Modernism #7: So what is Modernism?

As will be clear by now, Modernism is notoriously tricky to define. In fact, it is wrong to think of Modernism as just one thing. It is made up of all kinds of other isms: Impressionism, Expressionism, Imagism, Vorticism, Futurism, Absurdism, Dadism, Surrealism, to name but a few. For sure, these different isms share some…

Modernism #3: What about Baudelaire?

Les Fleurs du Mal was one of the first collections of poetry about everyday, even ugly things: rubble, carcasses, prostitutes. Baudelaire was more interested in evoking feelings and experiences than he was in writing extended philosophical contemplations or lengthy descriptions of nature (which many previous poets had been). His poems were minimalist and inconclusive, characterised…

Modernism #2: Why is Madame Bovary important?

Flaubert’s novel is about a provincial woman who imagines herself as a character in a Romance story, but whose life of cheating on her husband and getting herself into debt is far less exciting than she wants it to be. With its emphatically banal subject matter (suburban infidelity) and its emphasis on the reality of…

Modernism #1: What are the origins of Modernism?

Modernism is “an omnibus term for a number of tendencies in the arts which were prominent in the first half of the 20th century”. So says the Oxford Companion to Literature. In truth, though, like most artistic movements, Modernism is harder to pin down than that: it has no clear beginning or end. But while some…