The Twentieth Century must be seen as the first wherein the immense depth and breadth of the human experience was truly explored and exasperated. No other century has seen experienced the utter devastation that both the First and Second World War’s brought about. Yet, whilst remaining distinctive aspects of the Twentieth Century, these events do not define the entirety of the period. Rather, the Twentieth Century also bore witness to periods of unity and tolerance. The rise of cultural integration and multiculturalism brought with it a movement towards the reversal of colonialism that had so overwhelmingly dictated the 18th and 19th Centuries.
The broad experience of the Twentieth Century inspired artists to push the boundaries, challenge tradition and explore new art mediums, content, and form. The Imagists were one such group of artists that sought to push the boundaries of the poetic medium. Rather than compose poems that were lengthy, and crammed with aristocratic language, the Imagists employed minimal words, and used language that was simple to understand. What this did was make poetry far more accessible. No longer was poetry an exclusive affair, restricted to the upper echelons of society, it became something that all classes of individuals could understand. One Imagist poem that I enjoy reading is William Carlos William’s “The Red Wheelbarrow”. It exemplifies what makes an Imagist poem so distinct, as in just sixteen words, Williams provides a commentary on nostalgia, the natural world and pastoral life, that provokes deeper thought within his audience. The ways in which the Imagists sought to challenge tradition and explore new ways of thinking is still a relevant pursuit within the 21st Century. The human experience is built upon the constant pushing of boundaries, and as such, the relevance of the Imagists in the 20th Century, and equally experimental groups within the 21st Century cannot be overstated.
As has been stated, the First and Second World Wars were major events within the 20th Century, that had a major impact on the social and cultural landscape of the world, especially within Europe. In particular, the brutality of the First World War led many to reassess the honour and dignity that many believed partaking in war bestowed upon this. This reality was shattered by the utter devastation that plagued the countless battlefields. Within his poem “On Passing The New Menin Gate” Siegfried Sassoon reasserts the perils of glorifying war and failing to completely understand the harsh reality of human conflict. Sadly, within the 21st Century, war and violent conflict exist as mainstays in global and domestic politics worldwide. Further, the glorification of conflict is still firmly established in discourse surrounding war, and thus the message behind Siegfried Sassoon and other prominent First World War poets, remains ever relevant in the 21st Century.
Therefore, these are just two examples of issues that social issues and events that shaped the Twentieth Century and are still relevant within today. The pushing of artistic boundaries is a key aspect of the Twentieth Century, and thus the work of the Imagists in challenging poetic tradition remains just as important within the 21st Century. Further, a failure to understand the harsh and destructive realities of war became a key observation from prominent poets from the First World War, such as Siegfried Sassoon. The glorification of violence and conflict remains an issue today, and therefore makes these poems and pieces of literature from the 20th Century all the more important. Hence, whilst coming nowhere near exploring the depth of the 20th Century, these examples provide insights into just two of the social issues and events that are still relevant today, in the 20th Century.