To the Lighthouse

By Virginia Woolf

Woolf and Modernism

Modernism represents the elemental shift in artistic and cultural emotional responses evident in the art and literature of the post-World War One era. The structured world of the Victorians could not, in the words of T.S. Eliot, accord with "the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history." Modernism, therefore, marks a distinctive break with Victorian morality, discarding nineteenth- century hopefulness and instead presenting a deeply pessimistic vision of a world in turmoil. The movement is most often associated with the work of T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein.

Modernism is often attacked for discarding the social world in favor of its obsession with language and the act of writing. Acknowledging the language's inability to ever say what it really wants to say, the Modernists generally relegated content in favor of a concentration upon form. The fragmented, non- chronological, poetic forms utilized by Eliot and Pound revolutionized poetic language. An understanding of Modernism's goals and beliefs, and of the traditions against which it was fighting, is central to an understanding of the visionary experiment that is To the Lighthouse.