The 15 Main Representatives of Modernism

Abraham McLaughlin

The main representatives of modernism belong to an artistic and literary current that sought to transform literature through innovation and criticism of the previous structures of the Victorian era.

Arisen at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century in Latin America and Europe, the authors of this movement wanted to influence the materialistic and vulgar society of the time, and dethrone the realist and naturalist authors and poets..

Article index

  • 1 Latin American authors of the modernist movement
    • 1.1 1- Rubén Darío
    • 1.2 2- José Martí
    • 1.3 3- Pablo Neruda
    • 1.4 4- Ernesto Noboa and Caamaño
    • 1.5 5- Romulo Gallegos
  • 2 Main American Modernist exponents
    • 2.1 6- Ernest Hemingway
    • 2.2 7- Katherine Anne Porter
    • 2.3 8- E.E Cummings
    • 2.4 9- William Faulkner
    • 2.5 10- William Carlos Williams
    • 2.6 11- Eugene O'Neill
  • 3 Other important representatives of modernism
    • 3.1 12- Federico García Lorca
    • 3.2 13- James Joyce
    • 3.3 14- Joseph Conrad
    • 3.4 15- Virginia Woolf
  • 4 Topics of interest

Modernism, nourished by the ideas promoted by Parnassianism and symbolism, had a rebellious character focusing on the realization of artistic literary works full of deep significance and elaborated for the sheer pleasure of making "art for art's sake".

With wide creative freedom, he sought to approach the beauty of everyday things, encouraging experimentation and individualism, allowing the works to be free in their format, structure and feeling.

Modernist literature is characterized by the presence of a fragmented narrative, characters, plot and images where there is not necessarily a temporal linear structure, hence spontaneity and jumps in time are its main attribute..

It seeks to describe different perceptions of reality by showing that nothing is static, especially writing.

This type of literature plays with narrative using various literary figures and irony to criticize the social conventions of the time..

Modernism is a cult of beauty and perfection, being a movement that explores new forms of expression.

Latin American authors of the modernist movement

1- Rubén Darío

Considered the initiator and greatest exponent of Latin American modernism, he was born on January 18, 1867 in Nicaragua.

His work opened the literary doors of Spain and Latin America abroad, sweetening the whole world with a different prose, open, simple and full of symbols and metaphors..

His main modernist and famous works are: Blue (1888), Profane Prose (1896), Songs of life and hope (1905) and The wandering song (1907).

With a beautiful and cultured poetry, Blue It is classified as the first great modernist work due to the constant criticism of bourgeois social structures. It is a work that mixes American and French culture combined with a picturesque and delicate style..

The author died on February 6, 1916 in Nicaragua, leaving the way open for the many European modernist exponents who will follow him..

2- José Martí

A faithful follower of the modernist movement, born in Cuba in 1853, he is an outstanding author for having promoted modernist literature of a nationalist and political nature..

Martí, politician and writer, was the organizer of the Cuban War of Independence in addition to having written the following modernist works: Free verses (1878-1882), Ismaelillo (1882), Simple verses (1891) and the famous essay "Our America" ​​(1891).

With his work Free verses, the author cries out for real poetry, of an original type that is born from the entrails and from the depths of being, being one of the main modernist works of Latin America. 

The author died in 1899 in Cuba, being remembered as one of the most important Cuban literary figures of his time..

3- Pablo Neruda

Chilean writer born in 1904 and died in 1973, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and is listed as one of the most widely read Latin American poets in the world..

His most famous works, including Twilight (1923), Twenty love poems and a desperate song (1924), Residence on earth (1933), General sing (1950) and Elemental Odes (1954-1957), have been considered great modernist works.

His poetry is characterized by exalting sensitivity over reason, adopting elements of French Parnassianism, while using multiple comparisons, metaphors and symbols, both natural and mythological..

In addition, it has a touch of classic sensuality, which has allowed it to be part of the forerunners of the modernist movement..

4- Ernesto Noboa and Caamaño

Noboa and Caamaño / CC0

Ecuadorian writer born in Guayaquil in 1889. He belongs to the “beheaded generation” and is considered one of the greatest icons of Latin American literature.

Damn poet, he suffered from neurosis and that caused him to be addicted to different drugs such as morphine. His narrative style was sensitive, full of sadness and anguish, comparable to that of Edgar Allan Poe..

His premature death due to narcotics left us with only one compilation work: Romance of the hours (1922).

5- Romulo Gallegos

Unknown author / Public domain

One of the classics of 20th century Latin American literature. Venezuelan, he practiced politics, but stood out more for his novels and essays.

