Modernism and the novel
World War I makes a fundamental break between the old world and the new, in terms of the novel’s development. Although there were precursors like Henry James and Joseph Conrad. People, marked by the experience of war, shattered their faith in society and institutions. During the period from 1914 to 1918 dehumanizing effects reached their peak, therefore the modernists, horrified by effects of industrial society in general, were interested in recovering the unique experience of the individuals writing about their inner world. The conventions ,which had typified Victorian period of how society should be, collapsed and was replaced by moral ambiguity or absence of values. All this was reflected in Modernist novels, which stylistically, broke new ground in two particular aspects: the direct or indirect presentation of characters’ thoughts, feelings and memories, replacing the omniscient narrator, and the novelists propensity not to follow a linear plot or a chronological sequence of events. Henceforth novels stopped to be a mirror of society and a sense of social responsibility.
The influence of mass culture
The education reforms in the late 19th increased literacy creating a demand for popular literature. Moreover with radio and cinema the idea of mass culture was born. To the intellectuals this represented a degeneration of cultural values to which they responded writing difficult avant-garde novels appreciated only by a small elite of readers.
Freud’s theory of the unconscious
Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) proposed a theory of human consciousness as multilayered, involving different levels of experience and memory. Unconscious was the most important level because much of conscious behavior was governed by irrational unconscious drives which were established very early in life. The memory of man’s childhood experience was preserved in his unconscious and continued to influence the adult. This was a challenge to the idea of rational world order and natural progress. So Freud’s theories suggested which perception of reality was therefore fundamentally subjective. This theories influenced famous writers like D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce.
The influence of Bergson
Henri Bergson was another thinker who influenced Modernists, his theories contributed to the challenge that Modernist fiction posed to the traditional ideal of linear narrative. In effect in Time and Freewill and in Matter and Memory argued that time could not be measured according to units because it is a flow, ‘a duration’ and not a series of points. During the time, humans, experience a mixture of past, present and future.