In the 19th century there arose yet another movement that changed the way people perceived the entire world. This movement was known as Modernism. Unlike Neoclassicism its predecessor, who provided an emphasis on simplicity, order, and rationality, Modernism intended to break away most of the tenants of Neoclassicism.
It is easy to understand what modernism really is by looking at these key figures in the history of modernism. Friedrich Nietzsche’s works show a departure from the Neoclassical and enlightenment period in Western Civilization. Nietzsche’s three main philosophical ideas were:
- The Übermensch
- The will to power
- And God is dead
The Übermensch was his way of saying that there will be a certain group of individuals, who will rise above mans common conception of morals. These men will create their own morals and use them to rule over all individuals. Therefore, they would be like gods among men. Likewise, in his parable titled the Madman Nietzsche tells the tale of a “so-called” Madman who runs into a public square and announces the God is dead. This Madman claims that he and all those around him were God’s murderers. It is in this way that Nietzsche is more of a profit than a philosopher. His idea of the Übermensch is more of a prediction than theory. Nonetheless, he is considered to be a major figure in the movement of modernism, as his views hold a very atheistic and gloomy tone contrary to the views of many Neoclassical and Enlightenment figures.
In literature we can observe writings of men like Franz Kafka (1883 – 1924). While writers of previous periods chose to structure their novels in a manor that obeyed rule and form common to writing at that time, writers like Kafka structured their novels in an entirely strange new way. Take into consideration the opening to Kafka’s 1915 novella The Metamorphosis,
One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked. (pg 1)
This book opens right in the middle of conflict. Previous authors would have structured stories in a manor such as beginning, middle, and end. Kafka chooses to go straight for the jugular and begin his book right in the middle of conflict. It is in this way Kafka breaks away from the pack and embraces a new wave of writing found solely in Modernism.It is truly remarkable how every hundred or so years a new movement pushes aside the ideas and ideals of an old one.