Modern Period in English Literature


The 20th century began with both great optimism and some fear because it was the century closest to the start of a new millennium. A new era for humankind had begun, as believed by many. The literary movement known as the modern period, which existed from the late nineteenth century to around the middle of the twentieth, comprised a number of developing writing styles that had an impact on the development of literature.

Literary modernism gave authors more freedom to experiment with their modes of expression than in the past. The experiences and feelings of the person are frequently highlighted in the free-flowing inner dialogues and non-linear storylines seen in modernist works. Writers of modern literature include W.B. Yeats, Joseph Conrad, Samuel Beckett, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams.

This blog by AllAssignmenthelp will discuss a few fascinating things regarding the modern period. Keep reading the blog till the end to clear all your doubts related to this topic and make yourself aware of literary modernism.

Introduction to the Modern Period

The modern period in English literature begins with the 20th century and continues till 1965. The period saw an abrupt break away from the old ways of interacting with the world. In all the previous periods experimentation and individualism were highly discouraged but With the onset of the modern period, both these things became virtues. There were many cultural shocks with the beginning of modernism. The blow of the modern age was World War 1 and 2. These wars began in the year 1914 and lasted till 1919 and 1939 to 1945 respectively. The aftermath of the world wars was traumatic for everyone. The horror of the World War 1 was evident in the face of every citizen. The feeling of uncertainty was spread and no one knew where the world was heading into.

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There are five traits of modernist literature.

Here are a few elements that modernist literature has in common.

Modern Period

 1. The process of experimentation: Modernist literature used a variety of innovative writing strategies that defied accepted principles of narrative structure. The use of mixed images and themes, absurdity, nonlinear tales, and stream of consciousness—a free-flowing internal monologue—are a few of these strategies.

2. Individualism: Instead of emphasizing society as a whole, modernist literature frequently concentrates on the individual. Stories follow characters as they adjust to a changing environment, usually coping with challenging situations and issues.

3. Different points of view: To highlight the subjectivity of each character and give the reader a range of points of view that might be taken into consideration, many modernist writers wrote in the first person with several characters.

4. Open verse: In place of the conventional poetic form, many modernist poets chose free verse, which lacks a recurring rhyme scheme, metrical framework, or musical rhythm.

5. Creative techniques: Many modernist authors use literary techniques like symbolism and imagery to make their writing easier to understand and to build a better bond with the reader.

Key Points to Remember About the Modern Period

Advancement of social science and natural science in the latter half of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th century. Gains in material wealth with the rapid development and industrialization. The difference between aristocrats and clergy increased more.

English literature of the modern age started with the initiation of the 20th century. The prominent feature of the literature during the modern age was that it opposed the general attitude towards life as shown in Victorian literature. Understanding about modern period can be complex at times. However, as a solution, you can hire someone to take your online class regarding the same. Additional guidance will make your learning experience smooth.

People started to regard the Victorian age as a hypocritical age, having superficial and mean ideals. The hypocrisy of the Victorian period generated a rebellious attitude in the writers of modern literature. Things that were considered beautiful and honourable during the Victorian age were considered ugly by the writers of the modern period. Sense of questioning was absent in the minds of the people from the Victorian age.

During Victorian times, people adhered to the voice of the people who were in power, they accepted the rules made by the church. People started to accept the law without questioning them. But the generation came after critical thinking, they raised questions against the decisions produced by supreme authorities. Writers of the modern age refuted the ideas and beliefs of the previous era.

The modern age helped in replacing the simple belief of the Victorians with modern man’s desire to probe. George Bernard Shaw attacked the old superstitious religious beliefs as well as the superstitions of science. He was the one who pioneered the interrogative habits in the middle of modern people. Shaw openly challenged the voice of those who were ruling the country, and religious authority. He provoked the people to come up with questions about morality and religion.

The Transition From the Victorian Period to the Modern Period

It is nearly a fact to state that no other transitional period in English literature has been as rich in its diversity and complexity, in the confluence of advancement and regression at the same time. Writing is always a reflection of life and also a product of the times, and modernist writing has been more influenced by its social environment than literature from other eras. In the first decades of the century, new technologies and ideas were quickly changing the globe, and social life in all of its diverse physical, intellectual, political, economic, and moral facets had essentially begun afresh.

Changes in the literature

There were various changes took place in the field of literature also during the modern period. The imaginative writing, verses, and structure of the verses of the Victorian period became obsolete. Writers’ work started losing the magic they used to have in the previous age. Victorian writers were becoming rancid and their works were failing to evoke the spirit of the readers. Art has to be renewed in order to revitalize the readers. However Victorian artworks lacked the surprising elements and freshness in the content.

