Friday, February 7, 2014

Breaking Down Modernism

Modernism can be confusing, especially in poetry. After some research I found two terms that were known to spur the Modernist movement: Imagism and Cubism. According to wikipedia, Imagism can be defined as a movement in early 20th-century Anglo-American poetry that favored precision of imagery and clear, sharp language. It's actually considered to be the first organized Modernist literary movement in the English language. Imagists rejected the sentimental values of Romantic poetry, and called for a return to more Classical values, such as the directness of presentation, economy of language, and experimentation with non-traditional verse forms. Here are a few statements from Ezra Pound's A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste that sum up the group's position. 

1. Direct treatment of the "thing," whether subjective or objective.
2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.
4. Complete freedom of subject matter.
5. Free verse was encouraged along with many other new rhythms.
6. Common speech language was used, and the exact word was always to be used, as opposed to the almost exact word.

While Imagism isolates objects through the use of what Ezra Pound called "luminous details," Pound's method of juxtaposing concrete instances to express an abstraction (sound familiar?) is similar to Cubism's manner of combining multiple perspectives into a single image, like in "The Wasteland."

 A key characteristic of Imagism was Cubism. Basically cubism is another early 20th-century avant-garde art movement (think Picasso) in which objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form; rather than depicted objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from multiple viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. This is exactly how I think of "The Wasteland." It contains broken, fragmented, and seemingly unrelated pieces of imagery so that the reader cannot see anything but a jumbled heap of broken images. However, Modernist poets promise to show their readers how to find meaning within these fragmentations, and I think this clearly illustrates Eliot's use of fragmentation in "The Wasteland" as well. 

1 comment:

Joseph D'Amico said...

I never really got the point of cubism. Even if one is trying to show an object from multiple perspectives, there are probably more aesthetically pleasing ways than cubism. I guess it depends on personal opinions about what art is, but I think art should at least be pleasing to the eye.