European influence

Discover how European cities were crucibles for modernist experimentation.

British Modernism and the Idea of Russia

British modernism and the idea of Russia

Article by:
Matthew Taunton

Russian art, dance and music influenced many modernist writers in the first half of the 20th century, while the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 heightened both communist and anti-communist feeling in Britain. Matthew Taunton explores the influence of Russia on British modernism.

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Writers in Paris

Writers in Paris

Article by:
Stephen Cleary

In the years after the First World War, a number of American writers took up residence in Paris. Steve Cleary assesses some of the work that came out of their time abroad.

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On the edge of the volcano: culture in Weimar Germany

Culture in Weimar Germany: on the edge of the volcano

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

Andrew Dickson explores the vibrant, experimental and precarious culture that developed in Weimar Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s, where figures such as Paul Klee, Kurt Weill and Christopher Isherwood were making art, music and literature.

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Modernism, time and consciousness: The influence of Henri Bergson and Marcel Proust

Modernism, time and consciousness: the influence of Henri Bergson and Marcel Proust

Article by:
Matthew Taunton

Matthew Taunton explains how the work of a French novelist and a French philosopher influenced the way many modernist writers, including Virginia Woolf and T S Eliot, depict consciousness and time.

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Vienna: Modernity in the Making

Vienna: Modernity in the making

Article by:
Andrea Gibbons

An extraordinary number of ideas that shaped the 20th century can be traced back to Viennese culture between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the First World War. Andrea Gibbons explores the Austrian capital as a home to psychoanalysis, Zionism and Nazi ideology, among other political and artistic movements.

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Post Impressionist

Culture quake: the Post Impressionist exhibition, 1910

Article by:
Will Hodgkinson

Will Hodgkinson looks at the art exhibition which radically changed the course of art and culture in Britain.

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An introduction to Stanislavski

Article by:
Petonelle Archer

Petonelle Archer explains how Konstantin Stanislavski developed his legendary method for training actors to discover the inner world of their characters.

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Antonin Artaud and the Theatre of Cruelty

Article by:
Natasha Tripney

The Theatre of Cruelty, developed by Antonin Artaud, aimed to shock audiences through gesture, image, sound and lighting. Natasha Tripney describes how Artaud's ideas took shape, and traces their influence on directors and writers such as Peter Brook, Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet.

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Bertolt Brecht and epic theatre: V is for Verfremdungseffekt

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

Brecht's approach to epic theatre drew on the work of earlier director Erwin Piscator, as well as cabaret, Elizabethan history plays and new technologies of light and sound. Andrew Dickson explores how the rejection of naturalism, in the service of political ideals, underpins Brecht's plays, and considers the influence of Brecht's techniques on theatre today.

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Brecht, interruptions and epic theatre

Article by:
Robert Gordon

Bertolt Brecht wanted his work to revolutionise theatre's bourgeois values and bring about social and political change. Robert Gordon introduces the aesthetic principles and techniques that Brecht believed could achieve these aims, and explores how they operate in some of his best-known plays.

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Nonsense talk: Theatre of the Absurd

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

Absurdist theatre responded to the destruction and anxieties of the 20th century by questioning the nature of reality and illusion. Andrew Dickson introduces some of the most important figures in the Theatre of the Absurd, including Eugène Ionesco, Martin Esslin and Samuel Beckett.

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An introduction to Waiting for Godot

Article by:
Chris Power

Chris Power explores how Waiting for Godot resists straightforward interpretation, producing audiences as uncertain as its characters.

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‘Your Godot was our Godot’: Beckett’s global journeys

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

Waiting for Godot has been performed in many languages and in many contexts: in prisons, in apartheid South Africa, in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and during the Siege of Sarajevo. Andrew Dickson examines the ways in which Samuel Beckett's play has resonated in different communities and political climates.

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An introduction to Happy Days

Article by:
William McEvoy

The main character in Happy Days is a middle-aged woman inexplicably buried in a mound, first to her waist and then to her neck. William McEvoy discusses how Beckett uses this character and her predicament to explore a recurring interest in his work: the failings of bodies and language.

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Further themes

20th-century theatre

Find close readings, critical interpretations and personal responses to the works of key 20th-century playwrights and practitioners, including Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Shelagh Delaney and Timberlake Wertenbaker.

Art, music and popular culture

From riots at the ballet to punk rock fanzines, discover the music, art and popular culture that shook the world in the 20th century.

Capturing and creating the modern

Modernist writers broke new ground by experimenting with new forms and themes. From everyday life, perception and time to the kaleidoscopic and fractured nature of modern life, discover the ways in which these writers created and captured the modern.

European influence

From Paris to Moscow and from Berlin to Dublin, discover how European cities were crucibles for modernist experimentation.

Exploring identity

Examine how writers have explored identity – through the prisms of ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality – in the modern world.

Fantasy and fairy tale

From subversive fairy tales to gothic nightmares, explore how 20th-century writers used fantasy to analyse and question the real world around them.

Gender and sexuality

From Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, E M Forster’s Maurice and Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey to Sylvia Plath’s journals and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, discover how literature explored, questioned and exploded traditional ideas of gender roles and sexuality.

Literature 1900–1950

From The Waste Land to Ulysses and from Mrs Dalloway to Nineteen Eighty-Four, discover the seminal literary works of the early 20th century.

Literature 1950–2000

From The Bell Jar and Birthday Letters to High-Rise and The Buddha of Suburbia, explore key literary works of the late 20th century.

Power and conflict

From First World War poetry to works inspired by the Blitz and from futuristic dystopias to depictions of religious radicalism, see how war and conflict shaped 20th-century literature.

Theatre practitioners and genres

From Stanislavski to Brecht and from Theatre of the Absurd to Theatre Workshop, explore some of the key influences and developments within 20th century theatre practice.

Visions of the future

From Orwell’s Ministry of Truth to Ballard’s crashed cars, see how 20th-century writers imagined the future, investigated the present and prepared for the unknown.