Introduction Modernism in our text is defined as stylistic innovations, its willingness to disrupt traditional syntax and form, to mix together modes or levels of writing that had often been kept separate, and to risk irregularity and experimentation in order to challenge the audience's preconceived notions of value and order. The two pictures shown in class may be used here to explain the above definition. The first picture painted before the 20 th century was brighter, colorful, and consisted of basic geometrical shapes like circles, and squares and the women seemed to be happy in their home. The picture signified life and there was the presence of the element of warmth. In contrast, the second picture that was painted after the world war was in an urban setting of people waiting for the instruction from a pedestrian signal to cross the road. The people were painted in shades of gray; they had straight and emotionless faces, and looked more like the walking dead.
The Centers of Modernism Modernism reached the United States in 1913 in the form of the Armory Show and consisted of abstract paintings by not-so well-known American and European artists. The art was not accepted by a large section of the population and the press considered it deviant from cultural norms and an insult to good taste. Artists in this era expressed freely what they felt, thought or imagined of a situation, incident or place and they challenged questions of form and structure of traditional works of art. Some artists continued to incorporate primitive material and attitudes in their work. While yet others had works the essence of which was an international perspective on cultural matters. Examples of this is cited in later sections of this study.
In spite of initially rejecting modernism, this concept soon took shape as a prevalent one. This was mainly because of America's historical and social forces. These forces include facts like the immigration of Europeans, Africans and people from various Asian countries residing in America for generations, industrial revolution and its impact on the lives of the working class, technological advancements, etc. Contradictory Elements Modernism contains several elements, each contradicting the other. It was democratic tilting against historical values and honored long established customs and laws. On the other hand in some forms it appeared to overthrow traditional values altogether.
It was elitist, as the works of the artist did not always extend to ordinary men and women. Literary Achievements One of the areas of modernism is what is termed today as "women's liberation." This could include greater access to education or work, freedom from the cycle of pregnancy, childbirth and family rearing. These were the factors that once entrapped many poor and working women. Writers like Edith Wharton created female characters with wider opportunities outside of traditional marriage, which proved totally misleading then. These characters where looked upon as deviant from cultural and social norms. Furthermore, writers would once resort to writing about vivid environments but that was not enough for the readers who lived in the widespread urban areas.
It was challenging for the writers to write in this new area, because of the complexity of the city life. But the writers took up this challenge. Apart from works on dramatization of the plight of women and creation of a literature of the urban experience, artists like Hemingway, Wharton and Robert Frost continued works of the pastoral or rural spirit and that of regionalism and local color. Modern Themes America was a democratic country and had capitalist form of economy. But with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, socialism gained popularity in many parts of the world and also in America. Eugene Debs ran for president in 1920 on a socialist ticket and won almost one million votes.
It was in the 1930's during the great depression when the people challenged America's traditional system of individualism with the new system of collectivism. The passage of 19 th Amendment in 1920 giving women the right to vote was also yet another element of modernism. This amendment attributed to full equality of women and signified social experimentalism. Prohibition of the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the 1920-33 failed but nonetheless this was what people called a "noble experiment." The stock-market crash of 1929 and the Depression of the 1930 s had an impact on America's modernism.
People migrated in new ways in search of jobs to big cities and literature too was influenced where we saw often a man with a buried past who made a survival at the edge of cities. Modernism and the Self With immigrants increasingly pouring into America in the 1920's, many of who lived in cities, which was very dynamic due to advancements in various areas, realized how their lives were different as compared to their previous counterparts. The people felt alienated due to the fact that their primary objective was now to earn a living in complex money-driven commercial economy mainly due to industrialization. Writers and poets like T. S.
Eliot and Louise Bogan wrote on alienation, which was caused because of racial and sexual discrimination, social insecurity, isolation or even because of the loss of a part of one's own culture. It is modernism that made the works of artists of that era a work of appreciation and recognition.