The modernist period, stretching from the late 19th century to approximately 1960, is a very distinct phase in the progression of American literature, employing the use of novel literary techniques which stray away from the traditional literary styles observed in the time preceding the period. Modernist writers explore new styles themes, and content in their compositions, encompassing issues ranging from race (Kate Chopin) to gender (H.D.) to sexuality (James Baldwin), as well as many others. The Modernist movement, however novel and unique, did not develop spontaneously. A few writers leading up to the movement exhibit obvious modernist views in their writing. These include male writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, both of which had literature widely published through out their lives, influencing modernist writers to come. There is also, however, another writer who, though lesser known to the earliest modern composers, was one of the first female writers to show an obvious propensity towards modernist ideals; Emily Dickinson. Though chronologically placed in the Romantic period, Emily Dickinson’s poetry, most published after her death beginning in 1890, exemplifies many modernist tendencies. Her stylistic oddities, such as her interesting diction, capitalization, rhythms, and use of the dash, as well as her feminist views, detach Dickinson from the other poets of her time. Once finally published posthumously, Dickinson’s writings came to influence modernist writers through out the 20th century. One writer in particular who “was immensely influenced by Dickinson’s poetry and sought to probe the extreme reaches of consciousness and truth just as Dickinson had” (Langdell, 84)...
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