On Miss Barbara (1929), one of his most acclaimed works, Gallegos develops his prose under the influence of modernism.

Main American Modernist exponents

6- Ernest Hemingway

An important exponent of Anglo-Saxon modernism, he was an American journalist and writer born on July 21, 1899 and died on July 2, 1961.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, his works possess certain characteristic modernist features such as the fact that they use a concise and simple prose, seeking to obtain the maximum of the minimum language.

With his works Goodbye to guns (1929), For whom the Bell Tolls (1946), The old man and the sea (1952) and Paris was a party (1964), it is observed how his privileged themes were love, war and nature.

He always sought to criticize 20th century society which, in Hemingway's words, was a generation lost to wars, materialism and the industrial bourgeoisie.

7- Katherine Anne Porter

American novel and short story writer, essayist and activist was born on May 15, 1890 and died in 1980.

Considered one of the main authors of modernism for dealing with dark themes such as evil, betrayal and death.

It breaks with the romantic scheme while maintaining modernist characteristics such as a simple prose full of symbolism and constant criticism of the southern society of the United States of the time, its structures, as well as social differences and discrimination between genders.

His most famous works have been Collected short stories (1965), Ship of fools (1962), The leaning tower (1944), Flowering Judas and The Jilting of granny Weatherall (1930). Porter has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1966.

8- E.E Cummings

American poet, painter and essayist born on October 14, 1894 and died on September 3, 1962, is considered one of the greatest exponents of modernism in the United States.

His prose is characterized by constant experimentation with language, where the author seeks to play with it by not respecting formal writing structures, ceasing to include upper and lower case letters or even punctuation marks in his poems..

The author reflects irony and great imagination in his writing, being famous for writing modern satires. His works include The enormous room (1922), Tulips and chimneys (1923) and Fairy tales (1965).

9- William Faulkner

American writer born in 1897, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, published varied collections of works until his death in 1962.

He is recognized for his linguistic and narrative experimentalism, after including in his works large time jumps and the use of different types of narratives simultaneously.

The author managed to present a different way of telling stories, moving away from the normal rational structure, hence his writings, in addition to being full of ironies, have interspersed chapters whose objective is to play with the reader's mind, something typical of modernism.

His most famous works are Soldiers' pay (1926), The noise and the fury (1929), Light of august (1932), Sanctuary (1931) and The eternal dream (1946).

10- William Carlos Williams

unknown (believed to be passport photograph) / Public domain

Born in 1883 in the United States, he practiced as a pediatrician but was most recognized for his own works of modernism and imagism.

His best known writing is Paterson, a series of epic poems produced between 1946 and 1958 in which the American society of the time is reflected. The influence of James Joyce is very noticeable in them..

11- Eugene O'Neill

Nobel Foundation / Public domain

American born in 1888 in New York. One of the most important writers in American fiction and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936.

Most of his works are in a pessimistic style, full of tragedy and disappointment. Possibly influenced by O'Neill's lack of success in his early theater. The long day's journey into the night (1957) and A moon for the bastard (1957), are two of his most modernist works.

Other important representatives of modernism

12- Federico García Lorca

Spanish poet and playwright, belonging to the modernist movement due to the excessive and marked use of symbolism in his works.

Coupled with the use of different metaphors and literary elements to embellish his writings. His work has a perfect combination of the cultured and the popular.

13- James Joyce

Irish writer, acclaimed for his famous work Ulises (1922) due to the introduction of new literary forms in his prose and the use of a pure exotic narrative that seeks to describe the daily life of each of his characters.

There are numerous cases of interior monologues that explain the consciousness of the characters that make life within the work, hence a brilliant use of language.

14- Joseph Conrad

Polish novelist, considered one of the most interesting exponents of modernism due to the different style of his works.

In his writings, the author explores the instability of the human being, describing and reflecting his individual consciousness in language.

The use of metaphors, symbologies, riddles and an unusual narrative structure that explains the daily physical and mental of people is what makes him part of the group of the main representatives of modernism.

15- Virginia Woolf

Unknown author / Public domain

Today's symbol of feminism, Woolf is also considered one of the great writers of the last century and one of the most notable modernists.

Born in London, her connection with the Bloomsbury Circle, where she met intellectuals who moved in Anglo-Saxon modernism, encouraged her writing to focus on this style so deeply rooted in Britain.. End of trip (1915), Orlando (1928) or The years (1937) are some of his most outstanding works.

Themes of interest

8 Poems of Modernism by Great Authors.

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