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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

Modernism IX

Modernist writers and poets were concerned with experience. They spoke about seeking out an intensification of reality. Traditional prose and poetry could only express what the poet ended up by saying. The modernists wanted to develop a language which would allow them to express meaning as they went along. They wanted meaning to reside in the process of experience. And included in this was the desire to get in touch with a more authentic self, to begin to lose the stylized lyric self.

The modern city became the metaphor for consciousness itself, and the penetration into the darkness of that industrialized nightmare might begin to reflect the untamed wilderness of modern man’s unconscious.

Slowly, the novel ceased to relate external adventures and concentrated more on form and language. It became focussed on creation itself, self-conscious and self-referential. Writers wanted to write about the creative process, about writers writing. Language ceased to be that which we see through, and became, instead, that which we see.

But the keynote of modernism was always liberation, and behind all modernist movements there was an ironic distrust of all absolutes. Everything was undergoing a process of change, that was the only reality. All was in flux; the only stillness was death.

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