Ideallytheconnotation of ‘modernism’ means the novelty, creativeness andinnovativeness which differ from the traditional and thus a portrayalof progressive change in things. Philosophically modernism refers toa period of enlightened rationality thinking and the period from the18thcentury in which reason began to be emphasized in the realism of‘objectivity’in exploring reality in empirical philosophy (John Locke, ReneDescartes, and David Hume). Similarly, ‘modernism’in the artistic world is associated with a particular trend inartistic creation in the period starting 19thcentury as represented by ‘impression’ and ‘symbolism’1.
Otherscontends that modernism in its literally connotation is associatedwith the 19thcentury new ideological and technological shift changes that sweptthrough the period theory of unconsciousness by Freud, Marxism andevolution theory by Charles Darwin. Arising from these influencersartists work no longer fell in the strict traditional conventions increating artistic work such as paintings, architecture, sculptor,music and even poetic works. Traditions were no longer influencingaspects of creativity in these areas.
Postmodernismis depicted as way past modernist art in the second part of the 20thcentury in which arguments were given that there was no longer newideas to base artistic work on since 100 years of experimentation hadbeen enough to create and explore new forms and therefore, innovatingsomething ‘modern’ or ‘new’ was an insignificant and benignvariation of things that had already been created or investigated. Inthis light, postmodernist opined that, anything new created was an‘exhaust’. However, postmodernist argued that to create the nextprogression of artistic and literally works could only be achievedthrough borrowing, imitating or drawing inference on previous works.Given this observation, postmodernism in the artistic work wastherefore a period of investigating what other artists had alreadycreated and in this sense postmodernist artist could not be literallyreferred to as ‘creative’2.As such creativity was a natural aspect of transmitting artisticprinciples.
Whiletraditions and tradition artistic work emphasized vitality ofcontinuity, modernism symbolized artistic work as based oninnovativeness and investigative in the same tune to new ideas andtechnological investigations in expanding the artistic and artswork’ art became ‘whateveryou could get away with’3.In similar note, modernism represented the change in impressionismand symbolism that emphasized subjective empiricism, non-mimetic andpsychology, representation of reality in no-realistic way asillustrated in the works poetic and avant-garde tendencies (Futurism,Dadaism, vorticism, poeticism, Imagism and cubism) and in manyEuropean works like in Robert Musil, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, JamesJoyce and American works like the Eliot. T.S, in the lost Generation.Contrary to postmodernism view, the post WW I era in the 20thcentury artistic literarily works and avant-garde movements like the Futurism, Imagism, poeticism, the lost generation authors and theBloomsbury group depicted modernism as a way out of chaotic postworld war I.
Importantlymodernism symbolized a different approach of depicting reality fromthe traditional mimic or imitating reality to subjective literallyworks as stimulated by industrialization, new technologicaldevelopment and social historic atmosphere and events of the period.As such, this period required new perception of the world in artisticworks as commensurate with the social economic changes that weresweeping the late 19thand 20thcentury. The industrialization that had picked in the 20thcentury created growing urban environmental changes and the great WWI instilled awe from the mass killings that took place.
However,despite these feelings artistic and literally work providedalternative experience to the depressive and chaotic realty throughaesthetic artistic works. In difference from the traditional aspectof literally works to realistically imitate nature and present theworld as objective, imitable through language and knowable,modernistic literally artistic works were skeptical of literally andartistic work presenting objective picture of the reality. In thislight modern artisticopted to present the external, outer socialrealty and conflict through focus on the inner psychology, life, mindand the subjective experiences of characters. These sentiments hadbeen driven by skepticism of artistic, philosophers, scientist andscholars as well as the post WW I period in the essence or reason asa basis of understanding and explaining reality.
