Originating in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, the hallmarks of literary Modernism include an emphasis on the individual rather than society, stream-of-consciousness and other breaks from traditional literary formats, and rich psychological symbolism. This study guide collection summarizes and analyzes titles from some of the most renowned Modernist writers, including but not limited to T.S. Eliot, J.D. Salinger, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and Katherine Mansfield.

Publication year 1950Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Art, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Life/Time: The Past, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Emotions/Behavior: GuiltTags Lyric Poem, Modernism, Post-War Era, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Grief / Death, History: European, WWII / World War II, Holocaust

Publication year 1914Genre Poem, FictionThemes Natural World: ObjectsTags Modernism, American Literature

Publication year 1929Genre Novel, FictionTags The Lost Generation, Modernism, American Literature

A Farewell to Arms, written by Ernest Hemingway and published in 1929, is the story of Frederic Henry, an officer with the Italian army in World War I, and his relationship with Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. Some have noted the similarities between the main character and Hemingway, who also served in the Italian army as an ambulance driver in 1918, and his nurse, Agnes Von Kurowsky, who cared for Hemingway after he was wounded.The... Read A Farewell to Arms Summary

Publication year 1914Genre Poem, FictionTags Science / Nature, Modernism, American Literature

Publication year 1933Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: GuiltTags Lyric Poem, Grief / Death, Romanticism / Romantic Period, Modernism

Publication year 1982Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Art, Society: Community, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags Philosophy, History: World, Sociology, Politics / Government, Modernism

Publication year 1939Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: The Past, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Identity: Gender, Identity: Masculinity, Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Emotions/Behavior: Apathy, Society: ColonialismTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Modernism

Published in 1939, And Then There Were None is a mystery novel by Agatha Christie, best-selling novelist of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. With over 100 million copies sold, And Then There Were None is the world’s best-selling crime novel as well as one of the best-selling books of all time. It has had more adaptations than any other work by Agatha Christie, including television programs, films, radio broadcasts, and most... Read And Then There Were None Summary

Publication year 1940Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Community, Emotions/Behavior: ApathyTags Modernism, The Lost Generation, Relationships

Publication year 1916Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Art, Identity: LanguageTags Classic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Irish Literature, Modernism

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the 1916 debut novel by Irish author James Joyce. The novel tells the story of Stephen Dedalus, a thinly-veiled alter ego for Joyce, who embarks on a journey of artistic awakening. As a landmark novel in the history of literary modernism, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has been hailed as one of the most important works of the 20th century and... Read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Summary

Publication year 1959Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Relationships: Friendship, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Historical Fiction, Play: Tragedy, Religion / Spirituality, History: European, Politics / Government, French Literature, Modernism

Becket or The Honor of God is a 1959 play by the French dramatist Jean Anouilh. It portrays a fictionalized version of the conflict that took place between King Henry II of England and the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, in the 12th century. The English translation of the play premiered on Broadway in 1960 to great acclaim and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film in 1964.The central conflict of Becket, which ended in... Read Becket Summary

Publication year 1938Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Beauty, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Imagist poetry, Modernism

Publication year 1915Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Lyric Poem, Science / Nature, American Literature, Modernism

Publication year 1918Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Marriage, Identity: Sexuality, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Identity: Gender, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: BeautyTags Modernism

“Bliss” is a short story written by New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield. It was originally published in 1918 in The English Review and later republished in 1920 as a collection of short stories entitled Bliss and Other Stories. Katherine Mansfield was a contemporary of British writers such as Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, and James Joyce. As a Modernist story, “Bliss” focuses on the protagonist’s emotions and growing self-awareness, and Mansfield extensively uses stream of... Read Bliss Summary

Publication year 1923Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Sexuality, Society: CommunityTags Harlem Renaissance, American Literature, Modernism, Race / Racism, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Science / Nature

Cane, Jean Toomer’s most famous book, was first published in 1923. The original publication of the novel was a foundational moment in the Harlem Renaissance literary movement. Cane’s reissue (after being out of print for many years) in 1967 came out during the Second Renaissance of African American literature. This guide cites the 2019 Penguin Books edition. This guide also briefly mentions lynching and other racial violence as they appear in the novel.Plot SummaryCane is... Read Cane Summary

Publication year 1911Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Philosophy, Religion / Spirituality, Modernism

Publication year 1932Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: ColonialismTags Lyric Poem, Modernism, Philosophy, Grief / Death, Love / Sexuality, History: European, Religion / Spirituality

Publication year 1933Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Lyric Poem, Grief / Death, Modernism, Animals

Publication year 1993Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: EducationTags Lyric Poem, Education, Modernism

Publication year 1921Genre Poem, FictionTags History: European, Grief / Death, Modernism

Publication year 1904Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Relationships: Family, Society: ColonialismTags Irish Literature, Modernism, Gender / Feminism

