In the late 1800s and the 1900s there was an explosion in the number of novels and in authors’ choice (scelta) of subject matters (argomento), as well as (come pure) a broad (vasta) experimentation with language and point of view.
A major theme of British novels in the 20th century was anxiety (angoscia) produced by the political, ideological and economical changes.
One of the most important English novelists of the early 20th century was Joseph Conrad (Lord Jim; Heart of Darkness) who changed the way of telling a story. His novels employed (impiegavano) a character who told his own story within (all’interno) the structure of a third-person narrative. Conrad also broke from tradition: he did not use long descriptive passages, but symbols and recurring images (immagini ricorrenti) to convey (dare) meaning to the reader.
In this way he represents a bridge between the old Victorian way of writing and the new stylistic experiences that led to the innovative current of modernism, and, in fiction, to the experimental novel. This form was born under the influence of the psychoanalytical theories by S. Freud and the alarming ideas of time passing by A. Bergson. The author placed great importance on innovations in style and technique, represented reality in unusual ways, from different points of view and with an uncommon approach (approccio) to time. A famous precursor of this form had been the already mentioned Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (18th century)
One remarkable experimental writer in the first half of the 20th century was Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway;To the Lighthouse) who used the interior monologue to describe closely (da vicino) the characters’ thoughts. It also implied two times, the fictional or mental time (tempo della mente) and the chronological one.
The most famous innovator was surely the Irish writer James Joyce (The Dubliners; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Ulysses; Finnegans Wake) whose novels are an intense exploration of individual consciousness with the use of free association (associazione libera). One of his favourite methods for representing the mind’s discovery of the world is the epiphany, a “sudden spiritual manifestation of an hidden truth.”(un’improvvisa manifestazione spirituale di una verità nascosta)
He changed his literary style in every chapter, mixing objective facts and dreams and used ordinary language to reproduce conscious and unconscious mental processes.