List of literary movements

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Literary movements are a way to divide literature into categories of similar philosophical, topical, or aesthetic features, as opposed to divisions by genre or period. Like other categorizations, literary movements provide language for comparing and discussing literary works. These terms are helpful for curricula or anthologies.[1]

Some of these movements (such as Dada and Beat) were defined by the members themselves, while other terms (for example, the metaphysical poets) emerged decades or centuries after the periods in question. Further, some movements are well defined and distinct, while others, like expressionism, are nebulous and overlap with other definitions. Because of these differences, literary movements are often a point of contention between scholars.[1]


This is a list of modern literary movements: that is, movements after the Renaissance. Ordering is approximate, as there is considerable overlap.

Movement Description Notable authors
Classicism 17th–18th centuries Western cultural movement that coincided with the Age of Enlightenment and drew inspiration from the art and culture of classical antiquity Pierre Corneille, John Milton, Molière, Jean Racine, John Dryden, William Wycherley, William Congreve, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, Alexander Pope, Voltaire, Carlo Goldoni
Cavalier Poets 17th-century English royalist poets, writing primarily about courtly love, called Sons of Ben (after Ben Jonson) Richard Lovelace, William Davenant
Metaphysical poets 17th-century English movement using extended conceit, often (though not always) about religion. John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell
Amatory fiction Romantic fiction popular around 1660 to 1730; notable for preceding the modern novel form and producing several prominent female authors[2] Eliza Haywood, Delarivier Manley, Aphra Behn
The Augustans 18th-century literary movement based chiefly on classical ideals, satire and skepticism Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift
Sentimentalism Literary sentimentalism arose during the 18th century, partly as a response to sentimentalism in philosophy. In 18th-century England, the sentimental novel was a major literary genre. The movement was one of roots of Romanticisme[3][4] Edward Young, James Thomson, Laurence Sterne, Thomas Gray, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock
Gothic fiction Horror fiction existed from 1760s in which the atmosphere is typically claustrophobic, and common plot elements include vengeful persecution, imprisonment, and murder with interest in the supernatural and in violence[5] Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, Harper Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
Sturm und Drang A precursor to the romantic movement, Sturm und Drang is named for a play by Friedrich Maximilian Klinger. Sturm and Drang literature often features a protagonist which is driven by emotion, impulse and other motives that run counter to the enlightenment rationalism.[6][7] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller
Romanticism 19th-century (1800 to 1860) movement emphasizing emotion and imagination, rather than logic and scientific thought. Response to the Enlightenment Novalis, Mary Shelley, Victor Hugo, Lord Byron, Camilo Castelo Branco, Adam Mickiewicz, José de Alencar
Dark romanticism A style within Romanticism. Finds man inherently sinful and self-destructive and nature a dark, mysterious force E. T. A. Hoffmann, Christian Heinrich Spiess, Ludwig Tieck, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edwin Arlington Robinson
American Romanticism Distinct from European Romanticism, the American form emerged somewhat later, was based more in fiction than in poetry, and incorporated a (sometimes almost suffocating) awareness of history, particularly the darkest aspects of American history[citation needed] Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ambrose Bierce
Lake Poets A group of Romantic poets from the English Lake District who wrote about nature and the sublime William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey
Pre-Raphaelitism 19th-century, primarily English movement based ostensibly on undoing innovations by the painter Raphael. Many were both painters and poets Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti
Transcendentalism 19th-century American movement: poetry and philosophy concerned with self-reliance, independence from modern technology Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau
Realism Late-19th-century movement based on a simplification of style and image and an interest in poverty and everyday concerns Gustave Flaubert, William Dean Howells, Stendhal, Honoré de Balzac, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mark Twain, Frank Norris, Eça de Queiroz, Machado de Assis