Notably,the philosophic ideas of Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche andpsychologist Sigmund Freud expressed distrust in humanity in the wakeof modernism during industrialization, consumerism and commercialism.Friedrich Nietzsche, depicted man will in relation to power andunreliability of language in presenting the world, Sigmund Freundenvisioned human beings as irrational beings driven by innate forcesof suppressed sexual desires and dreams. Another writer whosephilosophical ideas influenced modernism in literally work was StevenConnors, in his Philosophical Investigations, asserts that,Wittgenstein encapsulated language games as “differentmodes of utterances corresponding different social institutions, eachfollowing its own set of rules’’4,meaning that individuals use language in particular contexts ratherthan using simple references to create meanings of objects5.Martin Heidegger is another philosopher whose ideas influencedmodernist and postmodernist thinking relating language to reality andits essence in creating uncontrolled meanings.
Philosophically,modern literally work is viewed as emphasizing epistemologicalaspects while postmodernists literally works emphasizes onontological aspects. In the same token, Anton Pokrivcak summates thedifferences between modernity and postmodernism as follows The shiftfrom modernism to postmodernisms can be understood within theontology from human determinacy to indeterminacy, transcendence toimmanence, from symbol to allegory, from the world of ideology to theworld of play. They further added that postmodernisms and modernismare characterized by the substitution of semiotic way of making senseto a semiotic one6.
Modernwriters in their literally fictions of early 20thcentury presented ideas that the world could not be objectively knownthrough the mind of human kind as the traditional artisticencapsulated, rather the world could only be understood throughsubjective experiences. In their modern literally works most of thesewriters adopted the use of stream of consciousness narrative and thefirst person narrative in illustrating the subjective aspect ofhumankind reality. The chaotic reality of modern world was manifestedin the literally works through the use of fragmentary compositionsand non-chronological aspects when depicting different charactersrelationships. This symbolism fragmented compositions, the use ofnon chronological and non linear time were a way of expressing thechaotic world alienation arising from the modern period and life incities. Drawing from the modern writers of the 20thcentury such as Edgar Morgan, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, MarcelProust and the lost generation authors (Ernest Hemingway, John DosPassos, Gertrude Stein and others, they presented alienation in themodern society through the is depiction of characters relationshipswith others, work, society and the general life in the cities whichleads to feelings of nihilisms7.
Inmost of these writers literally works, they depict alienation andskepticism in the way they portray characters attitude towards thesociety. In addition assessing modernist literally works, parody andirony is constantly used to critique the traditional literally workand the society. Further, modern waters employs ancient myths inre-contextualized modern form to make them modern myths of modernistexpression of cultural experiences as in James Joyce play Ulysses.The cities transformed to educational, industrial, cultural andeconomic centers of advanced societies and ‘lifeit the cities and suburbs’8isa major theme in many modern literally works. An American poet ofearly 20thcentury Ezra Pound, in his poetry, a typical modernism statement was‘make it new!’, an English modernist fiction author VirginiaWoolf, illustrates that, ‘inor about December 1910, human character changed”9.These two statements show the belief that society had changed in the20thcentury and therefore belief in new forms of arts which would reflectthe technological progress, skepticism and chaotic life of modernity.
Therefore,modern artists and literally works incorporated new technologiestechniques, ideas and other kinds of artistic aspects to illustratethe new era John Dos Passos, an American writer reminisced camerashooting in a narrative way, ‘camera-eyetechnique’10inwhich a limited picture of realty is given. Looking at John DosPassos novels, he has constantly applied the cinematic newsreel inemphasizing the picture of reality as depicted in the cinematheatres. In his work John, portrays the American city as a place ofexcitement, replaced with new form out of old modernity. He howeverportrays the promise and of great future in the city as shattered bywar, struggle, a place to conquer but still holds hope and dreams.
Thestylistic devise used by John Passo gives impressionistic aspects ofwhat happened in America and what is about to happen using newsreeland camera eye ball. Assessing the stylistic feature of John novels,he elicits excitement on the part of the reader but alsorealistically depicts impending doom using inference on biblicalaspects to illustrate the down fall of New, York city. Arringtonwrites that, in some sections of the Manhattan Transfer, John Passouses opening and closing chapters with contract quotations about themodernity and city life, ‘imperiouscity that dwelt heedlessly that said in her heart, I am desolation,a place for beast to inhibit’11.
