What are literary movements?

We explain what literary movements are, how they are classified, their main characteristics and various examples.

  1. What are literary movements?

Just as there are artistic movements in general, literary movements are the different historical and aesthetic trends that make up the history of literature . That is, we refer to the different literary aspects that, throughout the historical evolution of this artistic genre, have emerged in the different regions of the world.

There have been many literary movements, some more popular than others, some more durable than others, and some more influential than others in the way the rest of the world understands literature. Many of them were very revolutionary, and were often accompanied by similar variants in other arts , such as painting or music, or also in philosophy .

Each movement is endowed with its own and recognizable meaning , generally in dialogue or opposition to the literary tradition of the moment, or to the general spirit of its time. This is because the movement is governed by some principles or foundations shared by its authors, although expressed individually.

This does not mean that they necessarily agreed, knew each other or even felt at the time part of the same system. Although this occurs in some cases, in general these distinguishing features are the terms with which specialists interpret and organize the history of literature.

  1. Types of literary movements

There is no proper classification of literary movements, as each has its own spirit, its own context and its own history. However, one could organize them into larger categories, such as:

  • Classic movements , that is, those that proposed the recovery of traditional values considered lost in time. This should not be confused, however, with classicism as an artistic movement (especially important in painting).
  • Avant-garde movements , that is, those who proposed an express and voluntary break with the literary canons that were accepted at the time, that is, who aspired to be revolutionaries, to create something new, to innovate.

They can also be classified according to their inscription in the great intellectual movements of humanity: Renaissance , Baroque , Romanticism , Realism , Classicism, Neoclassicism, etc.

  1. Characteristics of literary movements

surrealism literary movements
Some literary movements, such as surrealism, were deliberately created.

Literary movements are categories in which the history of literature is organized. However, on many occasions they were proposed by literary groups , that is, by groups of writers who expressly set out to create a literary philosophy among all, each in its own way, being part of the same system intentionally.

For example, the Surrealists were very aware of their existence as an artistic group (not only literary, also of Plastic Arts ) and had a set of writing techniques that they proposed and used among all. In some cases, these techniques were novel and inaugurated practices that were then continued, past the time of the group.

In other words, literary movements have no strict time limits or scientific definitions, such as who classifies chemical elements. The same author can have, throughout his work, an initial literary tendency, and then change it gradually to end by inaugurating something new.

Unlike other more spectacular art forms with greater media impact, literature is a particularly slow art form: books must be written, edited, published and made known, and then read, appreciated, organized in movements, etc. . Therefore, many of the literary movements can be seen only in retrospect.

Broadly speaking, literary movements distinguish each other by their conception of what literature is , or what its purpose is, or in what specific way language should be used . In the same way, some cultivated a literary genre more than others, be it poetry , narrative or dramaturgy.

  1. What are the literary movements?

Some of the most popular literary movements are:

  • Romanticism . The literature of romanticism obeys the same philosophical precepts as the other arts that are inscribed in the same great movement, born during the seventeenth century and considered dead in the nineteenth century. It was a literature that valued above all the sensitivity of the author, especially in poetry, and that moved away from the rational and cosmopolitan world of realism. National imaginary ( legends , myths , traditions) and stories in which the interiority of the characters was the most importantwere preferred. A good example of this trend is the novel The Misadventures of Young Werther by German author JW Goethe.
  • Realism . The literary school of realism was greatly influenced by the philosophical ideals of theFrench Enlightenment , and opposed romanticism as a tendency. His conception of literature aspired to an art capable of faithfully representing reality, so he focused his attention on the narrative, especially the novel , using precise, meticulous language, as well as objective narrators, disinterested in the world of emotions. A clear example of realism was the novel Madame Bovary by the French Gustav Flaubert.
  • Surrealism . Surrealist literature was much more varied than the two we have described, since it generally grouped poets and playwrights, rather than narrators. Like the rest of the artistic movement, which involved painting, theater and cinema , surrealist writers sought to reproduce in the work the state of apparent nonsense of the dream, with its mysterious connections and itswild creativity . They valued madness , delirium and the breaking of forms, so they were regulars practicing exquisite corpse techniques, for example, or automatic writing. In some cases they sought to combine poetry with painting or with other experiences, such as performance.
  • Modernism . We must not confuse modernism with the philosophical movement of modernity, since modernism was an extremely important literary movement in the nineteenth century, born in Latin America, although very influential in Spain. So much so, that he was known as “The return of the caravels”, since his way of writing precious, classicist and baroque was later imitated in Spain. The modernists aspired to a renewal of literary language, introducing some preciousness in their forms and themes, especially developed in poetry. The typical example of the literature of modernism is the blue poemsof Nicaraguan Ruben Dario.
  • Magic realism . It was a much more recent literary movement, born in the twentieth century in painting and then introduced to literature. This specific type of realism sought to incorporate the fantastic and wonderful into their stories, without any emphasis on their amazing character, but by telling it in a realistic way, that is, everyday, unimpressed. The best known exponent of this movement was the Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.

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