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Q. What were the common Narrative Techniques adopted by the great Modernist writers like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce?
The literary perspective of the 20th century reflected the complexity of the contemporary thoughts, the whirlpool of ideas, offering an overall image of the changes that occurred in the minds of the individuals due to the several events such as the world wars, the social structures threatened by the expansion of the industrialization in Europe, as well as the fluctuating economy in Britain.
The novel as a literary form is a way by which an author gives expression to his interpretation of reality. However, for quite some time, the nature of what is real has been a subject of contention among novelists, as well as among men of diverse disciplines such as science, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. It seems that there are two ways by which the nature of reality can be perceived as gleaned from two general categories of the novel: The traditional novel emphasizes the reality of external actions, while some modern novels stress the reality of man?s psychic content rather than what is outwardly seen through his external actions and attitudes. This modern view of reality, engendered by the works of Freud and Jung in psychoanalysis, resulted in a deeper interest in man?s inner life. How to portray man?s thoughts and feelings prompted the contemporary novelists like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf to experiment with different narrative techniques for they discovered that the traditional method of narration is too limited.
These writers belonged to the era of Modernism known as the modernist writers. The Great War of 1914-18 marks a fundamental break between the old world and the new. The experience of the war shattered people?s faith in society and its institutions. People were horrified by the effects of war and mechanized society in general. They were interested in recovering the unique experience of the individual by exploring his/her inner world. The Victorian moral universe collapsed and was replaced by a climate of moral ambiguity, by a sense of emptiness and lack of values. The Modernist novel broke with most of the conventions which had characterized Victorian fiction. First of all, the omniscient narrator as moral guide was replaced by the direct or indirect presentation of characters? thoughts and feelings. Secondly many novels no longer followed a linear plot or a chronological sequence of events. The Modernists turned away from the idea of the novel as a mirror of society and from the sense of social responsibility felt by the Victorian novelists. A novel can be set in one day and the analysis of a single moment can tell us more about a character than a traditional narrative life-story.
The development of the Modernist novel was deeply influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), who, in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), proposed a theory of human consciousness as multi-layered, involving different levels of experience and memory. The most significant level was the unconscious, accessible through dreams only. Freud argued that much of man?s conscious behavior was governed by irrational unconscious drives. This represented a challenge to the idea that the world was rationally ordered. Freud suggested that man?s perception of reality was fundamentally subjective, because man organized the information he received from the outside world according to his interior experience, desires and impulses. Man?s childhood experience therefore had a great influence on his behavior as an adult because the memory of it was preserved in his unconscious and continued to influence his adult self.
Another thinker who influenced the techniques of Modernism was Henri Bergson (1859-1941), who in his major works ?Time and Freewill? and ?Matter and Memory? argued that time could not be measured according to units (such as hours, minutes, etc.) because it is a flow, a duration and not a series of points. We do not experience the world moment by moment but in a continuous way. Instead of perceiving time as linear, we experience a mixture of past, present and future in the same moment. His theories contributed to Modernist fiction challenge to the traditional idea of linear narrative. Linked to Bergson?s notion of time is the psychologist William James?s (1842-1910) notion of ?stream of consciousness? discussed in The Principles of Psychology (1890). Consciousness, James said, ?Does not appear to itself chopped up in bits? but is something that ?flows?.
Some of the common narrative techniques of Modernist writer were the interior monologue,
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Style, Cognition, Fiction, 20th-century literature, Stream of consciousness, Literary modernism, To the Lighthouse, Narration, Virginia Woolf, Modernism, Consciousness, Sigmund Freud, industrialization in europe, narrative techniques, literary perspective, traditional novel, modernist writers, moral universe, science philosophy, external actions, thoughts and feelings, effects of war, social structures, virginia woolf, james joyce, novelists, psychoanalysis, great war, modernism, narration, contention, whirlpool
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