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English Literature   >   Modernism: 1. Context


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Modernism: 1. Context

In this course, Professor Max Saunders (King’s College, London) explores the literary movement of modernism in the context of the broader concept of modernity. We begin by introducing the terms ‘modernism’ and ‘modernity’ and think about the relationship between modernist literature and the social history of the modern in the late 19th and early 20th-century. In the second module, we begin to explore modernism as a literary movement in more detail, focussing on the emphasis modernist writers such as Henry James placed on the form of literature (how a piece of writing is presented) over and above its content. We then move on in the third module to think about the First World War and its impact on modernist literature, focussing particularly on how it influenced the way in which the modernists thought and wrote about human psychology. The fourth module looks at how developments in modern science and technology influenced modernist literature, while the fifth module explores modernism as a movement informed by literary tradition but nevertheless significantly orientated towards the future.


In this module, we explore the key terms ‘modernism’ and ‘modernity’, considering in how far they overlap or stand in opposition to each other. We begin by thinking about ‘modernity’ as a concept that has been applied to different historical periods, including the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the era of the Industrial Revolution. We then consider how the term ‘modernist’ first came to be applied to the art and literature of the late 19th and early 20th-century and explore how modernist writers themselves thought about their relationship to history on the one hand and modernity on the other.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Saunders, M. (2019, January 31). Modernism: 1. Context - Modernism/Modernity [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Saunders, M. "Modernism: 1. Context – Modernism/Modernity." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Jan 2019,

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Prof. Max Saunders

King's College London