American Modernism was a period of time between 1900 and 1960 when new ideas in art, music, and literature emerged as America transitioned into a booming urban nation. These ideas shifted the way people thought and acted, and sparked new ways of writing. A concept very important to Literary Modernism is individualism. Individualism regards the beliefs, needs, well being, and accomplishments of a single person over those of other individuals and of society. This ties into the Modernist theme of valorization of the individual. By trusting themselves and not conforming to others, characters are heroic in the face of a future they can’t control. Individualism and Modernism, together, inspired and continue to inspire the writings of the past, present, and future. The individualistic characteristics in Self-Reliance, The Great Gatsby, and True Grit, indicate their link to Modernism. These works from before, during, and after Modernism, capture an essential and foundational attribute to the period. Individualism played a huge part in the writings of Modernism and the modernist view of the individual.
Modernism is “a general term applied retrospectively to the wide range of experimental and avant-garde trends in the literature… of the early 20th century” (Baldick 212). The period as a whole was a “traumatic coming of age” for America. After World War I, everything was changing in the lives of Americans, causing them to change radically as well. People now rejected the ideas of the past and focused on different and better ways of doing things. New literary innovations began to come about, including Modernism. Modernism involved “a commitment to experimentation in techniques, freedom in ideas, originality in perceptions, and self-examina…
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Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance.” Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: Norton, 2013. 549-565. Print.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.
“Literary Modernism.” American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 3: 1920-1929. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.
Nederman, Cary J. “Individualism.” New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Ed. Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Vol. 3. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005. 1113-1117. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.
Portis, Charles. True Grit. New York: The Overlook Press, 2012. Print.
Quinn, Edward. “individualism.” A Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms, Second Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Bloom’s Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.