“Eveline” is the fourth short story in James Joyce’s Dubliners collection, completed in 1907 and published in London in 1914. This story, like the others in Dubliners, reveals Joyce’s view of Ireland, then a British colony, as existing in a state of paralysis. Alongside this broader theme, “Eveline” also explores topics like duty versus freedom, English imperialism, and individual autonomy. Nearly a story of a young woman escaping the confines of her abusive and lonely... Read Eveline Summary

Publication year 1979Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Identity: SexualityTags Lyric Poem, Modernism

Publication year 1990Genre Play, FictionThemes Identity: Femininity, Relationships: Friendship, Identity: GenderTags Play: Drama, Gender / Feminism, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Disability, LGBTQ, Modernism

Fefu and her Friends is a play by Cuban American playwright Maria Irene Fornés. It premiered in 1977 at the Relativity Media Lab, a small venue on New York’s Lower East Side. Set in 1935 New England, the play concerns a group of women who knew one another in college and gather for a reunion as adults. Within six months, Fefu was produced off-Broadway at the American Place Theatre, earning Fornés her second Obie Award... Read Fefu and Her Friends Summary

Publication year 1926Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Self Discovery, Society: EducationTags Arts / Culture, Modernism

Publication year 1916Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Nation, Society: Community, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Modernism, Class

Publication year 1924Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Art, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Emotions/Behavior: GratitudeTags Free verse, Modernism, Arts / Culture

Publication year 1860Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Nation, Society: Community, Relationships: Teams, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags Lyric Poem, Modernism, American Literature

Publication year 1922Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Classic Fiction, Japanese Literature, Modernism

Though Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) died at age 35, he is often regarded as the father of the Japanese short story. During the middle of the 20th century, when Japanese cinema became interested in its national history and cultural heritage, Akutagawa’s work was adapted by filmmakers such as Akira Kurosawa. Because American Westerns had a close relationship with samurai films, Akutagawa’s stories have even been transposed onto the Wild West, resulting in such films as The... Read In A Grove Summary

Publication year 1951Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Identity: SexualityTags Free verse, Confessional, Modernism

Publication year 1935Genre Novel, FictionThemes Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Society: Nation, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Russian Literature, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Absurdism, Modernism

Invitation to a Beheading is a 1938 novel by Russian author Vladimir Nabokov, and the penultimate novel Nabokov wrote in his native Russian before transitioning to English. This guide uses the 1965 Capricorn Books edition, based on the 1959 English version, translated by Dmitri Nabokov with help from his father, Vladimir. Plot SummaryCincinnatus C. has been arrested and imprisoned by the government in the unnamed country in which he resides. Cincinnatus has been found guilty... Read Invitation to a Beheading Summary

Publication year 1914Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Society: Nation, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Politics / Government, Irish Literature, Modernism

Publication year 1919Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Natural World: Place, Natural World: Environment, Values/Ideas: BeautyTags Modernism

“Kew Gardens” is a short story by British author Virginia Woolf, published privately in 1919 before appearing in Monday or Tuesday, Woolf’s 1921 collection of short stories. The story explores themes such as Moments of Being, The Connection Between Humanity and Nature, and Interpersonal Conflict.This guide refers to the version of “Kew Gardens” available in Project Gutenberg’s online edition of Monday or Tuesday.The story follows four pairs of people as they wander Kew Gardens, a... Read Kew Gardens Summary

Publication year 1928Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Marriage, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Identity: Sexuality, Identity: FemininityTags Classic Fiction, Romance, Love / Sexuality, British Literature, Modernism

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a Modernist novel by the English writer D. H. Lawrence. It was written between 1926 and 1928, while Lawrence was living in Italy, and first published privately in 1928. Since it was considered scandalous and obscene, the novel was not widely available in America or the United Kingdom until the 1960s. The novel was controversial because of its explicit sexual content, as well as its depiction of an adulterous affair between... Read Lady Chatterley's Lover Summary

Publication year 1960Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Art, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & PrideTags Mythology, Ekphrastic, Free verse, Modernism, Grief / Death, Science / Nature

Publication year 1916Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Language, Life/Time: The Future, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Science / Nature, Modernism

Publication year 1932Genre Novel, FictionTags Modernism, Southern Gothic, Drama / Tragedy

Published in 1932, Light in August is William Faulkner’s seventh novel. The novel is set in the American South during prohibition and features an ensemble cast of characters who grapple with alienation, racism, and heartbreak across a nonlinear narrative. Classified as a Southern gothic and modernist novel, Light in August is considered a seminal work in 20th-century American literature. Note: This study guide quotes and obscures Faulkner’s use of the n-word. Plot SummaryLena Grove, a... Read Light in August Summary

Publication year 1900Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Identity: Race, Society: ColonialismTags Classic Fiction, British Literature, Action / Adventure, Historical Fiction, Modernism

Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim is an iconic story about the height—and folly—of the British imperial enterprise. Published as a serialized novel between October 1899 and November 1900, it details the adventures of a sailor turned trade agent who seeks his fortune and reputation on the outskirts of empire. After an incident with the Patna, one of the ships on which he sails, Jim flees to avoid the stain on his reputation. Eventually, he arrives in... Read Lord Jim Summary

Publication year 1920Genre Short Story, FictionTags Modernism

“Miss Brill” is a short story written by Katherine Mansfield. First published in the literary magazine Athenaeum in 1920, the story explores human nature through themes such as the power of imagination and the role that each person plays in life. Miss Brill, a middle-aged, unmarried, and lonely English woman living in a French city, recounts a Sunday afternoon outing to the Jardins Publiques (Public Gardens) in the early fall.On a crisp, beautiful fall Sunday... Read Miss Brill Summary

Publication year 1925Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Life/Time: The Past, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Modernism

Publication year 1929Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Values/Ideas: ArtTags Modernism

Publication year 1938Genre Poem, FictionThemes Natural World: AnimalsTags Lyric Poem, Animals, Modernism, Mythology

Publication year 1925Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: MemoryTags British Literature, Modern Classic Fiction, Modernism, The Bloomsbury Group

Mrs. Dalloway, one of Virginia Woolf’s best-known novels, was published in 1925. The entirety of the novel takes place over the course of one day in London, in June of 1923. At the start of the novel, in the morning, Clarissa Dalloway, the protagonist, makes last-minute preparations for her party scheduled for that evening. As the day progresses, readers meet various characters, major and minor, and learn about their thoughts and feelings about the past, present... Read Mrs. Dalloway Summary

Publication year 1923Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Natural World: EnvironmentTags Lyric Poem, Science / Nature, Modernism

Publication year 1928Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Literature, Identity: GenderTags Gender / Feminism, LGBTQ, Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction, British Literature, Modernism

Orlando: A Biography is a novel published in 1928 by the English author Virginia Woolf. It tells the story of Orlando, a member of the English nobility who is born a male in 16th century England. Around the age of 30, Orlando mysteriously changes into a woman and lives for centuries without visibly aging. Author Jeanette Winterson called Orlando “the first trans novel in English.” (Winterson, Jeanette. “’Different sex. Same person’: How Woolf’s Orlando became... Read Orlando Summary

Publication year 1913Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Relationships: FathersTags Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Children's Literature, Modernism

Pollyanna (1913) is the second novel by American author Eleanor H. Porter (1868-1921). The book was so successful that it topped the adult best-seller list, and Porter wrote a sequel titled Pollyanna Grows Up (1915) two years later.In the years following its publication, Pollyanna provided hope in the turbulent years of World War I, and it continued to capture the national imagination throughout the 20th century. Eleven more “glad books” featuring the heroine were written... Read Pollyanna Summary

Publication year 1915Genre Poem, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Music, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Life/Time: MidlifeTags Poetry: Dramatic Poem, Narrative / Epic Poem, Modernism, British Literature, American Literature, Relationships, Love / Sexuality, Class

Publication year 1938Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: Class, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Life/Time: The Past, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Relationships: Marriage, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Emotions/Behavior: LonelinessTags British Literature, Romance, Classic Fiction, Mystery / Crime Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Drama / Tragedy, Gothic Literature, Modernism

Rebecca, a bestselling novel by famed English writer Daphne du Maurier, was published in 1938, and has never gone out of print. The winner of the National Book Award for favorite novel of 1938, Rebecca has been adapted numerous times, including Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film version, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and a 1997 television miniseries. It was most recently adapted for a Netflix film in 2020 by the same name. Rebecca... Read Rebecca Summary

Publication year 1928Genre Poem, FictionThemes Life/Time: Aging, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Modernism

Publication year 1900Genre Poem, FictionTags Lyric Poem, Children's Literature, Modernism, Animals

Publication year 1921Genre Play, FictionThemes Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Play: Drama, Absurdism, Italian Literature, Modernism, Play: Comedy / Satire, Surrealism

Six Characters in Search of an Author by Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello was published in 1921 in a collection of plays called Naked Masks. The play was first performed in Italian; Edward Storer translated it into English in 1922, and it was first performed in London’s West End and New York City later that year. The play’s avant-garde and meta-theatrical elements make it a precursor to the Theatre of the Absurd, and Pirandello’s work inspired... Read Six Characters in Search of an Author Summary

Publication year 1925Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Society: War, Relationships: Family, Identity: MasculinityTags Historical Fiction, American Literature, Modernism, Military / War

“Soldier’s Home” is a short story first published in Ernest Hemingway’s 1925 debut collection In Our Time. The version discussed in this guide is from The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition (Scribner, 2003).The story’s protagonist is Harold Krebs, a young man who returns home to Oklahoma after serving in World War I. It is one of many works by Hemingway, a WWI survivor, to show the impacts of the war... Read Soldier's Home Summary