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What's Next: Literary/Artistic/Cultural Movements

Victorian, Georgian, Modernism, Postmodernism… What now? A lot of time is spent, especially in academics, understanding the movements and patterns of art and culture. Thanks to an English Lit education, my best understanding of these eras springs from literary history, and from what I’ve heard and felt in class and even online, we are entering a new phase, a new movement in art.

The past half decade or so, since the end of WWII, has been a period scholars call Postmodernism. Built from the aesthetics of Modernism, the Postmodernists have mixed "high" and "low" culture (that is, what is considered serious art and what the masses seem to enjoy) to create a playful environment in the face of larger oppression: nuclear war, surveillance, genocide, eugenics, you get the idea. There was still an ongoing search for self and place despite all these things though.

As we go deeper into the 21st century, we separate ourselves from the last 50 years of the 20th, from the Cold War and cultural climates as variant as the 50s, 60s, 70s… you see what I mean. What are we experiencing now? What kind of art and literature is post-Postmodernism, what sort of culture do we get to create in?

So far this century, we’ve seen an expanding global culture, multiple wars on foreign soil, the looming threat of terrorism, economic devastation and reconstruction, and most recently a wave of progressivism: new civil rights movements, marriage equality, healthcare reform, etc. Are these influences in art and literature? My favorite works published in the last 10 years have been pieces of historical fiction (Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, Max Brooks’s World War Z) and the culminating episodes of fantasy cycles begun before the 21st century (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final Dark Tower novel and even its expansion piece The Wind Through the Keyhole). These fantasy works certainly employ a sense of history as well. Musically, I see a sense of history in my favorites as well, whether personal (Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell) or national (Titus Andronicus’s The Monitor).
Maybe I’m biased and just want to believe my own theory. But it looks like this newer phase of culture is very aware of what has come before and is learning or reconstructing for its own sense of place.

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