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British Modernism

British Modernism

Going from approximately the beginning of the 20th century to the mid-1960s, British modernism was a literary movement characterized by a significant break from literary traditions, including form, function, and subject matter. The writers at Paper Masters will explain any aspect of British Modernism you wish or they can compare and contrast modernism in various regions of the world.

The jarring nature of modernism is reflective of the jarring events that took place during this particular period of time - World War I and World War II, for example, changed the writing styles of countless authors simply because of what they had seen and experienced.

Modernism marks a shift from a focus on the natural world and the world outside oneself to a more inward investigation. Knowing the inner consciousness was the end goal of modernism, and many authors did this by focusing on one's place in society and one's role in its downfall. Because art was no longer exclusively for the well-to-do or educated classes, authors were able to write with a greater focus on the proletariat and their struggles; rather than present the lower classes in a charming way that would allow the upper class to become fascinated with them and their daily lives, authors could provide characters with whom the masses could sympathize. Shining a light on often overlooked groups, particularly women and immigrants, also gave authors a new character set to build upon. British modernism, as was the case with modernism throughout the world, was entirely reflective of the changing society in which it existed, marking a profound shift from the traditions and standards of the centuries prior.

Strongly influenced by both Freudian psychoanalysis and the fascist and Marxist political movements that took hold during the early twentieth century, the modern self was increasingly regarded as both fragmented on the level of the individual and a component of the overarching collective from a political perspective. From the conceptual framework of modernism, the era was concerned with regarding oneself outside of the framework of established conventions and re-assessing humanity's role in the universe.

British sociologist Anthony Giddens thoroughly examined the role of the self in the modern era in one of his most well known book-length studies, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. In this work, Giddens discusses both the origins and the consequences of the changes that modernism wrought upon the notion of self. He identifies four main areas that represent the key issues that the modern self grappled with. These include the following:

  • Unification versus fragmentation
  • Powerlessness versus appropriation
  • Authority versus uncertainty
  • Personalized versus commodified experience

Giddens asserts that, although it would be oversimplification to catalogue the characteristics of the modern self as if it were universally consistent, the cultural environment during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries exerted pressures that led to the emergence of the four chief areas of concern he discusses in the text. For Giddens, the culturally imposed threats of disintegration and collectivism during the modern period forced reevaluation of the self.

Understanding the net effect of the forces exerted upon the individual self during the era of modernism is key to understanding the evolving role of the self in the postmodern era, which, by most scholarly accounts, continues today. Although our immediate historical proximity to postmodern makes it difficult to define objectively, most of the extant literature that seeks to define postmodernism identifies the chief characteristics of postmodern culture and the postmodern self as dealing with questions of fragmentation, provisionality, performance, and instability. Although these conditions first arose during the modern era, the cultural and political climate of the mid-to-late twentieth century extended and deepened the fragmentation and alienation of the postmodern self. Indicative of its inherent contradictions, postmodernism simultaneously reiterates and rejects the notion of the self that emerged during the modern era. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the postmodern self is the increasingly prevalent rejection of the notion of the autonomous individual self, with an emphasis on subjectivity and the rejection of a monolithic cosmology. The postmodern self denies the claim of previous eras that held that there is one and only one right way of seeing and explaining the world. Instead, the postmodern self relinquishes any attempt to create a coherent worldview that typifies the master narratives of traditional science, religion, philosophy, and ideology.

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British Modernism Research Papers

Research papers on british modernism look into the literary movement, from early 20th century to the mid-1960s, that is characterized by a significant break from literary traditions.

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