The Twentieth century

The twentieth century was generally an age of great change both in literary contents and style. There was a rejection of everything that had come before, especially from the Victorian Age.
Joseph Conrad can be seen as one of the main forerunners of Modernism due to his original use of the shifting point of view.
D.H. Lawrence was not innovative in his literary style but his novels challenged conventions by dealing with new themes. He expressed an extraordinary psychological insight through his characters, mixing lyricism with Naturalism.
His last novel, Lady Catterley’s lover, which explicitly dealt with two of greatest taboos of the time: sexual relationship and class differences, produced such a scandal that was banned in England until the 1960s.

The second decade of 20th century saw a new generation of writers emerging, generally known as ‘modernist’. They moved away from the conventional literary form and, as a result of the diffusion of Freud’s ideas on psychoanalysis, the human mind and the inner self, they aimed at giving a more complex vision of man and his world.

Modernist writers were not interested in representing reality in a realistic or natural way, the new writers want to represent inner life as an uninterrupted flow of thoughts, which they called the stream of consciousness. These thoughts and feelings do not generally came to a person in a lineal or logical way but are often the result of free associations. The mind jumps from one thought to another, from a past memory to a future event. To do this they used the interior monologue.
Virginia Woolf and James Joyce used the interior monologue in different ways. Virginia Woolf used the indirect interior monologue, which gives the reader a sense of the continuous presence of a neutral voice.
James Joyce used the direct interior monologue, which refers to the direct presentation of a character’s stream of consciousness without the guiding presence of the narrator.


Edward Morgan Forster began to write novels at the beginning of the 20th century. In his most famous work, A passage to India, he gives an analysis through an elegant plot, of the social distances that existed in India between the ruling English class and the native.

Sassoon, Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen are the most famous war poets, so called because they wrote about the First World War. Their poetry marks a decisive change from an era of confidence and optimism to a time of doubt. They speak about the brutality and tragedy of conflict.

William Butler Yeats came to considered one of the greatest poets of the century. His poetry was still linked with tradition. In his first phase he was influenced by Irish myths and legends while later he became more interested in exotericism

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