Literary movements you’ve never heard of
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Literary movements, like artistic movements, are categorized in a way that best suits those who watch them. In studying literary movements, some have been defined by the original writers themselves, while others have been named and defined by later scholars. A literary movement is not a genre or a style, but has more to do with philosophical and topical significance. Usually, literary movements are linked to historical and political events. In the Western canon, we study a few literary movements, such as romantic poets, in school. Certain literary movements have inspired genres, such as magic realism. The beauty of literary movements is that many of them complement each other, even those that span the world and time periods. In the 20e century alone, there were at least 30 literary movements.
After World War I, experimental, absurd, and countercultural literature began to be published around the world. Art movements like Dada had their literary counterparts in Europe and North America. In Mexico, two literary movements occurred simultaneously, Stridentism in Puebla and Los Contemporáneos in Mexico City. Stridentism is a multidisciplinary movement that shares characteristics with Cubism, Dada and Futurism. Inspired by the effects and context of the Mexican Revolution, stridentism focused on action and the present, rather than dissecting the past.
In contrast, the work of Los Contemporáneos used metaphor and complex imagery to reflect on the philosophical. The original group was made up of longtime friends who had attended elite schools and universities together before founding their first magazine, “México Moderno.” Their most successful magazine, “Contemporáneos”, was published from 1928 to 1931 and featured well-known writers and impressions on expensive paper. Los Contemporáneos sought to be at the center of innovative Mexican literature.
During the Great Depression, a literary club in Adelaide, Australia, was inspired by the work of DH Laurence Kangaroo, and began writing poetry describing the “real” Australia. This club, led by Rex Ingamells, became known as the Jindyworobak Movement. The term comes from Woiwurrung, which means “to join” or “to extend”. As more and more white Australians left towns after the First World War and during the Depression, there was a loss of sense of place. Jindyworobak’s literature is first and foremost poetry that seeks to portray Australian nature and Australians as they are, without the European gaze. Although that may have been the goal, Jindyworobak completely failed.
The Jindyworobak movement was entirely led by white Australians, who wrote stories and poems based on Aboriginal myths and stories. Like the primitive pastoral scenes of American colonial art, Jindyworobak’s poetry resembles haunted mockery. The only Indigenous Australian writer who was published during the Jindyworoback movement was David Unaipon.
After World War II, surrealist and postmodern literature developed with pocket movements around the world. The politically charged work of Iraq, Nigeria, Uganda, Vietnam and other former colonies of European countries can be loosely classified as postcolonial literature. Postcolonial literature focuses on the impact of human control, the exploitation of the colonized and their lands, and the effects of Eurocentric thought on the culture of non-European peoples. Postcolonial literature is a continuous movement. India’s first postcolonial movement was the Hungryists. The Hungryists or The Hungry Generation attempted to confront and upset preconceived notions of literature, especially colonial Bengali works. The Hungryists issued over 100 manifestos between 1961 and 1965.
Meanwhile, in the Americas, spiralism was born in Haiti. ready to burst by Frankétienne is considered the most outstanding work of this movement. The protagonist wanders around Port-au-Prince, desperately looking for a job, and for nothing, while his friend tries to write a book with a whole new aesthetic, Spiralism. The novel is interrupted by anecdotes, unrelated poetry and personal thoughts. The sharp sentences and emotional outbursts combined with the confusing structure create a twisted narrative that can be read upside down or upside down. Think of the Caribbean hurricane: swirling and magnificent, with no end in sight. It is spiralism.
Compared to the absurdity of life and the wound left by colonialism that does not heal, spiralism moves to confuse and cleanse. Without the conventional structure, there is the freedom to be incomplete.
The minor movement, Martian Poetry, became popular in the UK in the 1970s with Craig Raine’s “A Martian Sends a Postcard Home”, in which a Martian visiting planet Earth attempts to describe unknown human behavior and objects from the everyday to other Martians. Perhaps inspired by the science fiction First Contact, Martian Poetry observes the world as if it were completely unknown to him using a visual and robust language. In Martin Amis’ novel, The other people, the protagonist is a human woman suffering from extreme amnesia. Even the most basic human emotions and behaviors are new to her. By the late 1970s, Martian poetry was commonly used to teach elements of poetry to children, alongside similar styles like surrealism and nonsense poetry (IE Lewis Carrol). Martian Poetry marked a shift in British writing, giving way to possibility and imagination after decades of stark, rule-abiding writing. The playful nature of Martian Poetry plays with big philosophical questions – Are we alone? Is there anything more? — while admiring the tangible.
Three decades after the 21st century, a new literary movement was born in Italy in 2020. As the world entered various states of isolation, the empathy movement was beginning. This movement is literary, artistic and philosophical, placing empathy at the heart of a higher view of the Self. Menotti Lerro and Antonello Pelliccia have published “New Arts Manifesto”, which focuses on the artist’s empathic relationship with his work and his community. The emphasis is on knowledge sharing between disciplines. Italian artists from all disciplines have been invited to sign the Empathic Manifesto in 2021. Together they have created a new cultural landmark divided into three villages, with their squares marked on The Cultural Pyramid of Cilento, a 2021 piece by Lerro. This ongoing movement seeks to give voice to unknown rural voices and continue to produce more empathetic and collaborative artists and writers.
Literature is not static. There will always be language innovators and people willing to try something old, new, and something in between. History shapes the way people live life and the resulting literature will always be a reflection. Literary movements are always present, in journals and writing workshops and school newspapers. We just have to be patient.