Literary Movement

A literary movement is the group of characteristics in both rhetoric and subjects that are of common concordance with the social conditions of a given period. A literary movement can prevail through several periods or less than one.

This way, the most important literary movements and periods are the Ancient Times with the Eastern cultures; the Classic Period with Greece and Rome and the Middle Ages with feudalism. The rest derive from these.

Greek Period: One of the cultures with the most influence in the current world is, without a doubt, the Greek culture which developed from 900 to 300 B.C. After its decline – a strictly material one – its spiritual and artistic aspects have remained and spread through the years to every knowledge field.

The Greek excelled in every scientific and literary discipline. In literature they stood out in almost every genre excepting novel. It is worth highlighting, among all this literary quality, the work done for theatre, especially in tragedy.

The Greek, besides what we have already mentioned regarding literature, were the founding fathers of math, physics, politics, and philosophy among other sciences. There is no other culture that transcended as much as the Greek. In the sixth century B.C. the cities of Athens, Thebes, Sparta and Korinthos flourished. Each of them was autonomous and powerful.

Characteristics:

  • Search for beauty and perfection.
  • Harmony and balance.
  • Harmonic proportion, rhythm and elegance.
  • Relevance of myths.
  • Balance between form and substance.
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General Tips for writers

Here are a few things that you should remember when writing a story:

  1. Sometimes the writer allows himself to take part in the story. Everything can be literary, including the writer. In Fog (Niebla) by Spanish author Miguel de Unamuno, a man with a completely gray personality has spent most of his life attached to his mother. After her death, having become a grown man, he falls in love with a young woman who is his maid. The young woman does not feel the same about him and goes away with a boy from the neighborhood; the main character decides to commit suicide. He remembers reading an essay about suicide, written by a college professor, and making a promise to visit the professor if suicidal thoughts were to appear at any time. When the character does visit the professor he turns out to be Miguel de Unamuno himself, who reveals he is writing a novel and has decided to kill the main character because he is no longer relevant to the story. Thus the idea of suicide, because he is a character that must die to let the story take its course. The main character challenges Unamuno telling him he is no God and cannot decide upon his life. He goes back home after deciding not to commit suicide. That same night, he dies of indigestion.
  2. Let us remember that the author and the story teller are two separate beings: the author is the real person that creates the story; the story teller is who either way- in first or third person – is in charge of telling the story. It is possible that the story teller is omniscient and a character within the story at the same time; there have been interesting results using this formula. The characters challenge the story teller or cause him to reveal certain parts of the story that were hidden from the reader. As told before, the writer can make virtually anything happen in his story but the devices he uses are as effective as the experience taken from the creative process and learning from other authors.
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Tips on naming a character

  1. Some authors use given names to provide the reader an idea of the role the character will play in the story. In Rayuela, by Julio Cortázar, the main feminine character is named Lucía but the author calls her la Maga. The rest of the characters call her the same but in their everyday dialogues some of them call her by her given name. It is noticed how the author can build the story as part of reality so he might be closer or not to some characters and react to them the same way they react to him. The character which Cortázar calls la Maga actually has some features that we might think as magical, there is a certain mystery around her; when the reader finds this character, he already has an idea of what might come later. Other formulas are more straightforward: Kafka, obsessed by the subject of the relationship of men with power, names his characters just the guardian or the judge. With Kafka there are peculiar situations: a recurring character in his writing is called just K -the first letter of the author’s last name-; in a certain story, Kafka named his characters with mathematical variables: A and B.
  2. Many writers use very simple names for their characters at first: Juan, José, Pedro. Others, spoiled by soap operas, give them “Casanova” names: Víctor Jesús, Luis Rafael, Juan Augusto. Even when we have said that this field can be completely theoretical, it is necessary for a character’s name to add credibility to the story. Nothing forbids for a character to be named John Smith, but it is likely that such a name will not cause a positive impression in the reader. Many authors solve this problem by using common but unlikely names: the main masculine character in Rayuela is Horacio Oliveira; some characters in A Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien Años de Soledad) are José Arcadio, Aureliano, Úrsula. Maybe García Márquez could have used José Sinforoso instead of José Arcadio to name his mythological heroes but it is true that the chosen names are more resounding and this certainly helps the reader to think of these characters as real beings.
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When writing short stories, psychological deepness is almost unnecessary

In a complex story in which characters are mostly human, it is advisable for the author to apply some psychology, even when not being an expert. People’s characters are defined by psychology but the knowledge of these characters is not exclusive of those who professionally practice this science. In fact, psychological studies are based on the basic knowledge of a person and go deeper into it with the use of what science knows about personality.