Naturalism Late 19th century. Proponents of this movement believe heredity and environment control people Émile Zola, Stephen Crane, Guy de Maupassant, Henrik Ibsen, Aluísio Azevedo
Verismo Verismo is a derivative of naturalism and realism that began in post-unification Italy. Verismo literature uses detailed character development based on psychology, in Giovanni Verga's words 'the science of the human heart.[8]' Giovanni Verga, Luigi Capuana, Matilde Serao, Grazia Deledda
Social realism A type of realism, not to be confused with socialist realism, which depicted the socio-political problems and domestic situations of working class. Some its movements include: Theodore Dreiser, Kenneth Fearing, John Osborne, Kingsley Amis, Stan Barstow, Yoshiki Hayama
Socialist realism Socialist realism is a subset of realist art which focuses on communist values and realist depiction.[9] It developed in the Soviet Union and was imposed as state policy by Joseph Stalin in 1934,[10] though authors in other socialist countries and members of the communist party in non-socialist counties also partook in the movement Maxim Gorky, Nikolai Ostrovsky, Mikhail Sholokhov, Lu Xun, Takiji Kobayashi, Mike Gold
Magical realism Literary movement in which magical elements appear in otherwise realistic circumstances. Most often associated with the Latin American literary boom of the 20th century Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz, Günter Grass, Julio Cortázar, Sadegh Hedayat, Malay Roy Choudhury, Mo Yan
Neo-romanticism The term has been applied to writers, who rejected, abandoned, or opposed realism, naturalism, or avant-garde modernism at various points in time from circa 1850 and incorporated elements from the era of Romanticism[11] Thomas Mayne Reid, Jules Verne, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rafael Sabatini, Knut Hamsun, Alexander Grin, Jaishankar Prasad
Decadent movement In the mid 19th century, decadence came to refer to moral decay, and was attributed as the cause of the fall of great civilizations, like the Roman empire. The decadent movement was a response to the perceived decadence within the earlier Romantic, naturalist and realist movements in France at this time.[12] The decadent movement takes decadence in literature to an extreme, with characters who debase themselves for pleasure,[13] and the use of metaphor, symbolism and language as tools to obfuscate the truth rather than expose it[14] Joris-Karl Huysmans, Gustav Flaubert, Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde
Symbolism Principally French movement of the fin de siècle, symbolism is codified by the Symbolist Manifesto in 1886, and focused on the structure of thought rather than poetic form or image;[15][16] influential for English language poets from Edgar Allan Poe to James Merrill Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Valéry, Maurice Maeterlinck, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Cruz e Sousa
Russian symbolism It arose enough separately from West European symbolism, emphasizing mysticism of Sophiology and defamiliarization[15] Alexander Blok, Valery Bryusov, Andrei Bely
Modernism Variegated movement, including modernist poetry, origined in the late 19th century, encompassing primitivism, formal innovation, or reaction to science and technology Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, H.D., James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Fernando Pessoa, Knut Hamsun, Peter Weiss, Mário de Andrade, João Guimarães Rosa
Futurism An avant-garde movement codified in 1909 by the Manifesto of Futurism, futurism avoids being intellectual and using fixed syntax or style, makes use of irony and analogy, and is to be written intuitively or from inspiration[17] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Mina Loy, Jaroslav Seifert
Cubo-Futurism Movement within Russian Futurism with practice of zaum, the experimental visual and sound poetry[18][19] Velimir Khlebnikov, Aleksei Kruchyonykh, Vladimir Mayakovsky
Ego-Futurism A school within Russian Futurism baced on a personality cult[20] Igor Severyanin, Vasilisk Gnedov
Acmeism A Russian modernist poetic school, which emerged in 1910–1912 and to symbols preferred direct expression through sharp images[21] Nikolay Gumilev, Osip Mandelstam, Mikhail Kuzmin, Anna Akhmatova, Georgiy Ivanov
Stream of consciousness Early-20th-century fiction consisting of literary representations of quotidian thought, without authorial presence Virginia Woolf, James Joyce
Impressionism It influenced by the European Impressionist art movement and subsumed into several other categories. The term is used to describe a work of literature characterized by the selection of a few details to convey the sense impressions left by an incident or scene[22] Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf
