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Modernism's Lamentation And Postmodernism's Celebration

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Modernism's Lamentation and Postmodernism's Celebration

While each movement claims its own name and set of authors, the characteristics of the literary postmodernist period are quite similar to those of the literary modernist movement, and their differences are more those of attitude than of form. Modernism and postmodernism strongly emphasize a new standard which distances and rejects the romantic period's ideas of how art should be created and how one should perceive art. Annie Dillard's Holy the Firm and Virginia Woolf's "An Unwritten Novel" are both excellent examples of the modern and postmodern literary movements, and can be used to illustrate their general similarities and subtle differences.

In order to examine how Annie Dillard's Holy the Firm and Virginia Woolf's "An Unwritten Novel" represent modernistic and post modernistic writing, one must understand the characteristics of these literary movements. Contrary to one of the romantic period's typical characteristics, modernism and postmodernism both place an emphasis on how the process of perception occurs, rather than what is being perceived. In addition, rather than focus on the physical sense of what is being perceived, modernism and postmodernism focus on the individual thought process and mental impressions of the writer. Typically, modernism and postmodernism stray away from objectivity and fixed narratives. Modernist and postmodernist literary works are fragmented, almost discontinuous. They contain collages of seemingly random and spontaneous content, but hold much deeper meaning. One of the most distinct and unique qualities of modernism and postmodernism is how they allow the genres to meld together, blurring the lines between prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction.

Virginia Woolf's "An Unwritten Novel" is very distinctly a modernistic piece of literature. "An Unwritten Novel" is written in a manner that leaves the reader wondering if what he or she just read made any sense at all. "An Unwritten Novel" presents a sense of spontaneity and randomness, as if one is reading the thoughts of a person with attention deficit disorder. For example, in "An Unwritten Novel," Virginia Woolf writes:

Have I read you right? But the human face – the human face at the top of the fullest sheet of print holds more, withholds more. Now, eyes open. She looks out; and in the human eye – how'd you define it? – there's a break – a division – so that when you've grasped the stem the butterfly's off – the moth that hangs in the evening over the yellow flower – move, raise your hand, off, high, away.
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