What is modernist literature?
Also called literary modernism, it was one of the most influential literary periods in the poetic field, mainly, although in general it was characterized by maintaining an ambiguous rebelliousness that will work on aspects of aesthetic renovation about metrics and language.
Modernism is a Hispanic form that comes from the universal crisis of literature and manifests itself not only in artistic expression, but also in other areas such as politics, science and religion. Modernism stood out, among other things, for the evasion of political and social issues within artistic compositions, dedicating itself mainly to the perfection of language, as well as the invention of fictitious worlds.
It was mainly a period that gave rise to a Latin American literary movement, because although far from its place of origin, it is in this area of the world where it found its flourishing.
History and origin of modernist literature
This period began in the last years of the 19th century, achieving an important expansion not only in Spain and the European continent, but also in America. Although in its beginnings the term -modernism- was used as a derogatory concept that referred to those who were against novelties, it soon moved away from the negative connotation to become the title of those who cultivated a new tendency with Rubén Darío as its representative. It was considered one of the heirs of post-romanticism, given that the immediately preceding period was the era of romanticism.
The development of literary modernism reached its peak during the First World War, a time when it subsequently experienced a crisis with the disaster of 98, which produced important social, political and economic consequences for Spain. However, an important aspect that should be emphasized is that modernist literature did not flourish as such in Europe, but rather in America, where it became firmly established and spread to several countries of this continent.
The main literary development in modernism
It is possible to identify many of the aspects of modernist literature in other movements and currents developed later, which is why it is considered one of the most important periods for the emergence of the following stages of literary development.
For literary development, modernism represented the arrival of an era of profound renovation that was guided by a sense of rebellion against the literature that had been consolidated until then, so that the modernists, managers of the trend, seek new themes and forms that respond to their curiosities and concerns. At the same time, the development of modernist literature was influenced by literary currents, including symbolism and Parnassianism.
The expression of beauty and the inner world that modernist literature seeks is achieved through a series of key resources that it uses as a tool to achieve it. In this we find aspects such as phonic resources among which are alliterations and onomatopoeias, especially. Likewise, the constant use of literary figures such as allegories, synesthesia, metaphors and parallelisms, the use of exotic words, cultured words, adjectivation and all kinds of elements that allow the expression of feeling can be observed.
On the other hand, during this literary period it is also possible to analyze the recovery of other elements, such as the eneasyllabic, alexandrine, octosyllabic and hendecasyllabic verses, which were mainly used by Spanish authors. The rhythm will also be an axis of work in which the versification by feet is carried out.
Main characteristics of modernist literature
Among the most important features of this literary period we find the following:
Themes: often modernist literature will touch on themes related to sensory beauty and an escape from the real world, thus creating fictitious worlds seeking in them a beautiful order to which they could resort as a place of escape due to the overwhelm they experienced in everyday life and routine.
Preference for the medieval world: in search of this escape, the authors of modernist literature took refuge mainly in the medieval world, which is why it became one of their main sources of inspiration for literary composition. However, it is important to recognize that in this process, the authors also look to the world of the Renaissance, earlier times and the classical world, as well as an inclination for secluded and exotic places.
In this sense, magical settings that include princesses, mythological characters, mythological heroes, etc., will also be taken from the medieval world and brought into their works during the modernist era of literature.
Inner world: during this period writers also try to leave aside the realism that had been working in the works, which proposed an intention close to the observation of nature as a source of discovery about individual feelings. In this way, the artist seeks other ways to reach his own inner world, preferably without intermediaries.
On the other hand, modernist literature expresses a strong relationship with romanticism, from which it picks up the impossible love, to a certain extent. In addition to this, the idealization of women and, in general, of love relationships is also observed.
Other aspects that stand out during this movement are the way in which the national predominates over the foreign, since in previous times the attention had been taken more towards the external. In addition to this, the cult of formal perfection is observed, which leads to a balanced poetry that will work with the development of new forms and the recovery of the forms of the verses.
One of the most important exponents of modernist literature was Rubén Darío, who was considered the representative of this literary period. Later we can identify other authors such as Manuel Machado Ruíz, Salvador Rueda, Manuel Reina Montilla, Francisco Villaespesa, Tomás Morales, Ricardo Gil, Alberto Álvarez de Cienfuegos, Saulo Torón Navarro, Eduardo Marquina, Antonio Machado, Alonso Quesada, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Isaac Muñoz, Jacinto Benavente, María Martínez Sierra, Rafael Sánchez Mazas, Fernando Fortún, among other writers of Spanish origin.
On the other hand, in Latin America another series of authors stand out who also share participation in other periods but who were decisive for the development of modernist literature. Among them we find: José Martí, Julián Casal, José Asunción Silva, Guillermo Valencia Castillo, Ricardo Jaimes Freyre, Leopoldo Lugones, Enrique Larreta, Carlos Pezoa Véliz, Lisímaco Chavarría, Rafael Ángel Troyo, Medardo Ángel Silva, Arturo Borja, Manuel de Jesús Galván, Humberto Fierro, Ernesto Noboa, Amado Nervo, José Santos Chocano, Aurora Cáceres, Julia de Burgos, Delmira Agustini, Rómulo Gallegos, Ventura García Calderón, among others.