What is modernism?

We explain what modernism is and in what historical context it arises. In addition, most important authors and works of this movement.

  1. What is modernism?

In the context of Spanish literature , a fundamentally poetic literary movement is known as modernism , developed between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (1880-1920) and which is understood as the Hispanic form of the universal crisis of letters and literature. spirit that characterized the entry into contemporaneity.

Modernism was characterized by creative rebellion , a somewhat aristocratizing and narcissistic refinement, as well as a cosmopolitan culturalism, but its most important contribution to Hispanic literature was its profound renewal of language . So much so, that Latin American authors for the first time influenced the peninsular and set the tone for them, in what became known as ” The return of caravels .”

In this way, modernist poems tended to worship language, to value American and indigenous themes, but at the same time professed a devotion to Paris and to cosmopolitan culture , as well as to women and idealized love. However, in his verses you can perceive the characteristic unease of romanticism , his anguish and deep melancholy. His poems were often accused of being escapists, of rejecting society and preferring fantasy.

The beginning of modernism is usually located in 1888 with the publication of the poetry book Azul … by Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, whose impact on Hispanic literature was gigantic. Initially, the term with which the followers of this current (“modernists”) were appointed was pejoratively used, but as it was wielded insolently by these poets, it ended up becoming the name of the movement.

  1. Historical context of modernism

Modernism professes a strong disagreement with the bourgeois culture prevailing at the time , which makes the movement an heir of nineteenth-century post-Romanticism, similar to the artistic trends of Art Noveau (France and Belgium), Modern Style (England), Sezession ( Austria), Jugenstil (Germany), Liberty (USA) and Floreale (Italy).

According to some theorists, modernism was not only a literary movement, but also an artistic reflection of a much greater aspect, a spiritual crisis of the West that began with the twentieth century and lasted until the First World War . This crisis would consist in the desire for the creation of order in an inharmonious and unstable world, and coincides with the definitive implantation of capitalism as an economic and social model, as well as the decline of the monarchies and the great empires, most of which It would dissolve during the twentieth century.

  1. Authors and works of modernism

The list of authors and modernist works is extremely extensive, since all the Latin American countries participated in the movement, as well as Spain itself. However, a list of the best known includes the following:

  • Rubén Darío (Nicaraguan, 1867-1916), poet, journalist and diplomat, considered the founder of modernism with his poems  (1888), and famous for his poems, Profane Profas (1896), Songs of life and hope. Swans and other poems (1905) and his prose books Los raros (1896), Pilgrimages (1901) and History of my books (1916), among many other works.
  • Leopoldo Lugones (Argentine, 1874-1938), poet, essayist and journalist of strong nationalist roots, forerunner of the fantastic story and science fiction in Rio de la Plata. He committed suicide by ingesting cyanide. His most famous poetic works are The Mountains of Gold (1897) and The Twilight of the Garden (1905), of strong symbolic influence.
  • José Martí (Cuban, 1853-1895), politician, journalist, thinker, philosopher and poet, founder of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, died during the Cuban Revolutionary War, after having traveled throughout the continent and having written a poetic work and in prose of great value, in which the chronicles of Our America (1891) and the poems of the Golden Age (1878-1882) and Flowers of exile (1878-1895) stand out.
  • José Asunción Silva (Colombian, 1865-1896), poet and traveler, of short but important work, in which the book of verses (1923, posthumous) stands out. He killed himself with a shot in the heart at age 30.
  • Amado Nervo (Mexican, 1859-1895), journalist, poet and diplomat, is famous for his friendship with Oscar Wilde in Paris and for his works The Bachelor (novel, 1895) and the poems Black Pearls, Mystics (1898) and The Beloved motionless (posthumous, 1922).
  • Delmira Agustini (Uruguayan, 1886-1914), a poet from wealthy sectors of society, whose education allowed her to figure in spite of the sexist discriminations of the time. The white paper (1907), The empty chalices (1913) and Sexual Correspondence (posthumous, 1969) stand out in his work .
  • Manuel Machado (Spanish, 1874-1947), poet and playwright, brother of the famous poet Antonio Machado, published an extensive poetic work in which Alma (1902), Los cantares (1905) and El mal poema (1909) stand out, among many others.
  • Manuel Díaz Rodríguez (Venezuelan, 1871-1927), essayist, novelist and storyteller, among whose most important works are the novels Broken idols (1901) and Sangre patricia (1902), as well as the Prosas essays of art, justice and devotion (1918 ) and Between the hills in bloom (1935).

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