Avant-garde literature origin, characteristics and authors

Abraham McLaughlin

The avant-garde literature was the name given to the compendium of literary works produced at the beginning of the 20th century, between 1906 and 1940. These publications showed marked aesthetic tendencies, breaking away from the conventional systems of rhymes and stanzaic structures..

Avant-garde literature was influenced by a series of artistic movements known as "avant-garde." These currents of expression pursued common goals of introspection and breaking of pre-established conventions and orders..

Carjat Arthur Rimbaud, considered the father of the avant-garde

It is common when studying history, to notice that during times of great social upheaval, tendencies of expression emerge that have allowed man to drain tensions, show his dissatisfaction. Avant-garde literature, daughter of the fevers of a shaken world, does not escape from this human reality.

Article index

  • 1 Origins of avant-garde literature
  • 2 Features
    • 2.1 Everything is questioned
    • 2.2 What was new was important
    • 2.3 The metaphor as the door of creation
    • 2.4 Breaking reason and logic
    • 2.5 Spontaneity
    • 2.6 A marked Freudian influence
  • 3 Main vanguards
    • 3.1 Expressionism
    • 3.2 Surrealism
    • 3.3 Dadaism
    • 3.4 Cubism
    • 3.5 Futurism
    • 3.6 Ultraism
    • 3.7 Creationism
  • 4 General conclusions
  • 5 References

Origins of avant-garde literature

The term avant-garde is Gallicism, that is to say: a word of French origin. It is made up of two words: avant ("In front of") and garde ("Guard", "protect"). The word avant-garde took off during the development of the First World War, between 1914 and 1917.

The beginning of the 20th century was marked by violence. When European societies seemed to be in a calm that augured growth and progress, Archduke Francisco Fernando of Austria is assassinated and his death is the flag that gives way to war disaster. Under that star avant-garde is born.

With this vile scenario, man staggers into the 1900s. The arts are beginning to be the means of escape from collective realities and the ideas that emerge are sheltered under this French word, "vanguards." "Forward, to shelter the soul", is heard in every poem born, in every structure that breaks.

Avant-garde literature was not typical of a place, it was a global fact, a globalized feeling. Everyone's awareness of space unleashed a creative-reactive frenzy in the authors. The works denote an uprooting of ideas and cultures, the being presents itself as a whole, as a nation of thought.


Everything is questioned

Avant-garde writers present their work with a clear combative idea, of abolition. Denial of past rules is a flag raised defiantly.

The literature produced here responds to the individual and the unconscious need to break paradigms, not to think how the previous structures impose but how one wants.

The new was the important thing

The zeal against past human work was such that what happened before the avant-garde was considered inconsequential. The recent was what pleased, bet on what was drenched by novelty and surprise.

The metaphor as the door of creation

The metaphor was the ideal device to say innovative things. With it, the aim was to immerse readers in surreal worlds that would make them doubt and question, in many cases, existence itself as we know it..

Break reason and logic

The avant-garde gives way to unconventional poetic devices, such as the use of phrases without culminating, for example.

According to those who implemented this strategy, they used it so that the reader thought and became part of the letters, assuming the possible endings that poems and other literary manifestations should have..

It was common to skip the traditional linear formulas, even abolishing the use of punctuation marks in literary fact in a great variety of works, especially in poetry..


He defended the immediate elaboration of the emotions, without so much depth in the speech, without so much density in the thinking, but with a shocking audacity.

This particular trait makes it inclusive, breaking with the reigning bourgeois influence, which of course the avant-garde resisted and opposed..

The lyrics belonged to everyone and not to a group, and the one who was capable of creating without having any other roots, but rather his own sense, that was the one that was really worth.

A marked Freudian influence

Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theories had a clear ascendancy in avant-garde creation. His theories about the subconscious established the foundations of surrealism and the exploration of oneiric in the literary manifestation..

Dalí, who was one of the main European representatives of pictorial surrealism and who motivated Lorca to write surrealist poetry, followed Freud's work closely as did Bretón.

Main vanguards

The avant-garde is known as the different artistic manifestations that made up the avant-garde from its inception, during its development and end..

The most important avant-gardes are presented below, followed by a brief description, their main representatives and their works:


Literary expressionism is a movement, mainly pictorial, born in Germany in 1905. It shies away from the figurative and seeks to express what the individual feels from their subjective perception.

