~ Samridhi Prakash
What Exactly is Modern Literature?
The transition towards Modern Literature began by the end of the Renaissance and Early Modern period. In some places, it succeeded the Mughal Era(India), Meiji Restoration (Japan), Tanzimat Reforms (Turkey) etc. The approximate period associated with the Modern Literature period starts from the early 19th century sprawling into the 21st century. Modern literature has two major sub-categories- Realism and Radicalism.
Realists focused on real situations, settings and characters. Incidents were not fantasised or sugar-coated-in order to please the audience. It provided a mirror to the society, with both the positive and negative aspects presented together. Primary authors linked to Realist Modern literature are Flaubert, Tolstoy, Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw etc.
Radical literature aims to break free of the bonds of the conventional writing style. It has a non-traditional approach, focussing on the idealist hidden behind the psychological barriers constructed through the social stereotypes. And not just English literature, modern texts range from German to French to Mandarin. The greatest exponents of radical literature include Charles Baudelaire, Thomas Sterns Eliot, Franz Kafka, James Joyce etc. Radical prose includes the various styles of Surrealist, Symbolist, Expressionist, Impressionist etc.
Modern Literature gave writers new freedom, a new canvas to explore without limits as previously mandated by society. This period has given birth to the idea of ‘freestyle poetry, breaking the bondage of rhyming schemes, tones and themes. Modern Literature has brought to the literary artists complete aesthetic liberty.
How it Reflects on the Youth?
Most of us are running towards contemporary works by American authors in the name of Modern literature. But modern literature has so much more to it than 21st-century writing. Authors like Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka, Robert Frost, George Orwell, Pablo Neruda, Virginia Woolf all belong to this period of literature. They wrote at the height of the creation of literary masterpieces. Their prose holds a depth that today can be seen in the works of Paulo Coelho, Orhan Pamuk, Haruki Murakami, Toni Morrison and others. Their pens wielded the power to challenge the intellect of the youth and channel their passion towards noble causes.
In our fast-paced lives, modern literature brings to us the peace and tranquillity of the early centuries. Pablo Neruda in his poem “Keeping Still” urges the generation to reflect upon their busy lives and to sit down for a moment to breathe. His minimal words seek to question the very core of our existence, which in today’s pandemic ridden atmosphere resonates more.
Today’s generation finds the mirror of the society in contemporary modern literature- breaking stereotypes. And it learns of the existence of society before its own and its workings from early modern literature. Modern literature’s development is evident from an increasing population of youth taking more interest in the various varieties of writing as well as reading.
The Way Ahead
The aim should be to inculcate and nurture the reading and writing faculty of this generation. With the advent of technology and the internet, various new ways of exploring this activity have come up. We now have access to online versions of almost all literature in various languages.
The words of early literary giants harbour the wisdom of ages. We need to be well-acquainted with these beautiful proses and poems to foster the humanity kindling inside our souls. The Modern Literature period has provided us with some of the best books of all time, be it fantasy or fiction or biographies or mythologies. Language, semantics, linguistics is what brought together the homo sapiens in their fight to survive against the forces of nature. The youth of today needs to understand the importance of literature and language and work towards preserving its sanctity.