What is Modernism?

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Modernism is the breaking of tradition that includes the embracement of racial, class, and gender struggles for knowledge about the senselessness and alienation of the time. Within earlier literature, women had always been regarded with contempt by a male-dominated society – a society that was more inclined to treat women as complacent to men in their lives rather than as individuals. However, literature around the rise of the modernist movement in the early 20th century depicted women as individuals of who insisted on their rights and choices. Male and female modernists used American literature differently to depict the role of women in society. While male modernists such as F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby and T.S. Elliot in The Wasteland often maintained a minor and feminine view of female characters centered on domestic ideals despite the changing depictions of the “new woman,” female modernists such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman in The Yellow Wallpaper chose to focus on the autonomy and freedom that women were slowly gaining or were trying to obtain. The androcentric views of male modernists guided perceptions of modernist literature into a direction that favored male protagonists and perceptions of dominance over feminine characteristics. While men repressed the female voices during the Victorian era without any opposition from women, modernism was a period where women were more willing to express their positions in society, despite popular opposition.
As movements towards equality for women gained momentum, the breaking of tradition included a step away from Victorian era principles of femininity towards ideas of a “new woman” that countered stereotypes of women having to provide their husbands a clean hom...

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Walls, Elizabeth MacLeod. “‘A Little Afraid of the Women of Today’: The Victorian New Woman and the Rhetoric of British Modernism.” Rhetoric Review 21.3 (2002): 229-246. JSTOR. Web. 6 April 2014.
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