Declination of sentiments and values

Modern world people are more into independence, they don’t want to be bound by parental authority, whereas Victorians believed in maintaining the home life, they consider themselves a family person. Moreover, the feeling of love was getting limited to sex in modern times, love had become less of a romance and more like a greed. Such things portray the decline in the values, emotions and feelings of the people of the modern period. Literary work also portrays a similar lifestyle. If writers tried to write on the themes of the Victorian age then it would be no longer a striking piece of literature. Therefore, you will find the literature of the modern period having less zeal for love, natural beauty and sentiments. Modern writers come up with fresh points of view to suit the conventional audience.

Age of machinery

There is no doubt that machinery has dominated the modern people’s life. The modern period is also known as the age of machinery. People had become too materialistic brought by the machinery. There is no doubt that the advent of machinery made life comfortable for modern man. Living became quite easy and production of goods was also accelerated. But the downward side of mechanical life was that man has mechanical like a clock, using all his energy not according to his/her own will but rather according to the time scheme. Such an atmosphere of modern life brought great distress among the people.

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Literature of the Modern period

Everything in Victorian culture suffered greatly from a large deal of contempt during this all-encompassing and thorough transition process. New spheres of experience were included, outdated literary expression theories were abandoned, and new ones emerged. All branches of the period’s literature, including poetry, the novel, and drama, reflect this.

Literary trends

The trend of modernism emerged after the end of the First World War. They include:

-Stream of consciousness








a) Modern English poetry

Modern English poetry is a sort of revolution against the traditional thoughts and types of Victorian-era poetry. The Red Wheelbarrow, The Embankment, Darkness, and Image are a few of the masterpieces of modern English poetry. There is no doubt that these poems are the best in their way, but the major problem arises when it comes to understanding their meaning. Students studying English literature often experience issues comprehending the serious compression of information in these lyrics.

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b) Modern English novels

They rein the literature in the initial three decades of the twentieth century, these years are known as the golden period of modernist novels.

c) The development of 20th-century English drama

George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde were the most known, praised and celebrated drama writers of the nineteenth century. They were highly popular in the last decade of the century. One can say that they marked the beginning of the modern drama. However, these two eminent writers never brought many variations or innovations in the writing techniques and types.

2. Modern period: Artistic features

Rapid advancements in technology and industry have inspired artists to portray the world in fresh and creative ways. The end result was art that experimented with minimalism and incorporated new colours and other forms.

Read More: British Literature and Its Division Into Various Periods

a) Modernism

Modernism is a quite unique and complex movement in almost all the creative areas. It began at the end of the 19th century. During this period literature was the inception of the greatest renaissance of the 20th century. When the First World War ended, a number of literary trends of the modern period such as Dadaism, stream of consciousness, futurism, cubism, expressionism and imagism emerged.

b) Basic characteristics of modernism:

The foundation of modernism lies in the theory of psychoanalysis and irrational philosophy. One of the main characteristics of the modern period is “the dehumanization of art”. Some other crucial themes of modernism involve alienated, ill and distorted relations between man and man, man and his own self, man and society and most importantly between man and nature.

The pillars of modernism

  • David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930) – Sons and Lovers
  • James Joyce (1882- 1941) Ulysses
  • Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888- 1965) Murder in the Cathedral
  • George Bernard Shaw (1856- 1950) Mrs. Warrant’s Profession
  • William Butler Yeats (1865- 1939) The Land of Heart’s Desire
  • John Galsworthy (1867- 1933) The Man of Property

These authors are regarded as major figures in modernist literature. Reading their literary works can help you become familiar with the main modernist concepts. If you need some guidance with any literary device, technique, or work, you can rely on an online assignment service for assistance. The talented English experts at these websites have extensive knowledge of everything and can assist you with everything you need.

Let’s know more about the lives, thoughts and works of some major representatives of this age:

D. H. Lawrence

David Herber Lawrence was born in 1885 in a mining village which lies in Nottinghamshire. He was reared by parents who belonged to different classes and saw a silent conflict of views. His father was a man who acquired little education and led his life as a coal miner. On the other hand, his mother was educated and had experience working as a teacher. She used to think that she her marriage was beneath her and had a strong desire to provide education to her sons so they could stay away from the tough life of the coal miners.

His personal life had a great impact on this literary work. It can be read in his masterpiece “Sons and Lovers” as well. In that, he has portrayed the consistent conflict between a strong strong-willed, up-climbing mother and a coarse, energetic, earthy but often drunken father. “Sons and Lovers” is considered an autobiographical novel.

