The Modernist and Postmodernist Approaches in Literature

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By T.S. Eliot and The Seafarer by Ezra Pound are two texts that articulate the themes and characteristics of modernism and postmodernism.

The Wastelands by T.S. Eliot

The text The Wastelands by Eliot is more of a modernism oriented text that displays such a science-leaning society while Pounds The Seafarer reveals the themes and characteristics of postmodernism. The modernism and the postmodernism ideologies differ in a wide range of the spectrum. While the first approves reason and science as the rationale for reaching accuracy and objectivity, the second one dupes them as human myths. Modernism also approves that through reasoning, humans can solve their problems while postmodernism argues that reasoning cannot be used as the only rationale for formulating solutions to problems faced by the human population. In his text, Eliot argues from a modernism view where he beholds reasoning and science immensely while on the other hand, Pound sides with postmodernism and argues in multiple manners against modernism.

The Seafarer by Ezra Pound

In The Wastelands, Eliot assumes that the truth is independent of human consciousness. The perception is significant of modernism since modernism assumes that by the application of reasoning, you can know the truth even when it is not outright. The assumption of modernism can be seen in the 5th line of the poem where he states, “Winter kept us warm, covering” (Eliot 5). From the known truth, winter is a cold period. However, by the application of reasoning, everybody is prepared for the winter. People buy warm clothing in preparation for the winter. Through reasoning, people still keep warm throughout the winter since they have warm clothing. It is, therefore, true that the truth is not absolute without reasoning according to the author. The aspect of modernism is, therefore, stressed vehemently in his work.

The Seafarer by Ezra Pound, on the other hand, seems to be more of a postmodern sidelines text. The poem articulates vehemently against the view of a universal truth even with the application of reasoning. In the 25th line of the poem, Eliot quotes, “Not any protector” (Pound 25). The statement eats the normal reasoning that could arise from a modernism view which would otherwise argue that there exists a protector who would be known in the abstract view or even after reasoning. The postmodernist view of the poem shows that the poem rejects any reasoning and truth and confirms that there is not abstract truth even after reasoning. In the 38th line, Pound articulates more on the issue of realism and states, “For this, there's no mood-lofty man over earth's midst” (Pound 38). By the statement, the author makes a view of the earth as a lofty place where everyone is driven by their perception of things. The postmodernism approach of the poem, therefore, shows a more politically inclined text as opposed to Eliot's work.


Modernism and postmodernism approach, especially in literature, are highly vindicated. Different authors adopt different approaches depending on the side they affiliate with. The modernist approach is one who hails reasoning or the rationally known ‘school of thought.' Rational thinking and reasoning are applied using the modernism approach as showed by Eliot in his The Wastelands. The author heavily utilizes rational reasoning which makes the larger part of the poem. Postmodernism is, on the other hand, a belief of the irrationality of life. The approach as applied by Pound in his poem The Seafarer shows a rather irrational politicized world where nothing is real even after reasoning. The two works are therefore vindictive of the applicability of the modernist and postmodernist approaches in literature but in diverse ways.

Works Cited

Eliot T.S., The Wastelands: 75th Anniversary Edition,

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Pound, Ezra, The Seafarer, London: Ovid Press, 1912

August 21, 2023


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