He gets to greatly touch the letters, and in these, as the main representative, he has the Austro-Hungarian Franz Kafka, whose work marked a milestone in the history of literature..


Literary surrealism is a movement with great pictorial connotations. He was born in France in 1924. The unconscious is the protagonist of this current. Dream songs are manifested continuously. It is even alluded that we dream life and live dreams.

The images break with known structures and the reader is completely amazed at each literary creation. We can name the Spanish Federico García Lorca, with his work Poet in New York, as one of its great representatives.


Dadaism emerged in the United States and Switzerland simultaneously around 1916. In the following years, it spread throughout Europe. It has the particularity of being a non-rebellious avant-garde movement.

This focuses on refuting the concepts that make up and sustain the artistic manifestations prior to the First World War.

We see the best sample of Dada literature represented in the lyrics of the German poet Hugo Ball. His work stands out To the criticism of German intelligence.


Literary cubism originates in France, around 1905. Its premise is the union of concepts that are impossible, as well as decomposing objects, shapes.

It seeks to give way to joy and black humor in writing, reducing the weight of nostalgia and common lyrical motifs..

This current has as one of the main representatives in the letters the Italian Guillaume Apollinaire. His "calligrams" stand out, interesting poetic manifestations where apart from the speech, the letters form silhouettes allusive to the subject matter. Among his works stands out The murdered poet.


Literary Futurism was born in Italy, around 1909. Its main driving force is the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. One of the main inspirations of Futurism are the "machine" and the "movement". Get out of conventional ways, reinvent man, things, with letters.

Futurist literature enhances the song of the "non-human", sees war and plagues as necessary to purify the land of man.

Among Filippo's works, his Futurism Manifesto, where it clearly shows the bases of its current.


Ultraism was born from the hand of Rubén Darío to oppose romanticism, ultraism appears to directly oppose modernism.

This avant-garde is of Hispanic origin, it was born in Spain around 1919. Its appearance is directly influenced by three other avant-gardes: Cubism, Dadaism and Futurism..

Poetry makes an exaggerated use of metaphor, completely discards rhyme and deals with everyday subjects such as cinema and technology..

Of its exponents, Humberto Rivas Panedas stands out, and among his important works we find: Brothers, poets and ultraists: José and Humberto Rivas Panedas.


Literary creationism is an avant-garde with Hispanic roots. This movement began in Paris in the hands of Vicente Huidobro around the year 1916 and in a short time it expanded and was incorporated into the rest of the avant-gardes that had life on the European continent..

This avant-garde current obviates the descriptions and runs away from the anecdotes. The writer becomes god, compares himself with God, and considers poetry as an absolute tool of creation.

Among the most representative works of Vicente Huidobro are his Arctic poems Y The water mirror.

General conclusions

The literary avant-garde came to represent man a necessary catharsis in the overwhelming moments that humanity lived at the beginning of the 20th century. He came to shorten distances, to link the species with the threads of art when everything hurt.

Perhaps if their representatives had not become so involved in the opposition to the above, and had focused on their own creation, their legacy would be broader..

If there is something that avant-garde literature made us understand, it is that when nothing is guaranteed and death is near, art is usually the next, necessary door. Everything follows a cycle, everything happens, what is innovative today, tomorrow is past and questioned.

Peace, in short, is not synonymous with calm, peace in human language is nothing more than that fearsome silence that inhabits us between war and war. Fear did its thing and the lyrics did not wait to be the voice of man, the expected reguardo.


  1. Literary avant-garde. (S. f.). (n / a): avant-garde encyclopedia. Recovered from: encyclopediavanguardista.blogspot.com.
  2. Lorena, M. (2013). Avant-garde Literature 20th Century. (n / a): Universal literature. Recovered from: ceblenguacastellana11.blogspot.com.
  3. Ten characteristics of avant-garde. (S. f.). (n / a): Characteristics. Recovered from:
  4. Mena, J. R. (S. f.). The consequences of the vanguards. (n / a): Islabahia. Recovered from: www.islabahia.com.
  5. Sociohistorical framework of avant-garde literature. (S. f.). (n / a): PPS.K12. Recovered from: pps.k12.or.us.

Yet No Comments