StephenCrane in his novel, ‘Theopen boat’12,uses impressionistic techniques as an artistic painter to emphasizethe atmosphere and visuality. Similarly Henry James novels title,‘The Portrait of a lady’ illustrates a picture rather thanliterally work, the poets in the Harlem Renaissance, (LangstonHughes), constantly used rhythms of oral cultures such as jazz, bluesand traditional popular folk in the poetry writing.
Insummary therefore, modernism is characterized philosophically andaesthetically by emphasizing epistemology and the semantic approachuses in literally works by drawing skeptical depiction of worldvision and distrust of reason as a basis of understanding as well asexplaining the world. In literally works modernism is illustrated inartistic works through ideas similar to the technology and the impactsuch advancement in the society has human kind lifestyles and theirperception of the world. Much of artistic and literally works havefocused on skepticism in the use of technology to cause humansuffering especially the post WW I. In addition, modernism literallyand artistic works see man as irrational and not rational asencapsulated in the with the tradition writers.
Crane,Stephen. 1993. TheOpen Boat and Other Stories.New York: Courier Dover Publicationshttp://books.google.co.ke/books/about/The_Open_Boat_and_Other_Stories.html?id=yRXXT0MCVvYC&redir_esc=y
JohnDos Passos, (2003). Novels 1920-1925)‘Three Soldiers, Manhattan Transfer’,Townsend Ludington, ed. 2003, retrieved fromhttp://anthonyfrost.ro/ecommerce/classics/novels–1920-1925
Kiberd,Declan (2009). "Ulysses, modernism`s most sociable masterpiece".TheGuardianweb retrieved fromhttp://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/jun/16/jamesjoyce-classics
Pokrivčák,A., & Pokrivčáková,S. (2006). Understandingliterature.Brno, MSD.Web accessed fromhttp://books.google.co.ke/books/about/Understanding_Literature.html?id=RCALBAAACAAJ&redir_esc=y
Connor,S. (2002). TheEnglish novel in history, 1950-1995.London, Routledge.http://public.eblib.com/EBLPublic/PublicView.do?ptiID=165936.
Woolf,Virginia, 2012. ‘MrsDalloway’Timeless Classics, New York: Interactive Media, webhttp://books.google.co.ke/books/about/Mrs_Dalloway.html?id=UcDQgXKie8MC&redir_esc=y
1 Steve Connor, ‘The English Novel in History, 1950-1995, United States: Psychology press, pg. 96.
2 Pokrivcak Anton, Pokrivicakova Silvia, ‘Understanding Literature’ 2006, Oslo MSD Press pg. 34.
3 Pokrivcak Anton, Pokrivicakova Silvia, ‘Understanding Literature’ 2006, Oslo MSD Press pg,60.
4 Steve Connor, ‘The English Novel in History, 1950-1995, United States: Psychology press
5 Steve Connor, ‘The English Novel in History, 1950-1995, United States: Psychology press
6 Pokrivcak Anton, Pokrivicakova Silvia, ‘Understanding Literature’ 2006, Oslo MSD Press.
7 Pokrivcak Anton, Pokrivicakova Silvia, ‘Understanding Literature’ 2006, Oslo MSD Press.
8 Kiberd, Declan (2009). "Ulysses, modernism`s most sociable masterpiece". The Guardian (London). Internet Resource. Pg 4.
9 Woolf Virginia, ‘Mrs Dalloway’ Timeless Classics, 2012, New York: Interactive Media
10 John Dos Passo, ‘Three Soldiers, Manhattan Transfer’ 1925, Townsend Ludington, ed. Library of America, ISBN 978-1-931082-39-6. Pg 10.
11 John Dos Passo, ‘Three Soldiers, Manhattan Transfer’ 1925, Townsend Ludington, ed. Library of America, ISBN 978-1-931082-39-6. Pg 2 & 112.
12 Crane, Stephen. 1993. The Open Boat and Other Stories. New York: Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-27547-7 pg. 12.