Expressionism Part of the larger expressionist movement, literary and theatrical expressionism is an avant-garde movement originating in Germany, which rejects realism in order to depict emotions and subjective thoughts[23] Franz Kafka, Alfred Döblin, Gottfried Benn,[23] Heinrich Mann, Oskar Kokoschka
First World War Poets British poets who documented both the idealism and the horrors of the war and the period in which it took place Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen
Imagism Poetry based on description rather than theme, and on the motto, "the natural object is always the adequate symbol." Ezra Pound, H.D., Richard Aldington
Dada Touted by its proponents as anti-art, dada focused on going against artistic norms and conventions Kurt Schwitters, Subimal Mishra
Imaginism Avant-garde post-Russian Revolution of 1917 poetic movement that created poetry based on sequences of arresting and uncommon images[24] Sergei Yesenin, Anatoly Marienhof, Rurik Ivnev
The Lost Generation The term 'Lost Generation' is traditionally attributed to Gertrude Stein and was then popularized by Ernest Hemingway in the epigraph to his novel The Sun Also Rises, and his memoir A Moveable Feast. It refers to a group of American literary notables who lived in Paris and other parts of Europe from the time period which saw the end of World War I to the beginning of the Great Depression F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Waldo Pierce, John Dos Passos
Stridentism Mexican artistic avant-garde movement. They exalted modern urban life and social revolution Manuel Maples Arce, Arqueles Vela, Germán List Arzubide
Los Contemporáneos A Mexican vanguardist group, active in the late 1920s and early 1930s; published an eponymous literary magazine which served as the group's mouthpiece and artistic vehicle from 1928 to 1931 Xavier Villaurrutia, Salvador Novo
Harlem Renaissance African American poets, novelists, and thinkers, often employing elements of blues and folklore, based in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the 1920s Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston
Jindyworobak movement The Jindyworobak movement originated in Adelaide, South Australia during the great depression. It sought to preserve uniquely Australian culture from external influence by incorporating Australian aboriginal languages and mythology and unique Australian settings[25][26] Rex Ingamells, Xavier Herbert
Surrealism Originally a French movement, influenced by Surrealist painting, that uses surprising images and transitions to play off of formal expectations and depict the unconscious rather than conscious mind Jean Cocteau, José María Hinojosa Lasarte, André Breton, Sadegh Hedayat, Mário Cesariny
Villa Seurat Network A group of left and anarchist writers living in Paris in the 1930s, largely influenced by Surrealism[27] Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, Anaïs Nin, Alfred Perles
Southern Agrarians A group of Southern American poets, based originally at Vanderbilt University, who expressly repudiated many modernist developments in favor of metrical verse and narrative. Some Southern Agrarians were also associated with the New Criticism John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren
Postmodernism Postwar movement skeptical of absolutes and embracing diversity, irony, and word play Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Pynchon, Alasdair Gray, Samir Roychoudhury, Kurt Vonnegut
Absurdism The absurdist movement is derived from absurdist philosophy, which argues that life is inherently purposeless and questions truth and value. As such, absurdist literature and theatre of the absurd often includes dark humor, satire, and incongruity.[28] Jean-Paul Sartre, Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, Gao Xingjian
Black Mountain Poets A self-identified group of poets, originally, in the 1950s, based at Black Mountain College, who eschewed patterned form in favor of the rhythms and inflections of the human voice Charles Olson, Denise Levertov, Robert Creeley
Nouveau roman The "new novelists", appeared in French literarure in the 1950s, generally rejected the traditional use of chronology, plot and character in novel, as well as the omniscient narrator, and focused on the vision of thins[29] Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor, Robert Pinget, Marguerite Duras, Jean Ricardou
Postcolonialism A diverse, loosely connected movement of writers from former colonies of European countries, whose work is frequently politically charged Jamaica Kincaid, V. S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott, Salman Rushdie, Giannina Braschi, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe
Hungryalist Poets A literary movement in postcolonial India (Kolkata) during 1961–65 as a counter-discourse to Colonial Bengali poetry Shakti Chattopadhyay, Malay Roy Choudhury, Binoy Majumdar, Samir Roychoudhury, Debi Roy, Sandipan Chattopadhyay, Subimal Basak
