Modernismo is a literary movement that took place primarily during the end of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth-century in Spain and Latin America, best exemplified by Rubén Darío who is also known as the father of Modernismo. The term Modernismo specifically refers to the literary movement that took place primarily in poetry. This literary movement began in 1888 after the publication of Rubén Darío‘s Azul. The movement died around 1920, four years after the death of Rubén Darío. The book, Azul, gave Modernismo a new meaning. In Aspects of Spanish-American Literature, the author writes (1963),[1]

For Catalan modernism (modernismo catalán), see Modernisme.

“We must make art the basic element in our culture; the appreciation of beauty is a promise that we will arrive at the understanding of justice…” (pg. 35).[2]

Modernismo influences the meaning behind words and the impact of poetry on culture. Modernismo, in its simplest form, is finding the beauty and advances within the language and rhythm of literary works.

Other notable exponents are Leopoldo Lugones, José Asunción Silva, Julio Herrera y Reissig, Julián del Casal, Manuel González Prada, Aurora Cáceres, Delmira Agustini, Manuel Díaz Rodríguez and José Martí. It is a recapitulation and blending of three European currents: Romanticism, Symbolism and especially Parnassianism. Inner passions, visions, harmonies and rhythms are expressed in a rich, highly stylized verbal music. This movement was of great influence in the whole Hispanic world (including the Philippines), finding a temporary vogue also among the Generation of ’98 in Spain, which posited various reactions to its perceived aestheticism.

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This section does not cite any sources. (November 2018)

Modernismo is a distinct literary movement that can be identified through its characteristics. The main characteristics of Modernismo are:[3]

  1. Giving an idea of the culture and time that we live within, cultural maturity.
  2. Pride in nationality (pride in Latin American identity)
  3. Search for a deeper understanding of beauty and art within the rhetoric. Gives ideas of meaning through colors and images related to senses.
  4. Contains different metrics and rhythms. Uses medieval verses such as the Alexandrine verses from the French.
  5. The use of Latin and Greek mythology.
  6. The loss of everyday reality to which many of the modernismo poems are located within exotic or distant places.
  7. The cultivation of a perfection within poetry.
Birthdate: January 18, 1867

Rubén Darío was the father of Modernismo as he trailblazed the path for future poets. Darío’s idea of modernistic poems were rejected by poets following World War I because many considered it outdated and too heavy in rhetoric. He developed the idea of modernism after following Spanish poets and being influenced by them heavily. Darío created a rhythm within his poetry to represent the idea of modernism. This changed the metric of Spanish literature. His use of the french method, Alexandrine verses, changed and enhanced the literary movement. Modernismo literary works also tend to include a type of vocabulary that many can see as lyrical. Modernistic vocabulary wielded many semantic fields to impart a different meaning behind different words within his literary work. Examples of this vocabulary that convey different meanings within his literary work would be items such as flowers, technology, jewelry, diamonds, luxury items, etc. This vocabulary often stemmed from, if not from the language itself, Greek and Latin terms. Darío often mentions the ‘swan’ in his literary works to observe the idea of beauty and perfection within his writing. This is a major characteristic of Modernismo as it provides the idea of beauty and perfection within the idea of the poetry. In his poem El Cisne,[4] he wrote:

“It happened in a divine moment for the human species.

The swan used to sing only in order to die.

When we heard the accent of the Wagnerian Swan

it was in the midst of a dawn, it was in order to live again.”

His contributions to the movement of Modernismo created an opportunity for poets to use their words with meaning behind them within their poems. The swan represents perfection and, according to Darío in his poem, the swan had the power to revive someone from the dead and there was no flaw in the swan. This represents the Modernismo movement within literary works.[5]

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