His masterpieces include:

  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover
  • The Rainbow
  • Woman in Love

The theme in the novels of Lawrence

In his opinion, the bourgeois industrialization or civilization, which made its realization at the cost of ravishing the land, started the catastrophic uprooting of man from nature and caused the distortion of personality, the corruption of the will, and the dominance of sterile intellect over the authentic inward passions of man.

In most of his writings, D.H. Lawrence showcased a stern reaction against the then-mechanical civilization.

According to him, materialistic civilization or industrialization became the cause of detachment between man and nature. His opinion suggested that these factors are at the cost of ravishing lives and land.

He considered materialism as the prime cause of the corruption of the will, the dominance of sterile intellect defeat of real inward passion of humans and distortion of personality.

Lawrence thought that the mechanism for making humans in animated matter, this agonized view regarding the dehumanizing impact of robotic civilization on the sensitivity of human nature always haunted the writing of Lawrence.

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Brief Analysis of Lawrence’s Masterpiece

Sons and Lovers – Introduction

Sons and Lovers is known as one of the best writings of Lawrence. It is more or less an autobiographical piece which is written in vivid episodes and straightforward narrative. The novel follows a chronological sequence, where the story begins with the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Morel, parents of Paul. Mrs. Morel belongs to a well-settled middle-class family who is highly ambitious, Lawrence presents her as “a woman of character and refinement”. She is an intelligent, strong-will woman and falls in love with an energetic and sensuous coal miner named Walter Morel. In the course of her love, she marries beneath her own class and enters into a chaotic life full of everyday struggles.

Sons and lovers – Theme

D. H. Lawrence is remembered as one of the first writers who brought the theme of psychology into literature. Through his works, he presented a number of psychological themes in a precise manner. Lawrence had an opinion that life impulse or sexual impulse is the safest way to the psychological development of human beings. For him human sexuality had some different notions, he considered him a symbol of the force of life. He showcases the slight and deep psychological experience of individuals and relationships. Through Sons and Lovers, he began a new territory of novels.

Analysis of two main characters of Sons and Lovers

Mrs. Gertrude Morel

She is the first major character and protagonist in the story. She marries beneath her class in her fascination with energetic Walter Morel, a coal miner. With the passage of time, she comes one after another struggling with both financial and emotional aspects of her marriage. Her unhappiness with her marriage creates detachment with her husband and she devotes her life to their 4 kids.

Paul Morel

After Gertrude Morel her son Paul Morel takes over the role of main protagonist from the second half of the novel. He emerges as a main character after his elder brother William dies. William Morel was the first child of Mrs Morel and her favourite among all children. When he dies, it is Paul who becomes her favourite. Throughout the novel, he struggles to bring a balance between his love for Mrs. Morel and other relationships with women.

James Joyce

James Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882. He belonged to a Catholic family and got his education from Catholic schools. During his studies he went through a phase of religious zest, however, he rejected the Catholic Church. He was influenced was Ibsen and inspired by his views, Joyce took literary mission as a career. He was sternly against the bigotry of Philistines in Dublin.

His most remarkable works include:

  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Dubliners
  • The theme in the works of Joyce
  • Ulysses

Joyce brought a number of changes in the conventional forms of fiction by generating a unique medium of art. He portrayed the crisis and chaos of consciousness in his contemporary world.

He brought light to the stream of consciousness as a genre in modern period literature.

Brief analysis of Joyce’s writing


It gives insight into a man’s life in a day (16 June, 1904). The main characters of Ulysses are An Irish Jew, his wife, Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus and Marion Tweedy Bloom. The novel’s division is into eighteen chapters resembling 18 hours of the day.


All the institutions that once rebelled against now adhere to modernism as the new tradition. The grand story of modernism was broken down by postmodern artists with the goal of studying cultural norms, politics, and social ideology in their specific environment, pushing the boundaries of modernism to new heights. The use of new media and technology, such as video, techniques of bricolage and collage, the collision of art, and the appropriation of older styles within a contemporary context are characteristics of postmodern art.

To conclude everything, in short, I would say there are many more things you should know about the modern period and the literary development of this era. The more you study the works of this modernist literature, the more you will admire them. We all know that English literature can both be interesting and difficult at the same time.


Ques.1. What are the main topics in English Literature?
The topics you will study:
English language.
History of English literature.
Mass communication and journalism.
American Literature.
Indian writing in English.
Romantic age.
Modern age.
New Literature.
Ques.2. What are the 8 periods of English Literature?
The most important 8 periods of English Literature are:
Old English (Anglo-Saxon Period): 450–1066.
Middle English Period: 1066-1500.
The Renaissance: 1500-1600.
The Neoclassical Period: 1600-1785.
The Romantic Period: 1785-1832.
The Victorian Age: 1832-1901.
The Edwardian Period: 1901-1914.
The Georgian Period: 1910-1936.