Modernism is a complex movement which spreads in Europe starting from 1910 to 1930, it involved literature, music, cinema and visual arts.
The most important features of Modernism are:
• The dissolution of omniscient narrator, it was replaced by the feelings, memories and thoughts of characters.
• The dissolution of the linear and chronological plot, it was replaced by the idea of duration, the so called “Moment of being” (a single moment can tell us more about a character than a life story).
• In this period Victorian habits change rapidly, there is a subjective perception of reality because the war has shattered the faith in human being, in institutions, in religion, it increases the difficult to believe in anything, because artist is horrified by the war and he/she turns his/her attention to the inner world of individual.
• The breakdown of traditional literary genres.
• The fragmentation of the traditional ideas of time and place.
• The use of complex and refined language, because during this period the increase in literacy and also the advent of the cinema had produced a culture of mass, and this mass culture was disregarded by intellectuals who wrote difficult vanguard novels.
• An eclectic use of myth.
• The adoption of free verse instead of traditional metres.
First-generation modernists (1922-25) were James Joyce with “Ulysses”, Virginia Woolf with “Mrs Dalloway”, Kafka, and Eliot with “The Waste Land”. All these writers are different but they have in common the desire for experimentation of new styles, they use the stream of consciousness technique. They were influenced by Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism, but they don’t feel a lack of respect for the past, they want create their own interpretation of reality so they complete a process of personal myth-making that begin with Romanticism. The second generation Modernists were Auden, Orwell.
In this period there’s the impact of psychoanalysis with Freud, who with his work, “The Interpretation of dreams”, proposed a theory of human consciousness formed by different levels, and the most significant is the unconscious. According to Freud men’s behaviour is governed by irrational drives (pulsioni irrazionali) and by his experiences as child. So reality is perceived by each man according to his own interior world, that’s why it’s subjective.
There was also an explosion of new ideas about the belief in science and objective reality, as Einstein says in his “Theory of Relativity”.