Prakalpana Movement This ongoing movement launched in 1969 based in Calcutta, by the Prakalpana group of Indian writers in Bengali literature, who created new forms of Prakalpana fiction, Sarbangin poetry and the philosophy of Chetanavyasism, later it had spread worldwide[citation needed] Vattacharja Chandan, Dilip Gupta
Beat poets American movement of the 1950s and 1960s concerned with counterculture and youthful alienation. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Ken Kesey, Gregory Corso
Spoken Word A postmodern literary movement where writers use their speaking voice to present fiction, poetry, monologues, and storytelling arising from Beat poetry, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights movement in the urban centers of the United States.[30] The textual origins differ and may have been written for print initially then read aloud for audiences Spalding Gray, Laurie Anderson, Hedwig Gorski, Pedro Pietri, Piri Thomas, Giannina Braschi, Taalam Acey
Performance Poetry This is the lasting viral component of Spoken Word and one of the most popular forms of poetry in the 21st century. It is a new oral poetry originating in the 1980s in Austin, Texas, using the speaking voice and other theatrical elements. Practitioners write for the speaking voice instead of writing poetry for the silent printed page. The major figure is American Hedwig Gorski who began broadcasting live radio poetry with East of Eden Band during the early 1980s. Gorski, considered a post-Beat, created the term Performance Poetry to define and distinguish what she and the band did from performance art. Instead of books, poets use audio recordings and digital media along with television spawning Slam Poetry and Def Poets on television and Broadway Beau Sia, Hedwig Gorski, Bob Holman, Marc Smith, David Antin, Taalam Acey
Confessional poetry Poetry that, often brutally, exposes the self as part of an aesthetic of the beauty and power of human frailty Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Alicia Ostriker
New York School Urban, gay or gay-friendly, leftist poets, writers, and painters of the 1960s Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery
Oulipo Mid-20th-century poetry and prose based on seemingly arbitrary rules for the sake of added challenge Raymond Queneau, Walter Abish, Georges Perec, Italo Calvino
Concrete poetry The Concrete poetry was an avant-garde movement started in Brazil during the 50s, characterized for extinguishing the general conception of poetry, creating a new language called ''verbivocovisual''. Augusto de Campos, Haroldo de Campos, Décio Pignatari
Spiralism A literary movement founded in the late 1960s by René Philoctète, Jean-Claude Fignolé, and Frankétienne. Spiralism defines life at the level of relations (colors, odors, sounds, signs, words) and historical connections[citation needed] René Philoctète, Jean-Claude Fignolé, Frankétienne
Misty Poets The Misty Poets were Chinese poets who resisted state artistic restrictions imposed during the Cultural Revolution. They made use of metaphors and hermetic imagery and avoided objective facts.[31] Bei Dao, Gu Cheng, Shu Ting, Yang Lian
New Wave science fiction The New Wave is a movement in science fiction produced in the 1960s and 1970s and characterized by a high degree of experimentation, both in form and in content, a "literary" or artistic sensibility, and a focus on "soft" as opposed to hard science. New Wave writers often saw themselves as part of the modernist tradition and sometimes mocked the traditions of pulp science fiction, which some of them regarded as stodgy, adolescent and poorly written.[32] John Brunner, M. John Harrison, Norman Spinrad, Barrington J. Bayley, Thomas M. Disch
New Formalism A late-20th and early 21st century movement in American poetry advocating a return to traditional accentual-syllabic verse[33] Dana Gioia, X.J. Kennedy, Brad Leithauser, Molly Peacock, Mary Jo Salter, Timothy Steele
Sastra wangi A label for the movement of Indonesian literature started circa 2000 and written by young, urban Indonesian women who take on controversial issues such as politics, religion and sexuality[34] Ayu Utami, Djenar Maesa Ayu, Dewi "Dee" Lestari, Fira Basuki, Nova Riyanti Yusuf
Empathism The Empathic movement: literary, artistic, philosophical movement started in Italy in 2020. Menotti Lerro, Franco Loi, Giampiero Neri, Valerio Magrelli

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Milne, Ira Mark (2009). Literary Movements for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Literary Movements (2 ed.). Detroit: Gale. pp. xi–xii. ISBN 978-1-4144-3719-4.
  2. ^ Backscheider, Paula R.; Richetti, John J. (1996-01-01). Popular Fiction by Women, 1660-1730: An Anthology. Clarendon Press. ISBN 9780198711360.
  3. ^ Brissenden, R.F. (1974). Virtue in Distress: Studies in the Novel of Sentiment from Richardson to Sade. London: Macmillan.
