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The Inward Turn of Modernist Literature

Powerful Essays
Modernists did not have faith in the external reality put forth by social institutions, such as the government and religion, and they no longer considered these avenues as trustworthy means to discover the meaning of life. For this reason they turned within themselves to discover the answers. Modernist literature is centered on the psychological experience as opposed to the external realities of the world. The experience is moved inwards in an attempt to make modernist works more representative of reality by making the experience more personal. The modernist era of literature is closely associated with the works of T.S. Eliot, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, among others. These three authors stand out because they have made use of unique literary tactics and devices which emphasize the inward turn of modernist literature.

One of T.S. Eliot’s earliest poems, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, is a prime example of a text that takes a turn inwards in terms of conveying the experience it presents. The poem provides a look into the distressed mind of an archetypal modern man of the times. It does this using the speaker’s stream of consciousness presented as a dramatic monologue. Prufrock, the poem’s speaker, seeks to advance his relationship with a woman who has caught his eye. He wonders if he has “the strength to force the moment to its crisis” (Eliot, 80). Prufrock is so entrenched in self-doubt that he is uncertain whether he is capable of having a relationship with this woman. His knowledge of the world he lives in and his circumstances keep him from attempting to approach this prospective lover. He contemplates the reasons for which he believes he cannot be with her and scolds himself for even thinking that it was possibl...

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...nce more personal. Authors in the modernist era made use of modern literary tactics and devices which were better suited to convey psychological experience. As demonstrated by Eliot, Joyce and Woolf, the use of innovative literary techniques, such as epiphanies and stream of consciousness narratives, were put in place to accompany the inward turn taking place at the time.

Works Cited

Joyce, James. "Eveline". 1914. The Twentieth Century and Beyond. Ed. Joseph Black. Vol. 6A. Toronto: Broadview, 2008. 317-19. Print. The Broadview Anthology of British Literature.

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." 1915. The Twentieth Century and Beyond. Ed. Joseph Black. Vol. 6A. Toronto: Broadview, 2008. 444-47. Print. The Broadview Anthology of British Literature.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. Ed. Stella McNichol. London: Penguin, 2000. Print.
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