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modernismo(mōthārnē`smō), movement in Spanish literature that had its beginning in Latin America. It was paramount in the last decade of the 19th cent. and the first decade of the 20th cent.
Modernismo derived from French symbolism and the Parnassian school. However, too much stress can be laid on the French influence, for modernismo was spontaneous, and it borrowed from many sources, including the Spanish classics, Edgar Allan Poe, and Walt Whitman. Modernist poetry often created an exotic tapestry of distant landscapes dotted with symbolic swans, peacocks, lilies, and princesses. In some of its aspects it represented, like contemporary movements in other literatures, a rejection of the materialist world of the day.
Modernismo is now usually said to have first appeared in the poetry of the Cuban leader, José Martí. Julian del Casal, Salvador Díaz Mirón, José Asunción Silva, and Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera were also writing fin de siècle verse in the modernist vein before modernismo became an acknowledged world event with the publication, in Chile, of Azul [blue], a volume of poetry by Rubén DaríoDarío, Rubén
, 1867–1916, Nicaraguan poet, originally named Félix Rubén García Sarmiento. A child prodigy, he gained a thorough knowledge of Spanish and French cultures through reading; it was then widened during many years abroad in both
..... Click the link for more information. , in 1888. The Nicaraguan Darío was the great genius of the movement. His exotic, highly colored, and finely wrought verse made a sensation, and soon a host of little magazines and literary groups were forwarding his ideas of elegant form, carefully chosen images, and subtle word music.
The modernists were supremely conscious of their art, and there was more than a hint of artificiality in their works. Among the leading figures of the movement were Leopoldo LugonesLugones, Leopoldo
, 1874–1938, Argentine poet and man of letters. First an anarchist, then a socialist, finally a fascist, Lugones was a friend of Rubén Darío and the outstanding modernista poet of Argentina.
..... Click the link for more information. , Julio Herrera y ReissigHerrera y Reissig, Julio
, 1875–1910, Uruguayan poet. He belonged to a family prominent in public affairs but withdrew along with his bohemian followers to an attic known as the Tower of the Panoramas. He became the Uruguayan leader of modernismo.
..... Click the link for more information. , Ricardo Jaimes Freyre, Guillermo ValenciaValencia, Guillermo
, 1873–1943, Colombian poet, one of the leaders of modernismo. He came from an aristocratic family, received solid classical training, and became active politically as an orator. Valencia was a disciple of José Asunción Silva.
..... Click the link for more information. , José Santos ChocanoChocano, José Santos
, 1875–1934, Peruvian poet and one of the leaders of modernismo. During a life of Latin-American wandering, Chocano was closely linked both to brutal dictatorships and idealist revolutionaries.
..... Click the link for more information. , and Amado NervoNervo, Amado
, 1870–1919, Mexican poet. Known as the "monk of poetry," he studied for the priesthood but abandoned it for writing. An intimate friend of Rubén Darío, he was a leading figure of modernismo.
..... Click the link for more information. . Modernismo had an extraordinary prose writer in José Enrique RodóRodó, José Enrique
, 1872–1917, Uruguayan essayist, literary critic, and philosopher. Rodó spent most of his life in Montevideo, where he helped to found and edit La Revista Nacional de Literatura y Ciencias Sociales.
..... Click the link for more information. . The movement constituted a sudden and vigorous intellectual awakening in Latin America and had profound repercussions even in politics and economics. Manuel Ugarte, Francisco and Ventura García Calderón, and Rufino Blanco-Fombona all had their roots in modernismo.
The movement had a powerful effect in remolding Spanish literary ideas and language and was the first Spanish American movement to affect peninsular Spain deeply. The Spanish writers of the Generation of '98Generation of '98,
Spanish literary and cultural movement in the first two decades of the 20th cent. It was so named by Azorín (see Martínez Ruiz, José) in 1913 to designate a group of young writers who, in the face of defeat (1898) in the Spanish-American
..... Click the link for more information. , notably Miguel de Unamuno, Ramón del Valle Inclán, and Juan Ramón Jiménez were influenced by modernismo. The force of the movement began to wane after 1914 as many writers became increasingly concerned with the consideration of the social and economic problems of a changing world. Other more extreme aesthetic movements arose, such as ultraísmo (see Borges, Jorge LuisBorges, Jorge Luis
, 1899–1986, Argentine poet, critic, and short-story writer, b. Buenos Aires. Borges has been widely hailed as the foremost contemporary Spanish-American writer.
..... Click the link for more information. ), but in general the social and political strains grew stronger.
After World War I the writers of the new generation revolted against the mannerisms and hollow elegance of early modernismo, and in the words of Enrique González MartínezGonzález Martínez, Enrique
, 1871–1952, Mexican poet, physician, and diplomat. His early poetry, written during the 17 years of his medical practice, showed the influence of the modernist Rubén Darío and the French symbolists.
..... Click the link for more information. they "wrung the neck of the deceitful swan." The Brazilian artistic renaissance, which began in 1922, was regional in nature and is also termed modernismo: its principal theorizer was Mário de Andrade and most vocal proponent was Oswald de Andrade, both from São Paulo.
See G. M. Craig, The Modernist Trend in Spanish-American Poetry (1934, repr. 1971), an anthology; study by W. Martins (1971).