Avant-gardism: what it is, characteristics, movements, authors and more


What is literary avant-gardism?

First of all, it is necessary to take into account that Vanguardism, brings together a series of currents and movements that not only took place in the development of literature, but also in other artistic fields. However, on this occasion we will deal with avant-gardism itself in literature, the movements that were housed under this group and more.

What is literary avant-gardism

These movements emerged in the 20th century, initially in the European continent, but also, and later, in several Latin American countries. The point of development of the various currents that took place under avant-gardism is very important because they emerge in a framework determined by the conflicts resulting from World War I, which brings with it a series of processes in the social, economic and political environment.

Use of the term Vanguardism

The term comes from a political and military origin that refers to “advanced guard” or in its cradle in French Avant-garde. In its beginnings it started to be used as a metaphor to refer to the manifestations at the end of the 19th century, particularly in literature and other areas of art as a rebellion against the aesthetic canons set by the academy during this century, as well as a voice of protest in rejection of the cruelty of war and the crises in terms of value in Western society.

Origin of Vanguardism

The beginning of the 20th century was marked by cruelty and violence resulting from the various social, political and economic changes that were taking place. Thus, after the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria at a time when European societies seemed to be calm for the growth of progress, this event became the trigger for avant-gardism.

This is how the century that begins is found with several projects of revolution motivated by the exploitation and war of the nineteenth century, marked mainly by an intense ideological and social movement. Thus, between the First World War and the Second World War, new art experiences began to consolidate, which would give shape to later currents.

On the other hand, it is important to mention that avant-gardism in literature was not limited to a single place, but became a worldwide phenomenon that emerged from the same feeling crossed by the different changes and conflicts. This feeling generated an explosion of creativity in the world of the artists who, in their works, left behind the uprooting of cultures in a search to present themselves.

Avant-garde movements in literature

The avant-garde movements, which were the artistic manifestations that are part of this group since their appearance, were marked by social, political, economic and cultural contexts that gave rise to them in different areas. The literary avant-gardes are the following:


It arises in Germany and is characterized by bringing to his works varied themes such as war, madness, morality, religion, fear, religion, love, sexuality, phobias, loss of identity, delirium, anguish, among others. It represents the emergence of a movement that presents the existential crises and at the same time, the criticism towards the life led by the bourgeois class.


This avant-garde was born in France and is distinguished by exposing the reality from the irrationality or the unconscious. It is an avant-garde that bursts with the structures raised in the past, expanding the look to the use of images that achieve the expression of emotions.


It arises in Switzerland and is characterized from the other avant-garde movements for questioning art and literature as an artistic manifestation. It exposes, thus, themes that are absent of logic through poems are a logical continuity of terms and words, often in the absurd.


Born in France and is distinguished because in its literary development often presents the union of different concepts at random that at first glance were incompatible.


The avant-garde was born in Italy and highlights important ideas such as movement, warrior, sensual, among others. Particularly this vanguard breaks the established parameters renewing the literary expressions with dyes that pretend to reinvent the human being and open the opportunity to go through possibilities in that which was not properly human.


It arose in Spain and was characterized by the use of free verse in its literary creation, especially in poetry, as well as the inconstancy of a rhythmic style and a wide use of metaphor. It was an avant-garde that spread throughout Latin America.


It appears in Paris and is characterized by the avoidance of anecdotes, as well as the omission of descriptions. It is distinguished because the writer compares himself to God and sees poetry as a necessary element for creation.

Characteristics of avant-gardism

Bearing in mind that this was a set of varied currents that arose in different areas of the world, it is possible to identify a series of aspects in which the movements coincide in their emergence, crossed especially by a shared feeling that is a consequence of historical processes. Among them we can find the following:

Questioning everything

One of the main aspects of the avant-garde movements had to do with the frequency with which everything was questioned. This happens as a product of the denial, first of all, of the rules of the past, which are challenged by questioning their bases. In this way the literature that begins to develop manages to provide answers to the individual in his particular search, while breaking with paradigms.

Fracture of logic

With the use of poetic resources little developed so far, forms such as unfinished sentences will be one of the elements that breaks with the reason that, in many cases, was used so that the reader could participate and put his own end assuming possible ways to complete the sentences or other fundamental parts in the development of the texts. There are also jumps and evasions of the linearity of the texts, absence of complete or partial punctuation marks, among others.

Use of metaphor

One of the aspects that will mark avant-gardism in its different manifestations has to do with the use of metaphor at this time. This is because it is used as a special resource that allows authors to write completely new things. In this way, metaphor is used in the movements in a way that generates questioning in the works not only in the text itself, but also in its own development themes.

Space for spontaneity

The authors of avant-gardism will defend the expression of immediate form, so that spontaneity dictated by emotions will be one of the most important axes, leaving aside the depth or excess of reflection and thought, replaced by the audacity of the moment. In this way he manages to break with the bourgeois influence and exalts those who are able to create without it.

Most important authors of avant-gardism

Importance to novelty

The look towards the past was full of a deep rejection, reason why the interest takes the focus of attention to the new, so that what happens before the arrival of avant-gardism lacks interest for the authors and it is the novelty what they want to look at.

Most important authors of avant-gardism

We can find a great variety of authors that emerge in this moment of emergence of the different literary movements from different currents, such as: André Breton of surrealism, Pablo Neruda, Rosario Castellanos, Vicente Huidobro of creationism, among others.

Crucial works of this moment also appear, among which we find the following: “La gruta del silencio” by Vicente Huidobro of creationism, “El extranjero” by Albert Camus related to existentialism, “Fabla Salvaje” by César Vallejo, “Malone Muere” by Samuel Becket related to modernism, “El hombre de la esquina rosada” by Jorge Luis Borges of ultraism, among others.

To learn more about other literary movements, as well as their components, most representative authors, genres and more, do not forget to continue visiting our section where you can learn more about this artistic expression.