  4. ^ Mullan, John (1988). Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  5. ^ Hogle, Jerrold E., ed. (2002). The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–20. doi:10.1017/ccol0521791243. ISBN 978-0-521-79124-3.
  6. ^ Leidner, Alan C. Sturm Und Drang: The German Library. 14. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1992
  7. ^ "Sturm und Drang". Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. 1995.
  8. ^ Giger, Andreas (August 2007). "Verismo: Origin, Corruption, and Redemption of an Operatic Term". Journal of the American Musicological Society. 60 (2): 271–315. doi:10.1525/jams.2007.60.2.271.
  9. ^ Korin, Pavel, “Thoughts on Art”, Socialist Realism in Literature and Art. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1971, p. 95.
  10. ^ "1934: Writers' Congress". Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Archived from the original on 8 December 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  11. ^ Trentmann, F. (1994). Civilisation and its Discontents: English Neo-Romanticism and the Transformation of Anti-Modernism in Twentieth-Century Western Culture. London: Birkbeck College.
  12. ^ Desmarais, Jane (2013). Edited by Jane Ford, Kim Edwards Keates, Patricia Pulham. "Perfume Clouds: Olfaction, Memory, and Desire in Arthur Symon's London Nights (1895)". Economies of Desire at the Victorian Fin de Siècle: Libidinal Lives: 62–82.
  13. ^ Huneker, James (1909). Egoists, a Book of Supermen: Stendhal, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Anatole France, Huysmans, Barrès, Nietzsche, Blake, Ibsen, Stirner, and Ernest Hello. ISBN 0404105254 – via Kindle Edition.
  14. ^ "The Differences between Symbolism and Decadence". Oscar Wilde and the French Decadents. 2014-03-03. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  15. ^ a b "Symbolism". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2023-02-21.
  16. ^ Conway Morris, Roderick The Elusive Symbolist movement article – International Herald Tribune, March 17, 2007.
  17. ^ Clough, Rosa Trillo (1942). Looking Back on Futurism. New York: Cocce Press. pp. 53–66. ISBN 9781258532314.
  18. ^ Terras, Victor (1990). Handbook of Russian Literature. Yale University Press. p. 197.
  19. ^ Gourianova, Nina (2012). The Aesthetics of Anarchy: Art and Ideology in the Early Russian Avant-Garde. University of California Press. p. 17.
  20. ^ Markov, Vladimir (1968). Russian Futurism: a History. University of California Press. p. 64.
  21. ^ Willhardt, Mark; Parker, Alan Michael (2001). Who's Who in 20th Century World Poetry. Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 0-415-16355-2.
  22. ^ Fried, Michael (2018). What was Literary Impressionism?. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674980792.
  23. ^ a b Richard Murphy, Theorizing the Avant-Garde: Modernism, Expressionism, and the Problem of Postmodernity. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press,1999, p. 43.
  24. ^ Nilsson, N. (1970). The Russian imaginists. Ann Arbor: Almgvist and Wiksell.
  25. ^ "Jindyworobak movement". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  26. ^ Smith, Ellen (1 May 2012). "Local Moderns : The Jindyworobak Movement and Australian Modernism". Australian Literary Studies. 27 (1): 1–17. doi:10.20314/als.927d4ae36b. ISSN 0004-9697.
  27. ^ "Anarchist Transformations of English Surrealism: The Villa Seurat Network". JSTOR. Retrieved 2023-03-26..
  28. ^ Cornwell, Neil (2006), The Absurd in Literature, New York, NY: Manchester University Press, ISBN 978-0-7190-7409-7
  29. ^ "French literature — Toward the nouveau roman". Britannica. Retrieved 2023-03-25.
  30. ^ Folkways, Smithsonian. "Say It Loud". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  31. ^ "A Brief Guide to Misty Poets". Archived from the original on 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
  32. ^ Moorcock, Michael. "Play with Feeling." New Worlds 129 (April 1963), pp. 123-27.
  33. ^ "New Formalism". Poetry Foundation. 2020-08-23. Retrieved 2023-03-26.
  34. ^ Lipscombe, Becky (2003-09-10). "Chick-lit becomes Hip Lit in Indonesia". BBC News. Retrieved 2023-03-21.