eventually!

Denise


Denise

That's funny!
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Laurel
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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

I somehow must have missed that episode, but I can just see Checkov's face as I read. Where does Star Trek fit into literary philosophy--Romanticism? Modernism? Postmodernism? I've often thought that it was the most literary series on TV.



donyskiw wrote:
Chekhov isn't someone I've read yet. I do remember a skit on Mad TV called "Chekhov does Chekhov" when the actor who played Chekhov on Star Trek was performing a Chekhov play. Each character that showed up on stage looked more and more like a Star Trek character, the first just had pointy ears and the final one was a Klingon in full battle array causing Chekhov to storm off stage in disgust at everyone's lack at taking his transition seriously! I'll have to move on to the original Chekhov eventually!

Denise


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

Ilana:
Anyone want to describe Chekhov's modernist side?

Perhaps the combination of longing and a sense of futility? Is this a way Modernism is distinguished from Romanticism, which combines longing and hope? I'm just guessing here.
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

[ Edited ]

Laurel wrote:
I somehow must have missed that episode, but I can just see Checkov's face as I read. Where does Star Trek fit into literary philosophy--Romanticism? Modernism? Postmodernism? I've often thought that it was the most literary series on TV.



donyskiw wrote:
Chekhov isn't someone I've read yet. I do remember a skit on Mad TV called "Chekhov does Chekhov" when the actor who played Chekhov on Star Trek was performing a Chekhov play. Each character that showed up on stage looked more and more like a Star Trek character, the first just had pointy ears and the final one was a Klingon in full battle array causing Chekhov to storm off stage in disgust at everyone's lack at taking his transition seriously! I'll have to move on to the original Chekhov eventually!

Denise







ah! Nice questions. The MadTV skit is definitely a great example of postmodernism: where you're ironic about texts, quoting them and showing them up as "texts." I.e. Warhol "quotes" Campbell soup, and that's the start of postmodernism: showing how everything's a commodity; everything can be "quoted" and sent back into circulation for a new meaning. Anyone watch the Jon Stewart show last night in which the (what's-his-name) political commentator did a great riff on Rumsfeld's claim that we can avoid 'losing' the war? This was a great riff on how today, all you need to do is put something in scare quotes, and you avoid the consequences. Irony reigns. Our ability to "spin" reigns.

So: MadTV is postmodern.

Star Trek: I say that smacks of modernism. Because there's a real precious, earnest heart in there. Star Trek says "we're a broken society" but then works hard to search through time for a solution.

modernism: recognition of modern decay, with a search for answers
post-modern: irony takes over.

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 12-06-200608:43 AM




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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

[ Edited ]

Laurel wrote:
Ilana:
Anyone want to describe Chekhov's modernist side?

Perhaps the combination of longing and a sense of futility? Is this a way Modernism is distinguished from Romanticism, which combines longing and hope? I'm just guessing here.





Chekhov's stories and plays are not event driven like most 18thC and early 19C literature but are told through the private, internal - psychological - lives of his characters. He was a genius at using everday conversation to reveal deeper truths. Nor was he moralistic, as earlier authors were - he was criticised by his contemporaries for not offering solutions to social ills and at the premiere of The Seagull was forced to hide backstage because of the jeering audience, who resented his 'modernism'. I have seen most of Chekhov's plays on the London stage and always found them riveting in their gritty, psychological drama.

Message Edited by Choisya on 12-06-200607:31 AM

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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

I don't watch TV anymore (I decided I'd rather spend the time reading or creating things) but I have to admit I really do miss things like Jon Stewart and Comedy Central (and Star Trek). I don't consider this stuff lowest-denominator programming!

Denise
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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

Thanks, Choisya! I'm doing a lot of reading in Russian literature right now, and I have found Chekhov's plays to be intriguing. Your description helps me to understand them a little better.



Choisya wrote:

Laurel wrote:
Ilana:
Anyone want to describe Chekhov's modernist side?

Perhaps the combination of longing and a sense of futility? Is this a way Modernism is distinguished from Romanticism, which combines longing and hope? I'm just guessing here.





Chekhov's stories and plays are not event driven like most 18thC and early 19C literature but are told through the private, internal - psychological - lives of his characters. He was a genius at using everday conversation to reveal deeper truths. Nor was he moralistic, as earlier authors were - he was criticised by his contemporaries for not offering solutions to social ills and at the premiere of The Seagull was forced to hide backstage because of the jeering audience, who resented his 'modernism'. I have seen most of Chekhov's plays on the London stage and always found them riveting in their gritty, psychological drama.

Message Edited by Choisya on 12-06-200607:31 AM




"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Choisya
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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

Russian lit is my favourite amongst the European classic genre. What are you reading at the moment? I strongly recommend Sholokhov's Quiet Flows The Don, possibly the finest Russian novel about pre and post Revolution society. And the first volume of his Virgin Soil Upturned contains excellent descriptions of life under collectivisation. Have you been able to see any of Chekhov's plays? There are always one or two playing in the West End and famous actors are always attracted to star in them. In my working life, I was fortunate enough to attend many functions at the Russian Embassy and met Russians over a period of 30 years, pre and post-Communism. It was these experiences which gave me a love of Russian literature and music, including, surprisingly enough for an atheist, a love of Russian Orthodox Church Music:smileyhappy:





Laurel wrote:
Thanks, Choisya! I'm doing a lot of reading in Russian literature right now, and I have found Chekhov's plays to be intriguing. Your description helps me to understand them a little better.
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Laurel
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Re: What is modernism? An old-fashioned girl wants to know

"Quiet Flows the Don" is on my short list, Choisya, but I haven't read it yet. My love of Russian literature began in high school when I devoured Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. Then there was the Orthodox church music--all those low male voices singing a capella! Now I am almost fanatic about Russian opera and thus about Pushkin. I'm learning Russian now. My goal is to read Eugene Onegin in Russian, but I have a long way to go. I have read one half of one page of the Russian Bible, though.

As for Chekhov, I've watched the few plays that the library has on video, and I saw a college production of "The Three Sisters"--that's about it, so far. I've read "War and Peace" four times, though, and have watched all the film versions I can find (the Russian is the best, and now the Russians and the Europeans are doing new films of it) and I have two productions of Prokofiev's opera (the French one is best in this case, though Gegham Gregarian is the perfect Pierre).

Oh, dear; I guess we've wandered away from English literature! We need a European literature board. Perhaps that will follow with Kafka. Ah, here's a tie-in: Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons" (1862) is another favorite of mine; I wonder if Mrs. Gaskell was thinking of it when she wrote "Wives and Daughters" (1866)?



Choisya wrote:
Russian lit is my favourite amongst the European classic genre. What are you reading at the moment? I strongly recommend Sholokhov's Quiet Flows The Don, possibly the finest Russian novel about pre and post Revolution society. And the first volume of his Virgin Soil Upturned contains excellent descriptions of life under collectivisation. Have you been able to see any of Chekhov's plays? There are always one or two playing in the West End and famous actors are always attracted to star in them. In my working life, I was fortunate enough to attend many functions at the Russian Embassy and met Russians over a period of 30 years, pre and post-Communism. It was these experiences which gave me a love of Russian literature and music, including, surprisingly enough for an atheist, a love of Russian Orthodox Church Music:smileyhappy:





Laurel wrote:
Thanks, Choisya! I'm doing a lot of reading in Russian literature right now, and I have found Chekhov's plays to be intriguing. Your description helps me to understand them a little better.


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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