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Modernism is the large-scale movement which originated in the European countries near the end of 19th century. This movement put forth a deliberate break from the past forms and styles prevalent in the intellectual and socio-cultural art forms to highlight the evolution and innovation being incorporated in the changing world scenario. Modern society and its ethics in the early 20th century faced a whirling transition from old principles to new perceptions of 19th century. It is also one of the many reasons as to why modernism is difficult to be pinpointed in terms of its origin, rationale and nature.
The modernism movement is not just limited to literature and the chain of radical transformation of modern aesthetics influenced other art forms as well. Diverse fields such as painting, religion, philosophy and scientific advancement rejected the values prevalent in the preceding century and aimed to invent new paths and methods to change their respective arenas. With industrial revolution and growing business setups, the modernist movement promoted reformed self-consciousness of the individual and futility of modern opportunistic world. Moreover, evolution of psychology facilitated the analysis of human mind in a holistic manner. After Freud published his famous ‘Interpretation of Dreams’; artists were prompted to explore the inner subconscious and how it affects the external behaviour of an individual.
Modernism shared a complex relationship with tradition as it did not follow any uniform pattern or particular style from the past. The diversity of ideologies and opinions during the early 20th century formed the basis of different ‘-isms’, meaning movements which heralded their own aesthetic perspective. Movements originated during the first three decades of 20th century, such as imagism, expressionism, futurism, dadaism and surrealism among others followed their respective outlook and approach, not adhering to any fixed criteria of modern aesthetic principles. Additionally, outbreak of world war I caused disillusionment in the literary arena and many artists and writers such as T.S Eliot, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Salvador Dali among others captured the pessimistic condition of contemporary world; exploring self-doubt, distrust and darker aspects of human nature and society.