The writer is responsible for clearly differentiating between stories in which characters must be sprinkled with certain psychological characteristics from those which do not need them in order to be developed. This difference is generally made based on the relevance of a certain character in the story and the length of the text.  When writing short stories, psychological deepness is almost unnecessary; what becomes more important is the development of the story itself in order to exemplify a given fact. With novels, it is essential that characters are correctly defined from a psychological standpoint. The intrinsic length of novels makes it necessary for the author to deepen in all the elements, given that there is enough time and space to do so. Besides, the complexity of actions within a novel cannot be performed in most cases by simple beings only defined by a name.

  1. Even though there is no such thing as a general theory of character construction, it is noted that most of the time the first element the author takes into consideration in order to create a character is the action that the he will develop in the story and the relevance he will have in it. The relationship between the main character and the rest of the characters in the story will develop later. In both of these moments some psychological features of the character appear and disappear, the same way the sculptor carves a stone. During this process a character is given a name and it is defined if he will be more or less relevant in the story.
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Advice on character creation.

A character is basically somebody capable of performing actions within a story. Although this could be considered a concise enough definition for what a character is, we will break it down into two elements, in order to fully understand it: a character is a being and this being is capable of performing actions within a story.

When talking about the character as a being, we will try and set aside the notion that characters must always be human. Throughout history, literature has been full of characters embodied by beings from the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms as well as objects and even ideas. In the original text for Italian writer Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, the main character is a wooden doll and there are other characters embodied by animals or human beings. In Mexican author Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo, most characters are dead people, which call for a peculiar perspective of the concept of a character. In The Time When Monday was Sunday by Venezuelan author Francisco Massiani the main characters are the days of the week.

  1. There are no limits for the characters’ nature within a story. What turns a being into a character is the possibility, granted by the author, of performing a given action. However it is necessary to understand that this action must be performed consciously by the character. In a story, a self-opening door is not a character until the author adds elements that indicate that the door has opened by its own will and with a specific objective. For instance, if the door opens because it knows it must open and does it under specific circumstances, it turns into a character and takes a role within the story. This writing device, which is basically achieved by assigning human characteristics to a being that by nature does not have them, is called humanization.
  2. By assigning them human characteristics, the writer provides the characters with a new possibility: to possess their own psyche. Through life experience, the author learns that people can be grouped in different typologies. The author identifies classic human characteristics: those of the introverted, the rich, the hard working, the drunk, the feminist, the proud, the weak… The greater the writer’s experience, both in life and literature, the better the character development will be, as long as he successfully pours into the characters, the human characteristics witnessed in other people.
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TYPES OF LITERARY GENRES

Realism

Literary movement, originated in France, which proposed a new way of exploring reality. It is a movement in response to romanticism and the excess of subjectivism. It is linked to the ideological movement of positivism.

Place of origin: France.

Period: second half of the 19th century.

Characteristics:

  • Precise reproduction of reality.
  • Use of thorough descriptions.
  • Rejects the feeling.
  • Description of the environment, customs, problems and way of life.
  • Language is colloquial because it reproduces the common, every day way of speaking.

Naturalism: This movement was born in France as well, towards the end of the 19th century. It first appeared in novel and then in theatre. It is considered an extension of realism.

Place of origin: France.

Period: End of 19th century.

Characteristics:

  • Attempt to reflect reality but in a totally objective way.
  • Description of laws of nature the way it is done in the science field.
  • Scientific progress, such as discoveries or vaccines, is pictured in the narrative.

Modernism: This is a movement that rejects romanticism and rules and forms that control poetry or narrative as well. Its importance lies in having being the first movement originated in America and not being an imitation of any other movement. On the contrary, this movement influenced Europe; however, it received the influence of French Parnasianism with Rimbaud and French Symbolism with Baudelaire.

Place of origin: Nicaragua and, later, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Period: End of 19th century and beginning of 20th century.

