Defining Literary Movements

Just as painters throughout history have had “movements” like realism, impressionism, and cubism…so have writers.

These movements or “periods” generally coincide with historical time-frames and themes or styles of writing.

For example, one movement I am sure you heard of was the Romantic period which was prevalent in England and with British writers from about 1800-1870. Although the “Romantic” themes involving love, sex, nature, etc. are where the movement gets its name, the real core of the movement is in the fact that these writers were more concerned with the individual rather than with society as a whole.

A movement more relevant to our class (American post Civil War) would be Realism (late 19th Century), which like Romanticism, has much definition in the title itself. The Realists were attentive to details and were concerned about replicating nature as it is and not “Romanticizing” it…

Another more modern movement you probably are also familiar with is the “Beat” movement of the 1950s-60s. This title alludes to the rhythmic and lyric-like sound that free-style writing had during this era. Hence the terms “Beat Poet” and “Beatnik.” The central philosophy of the “Beats” pertains to anti-materialism and anti-establishment sentiments.

Remember that a work does not have to have been written during a specific era to be considered part of a certain movement. For example, an author today can write in the Romantic style…