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Modernism is a term applied retroactively to certain literary and artistic trends at the beginning of the twentieth century. Certain modernist characteristics can be discerned in post-1960 culture. Contemporary culture seems less to have gone on to new concerns and issues than it seems to have institutionalized certain modernist characteristics as if they had meaning in their own right. In a sense, though, they are used to avoid meaning altogether or to give the illusion of meaning where there is none. The disjointed time sense, the flight from the conventions of realism, and the adoption of complex new forms and styles in the modernist period were undertaken to provide new meaning, to illuminate the world in a different way, and to show different relationships within the observed world. Aspects of the trend can be discerned in three films from the 1960s: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Dr. Strangelove (1964), and Midnight Cowboy (1969).

Modernism rejected traditions that existed in the nineteenth century and sought to stretch the boundaries, striking out in new directions and with new techniques. More was demanded of the reader of literature or the viewer of art. Answers were not presented directly to issues raised, but instead the artist demanded the participation of the audience more directly in elucidating meaning and in seeing the relationship between technique and meaning (Baldick 140). In part, this was a response to the discovery and dissemination of ideas from psychology showing the complexities of human experience in a new light. Science was discovering the uncertainties of existence. The atomic world showed that the reality people perceive through the sense is not the only reality. Psychology was showing that behavior was more complex than previously imagined and that an entire world of relationships and forces was hidden.

The ambiguities and uncertainties that this new knowledge created was expr...

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Modernism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:59, January 20, 2021, from