Characteristics:

  • Hopes of renovation: they were not satisfied with what came from Europe, especially from Spain.
  • Influenced by French Parnasianism and Symbolism; from the first movement it takes the exotic and from the second the musicality.
  • Language is not elegant.
  • Subjects are product of the American landscape and environment.
  • Abundance of symbols and images.

Avant-garde movement: The name avant-garde relates to the 1914-1918 conflict. It is a term used in the military: it names the troops that take the vanguard and marches in front of the others; the same in literature, the term designates a movement that tries to be ahead of the rest. There are, however, many different movements with the suffix “ism” such as Dadaism, Futurism, Expressionism, and Surrealism that in general point towards an aesthetical renovation not only in literature but art in general. They seek originality through symbolism and an individual expression with deep subjectivism.

Imbalance and anguish are the main characteristics of the 20th century man; they are reflected in literature and artistic expression during that time. Absolute freedom to express those feelings is desired. Avant-gardism took advantage of Freud’s psychoanalysis discoveries in which a strong contraposition of the subconscious and the conscious worlds exists.

The most relevant avant-garde movement was Surrealism because it emerged as a fighting movement. Its founder was French poet André Bretón who announced through a manifesto published in 1914 the principles of the movement. It is true that the avant-garde movement was born in Europe but it was also spread through America with common features but with some differences at the same time, originated from its historic reality and its social needs. This is how in America the movement appears within the industrial and financial development of the United States and, logically, with influence over the rest of the American countries.

During the first part of the 20th century, the Latin-American countries reached an outstanding economic development caused by agricultural and mining exports as well as from direct foreign investment, especially from the United States.  They became an important source of raw materials for industry in other markets. However, these countries resented the negative impact of the 1929 crisis.

This entire political, economic and social environment would reflect in literature and artistic expression, with variants in European avant-garde; ultimately they were similar.

Place of origin: Europe and then America (the Caribbean). In Germany it was called Expressionism; in France, Cubism; in Italy, Futurism.

Period: between the first and second World Wars, 20th century.

Characteristics:

  • Images full of feelings.
  • Reflects group revolutionary conscience.
  • Subject and sensibility differ from previous movements.
  • Depending on the movement to which they belong, images can be grotesque, far from reality or a reflection of the hidden “I”.
  • Intense quest for the freedom spirit, especially the expression.
  • Rejection of rhetorical formulas.
  • Advocacy for originality.

Contemporary era: It comprises the period between post-war until present day. In poetry it has an aftertaste of French Symbolism even though it shows the human inability to communicate, the anguish, the constant search of “I”, among others. It breaks all the rigid structures as well and moves for absolute freedom in which the most important thing is what the poet wants without being constrained by fixed parameters or patterns.

Among its representatives we have: Pidandello, Kipling, Antonio Machado and Vladimir Mayakovski.

As for contemporary narrative, it breaks linearity and anecdote and moves toward temporal planes, towards flash-back. On the other hand, it is more comprehensive regarding subjects; per instance, psychoanalysis or philosophy are present in a novel.

Contemporary novel is, more than anything, a reflection of life that mixes fantastic, marvelous or essentially fictional elements with the real world. The language that is used is a reflection of the world that aspires to represent as well; it goes hand in hand with slang, idioms, and localisms; it phonetically captures speech.

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Characteristics of a literary text

What makes a text a literary one? It is its characteristics, of course. The characteristics that provide a text with literary character are the following:

  1. Predominance of the poetic function over the referential function because it is not limited to communicating; it is about influencing the reader’s mood making him live emotions and feelings. The author shares his experiences with the reader, recreating them in him.
  2. It is absolutely ambiguous; it is this feature where the multiple interpretation possibilities reside.
  3. It is obviously connotative; it produces many possibilities of interpretation depending on the literary and personal context of the reader. Connotation is the essence of literary language.
  4. Richness of poetic resources such as literary figures. It is plentiful in images.
  5. Syntax is more flexible. The order of the elements may vary.
  6. Vocabulary is precise and irreplaceable. A word cannot be replaced by another one because the expressive power changes even if the idea remains the same.
  7. Words are chosen by their euphony.
  8. It has emotional weight.
  9. Harmonic disposition of its elements, produced by a good combination of words.
  10. The message creates a reality of its own, different from the surrounding reality.
  11. It can be explained and described but not proven.
  12. It is symbolic.

However, all of these characteristics cannot be isolated because a literary text is an invented, imaginary and fictional.

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