Author Topic: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?  (Read 1035 times)  

Offline Hudson Owen

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How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« on: September 04, 2013, 10:59:03 AM »
Do you use it a synonym for 'contemporary?'  Do you place it in an historical context, as in The Modern Age?  Do you always associate modern, or things modern, with progress?  Do you use it at all?

I'm generally wary of using the word unless I'm placing it in an historical context.  I'm also wary of 'post-modern,' though in the late 70s, I made a dayglo green button with postmodern on it and wore it on the streets of New York.  I sent the button to author Annie Dillard, who wrote back that she stuck in in her hat.  She mentioned it in one of her books.

The derivation of 'modern' comes from the Roman modernus, meaning "just now."


Offline Eric C

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2013, 11:11:28 AM »
It depends on how the POV character would use the word.

Offline she-la-ti-da

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2013, 11:12:44 AM »
Hm. I don't think I've used the term in a book. If I did, I'd probably use it to mean contemporary. Unless I wasn't sure I was using it correctly, in which case I'd be spending some time on teh Google.
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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2013, 11:20:57 AM »
It depends on how the POV character would use the word.

This. :)
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Offline Hudson Owen

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2013, 12:07:53 PM »
I guess I was thinking more of non-fiction, though time period in fiction would bring up questions of modernity, certainly in matters of style.

How would you describe something like Burning Man 2013, that just concluded in the Nevada desert?  Burning Man, which has been going on for 27 years, is a kind of festival/civilization that springs up for a week and was attended this year by 68,000 'playa' people from around the world living in a fairly orderly tent/trailer park arrangement with a regular grid of streets.  Part Woodstock, part ancient Wicker Man, part dance/music/costume celebration, sculpture garden--it seems like something outside the flow of time.  Things like that intrigue me.

Offline dkgould

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2013, 12:47:07 PM »
I can tell you how anthropology would classify it, but I'm not sure it would work with writing (it would if it was focused on an anthropological subject).  Modern/modernity was the period from the beginning of the industrial revolution to the collapse of colonialism.  Post-modern is the period after colonialism ended to the present, where Western thinking/culture is no longer assumed to be the only "correct" philosophy in the world. 

As for something like Burning Man, I would actually call that post-structural rather than post-modern, precisely because it's been made to seem "out of time."  It's lots of people bringing their own myth structure, cultural values and practices, and expectations into one place without regard to what social convention would normally demand and without the need for dichotomies.  But I would never use "post-structural" in fiction and I'd still be hesitant to use it in non-fiction, except if you were talking about specific things to a specific audience.  Same with modern/post-modern.  Non-conformist maybe?  Relativistic?  Global? I guess it depends on what you are trying to describe when you say "modern."  Are you trying to describe something's age?  It's impact on the world?  It's attitudes and ideas?  How people react to it? 

Offline bhazelgrove

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2013, 12:53:44 PM »
Modern. It has all the baggage of the post modern fiction. And then there is modern in the twenties and thirties sense of the word Then there is modern in the Jetson mode. Funny word modern. The Moderns really  belong to the early twentieth century. Maby we we need a new wor.d  The Ubermoderns.
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Offline WHDean

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2013, 01:15:30 PM »
Youre talking about using words like modern and contemporary in a cultural or ideological sense, rather than a chronological one. The Burning Man isnt part of modernism, so it cant be called "modern" in a cultural sense; and its only "contemporary" in a chronological sense (i.e., it happens nowadays) because its not contemporary art.

Dkgould has a point that one could characterize it as post-modern in the loosest sense of the term (i.e., as something thats not part of modernism). And post-modernists would no doubt hold it up as a post-modern phenomenon. But post-modern is too broad to be meaningful when everything is so called, so the festival is really better characterized as new ageism or neo-paganism. 



Offline JRTomlin

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2013, 01:33:40 PM »
Pretty sure I have never used the word in fiction.  :)


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Offline Hudson Owen

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2013, 01:45:07 PM »
I can tell you how anthropology would classify it, but I'm not sure it would work with writing (it would if it was focused on an anthropological subject).  Modern/modernity was the period from the beginning of the industrial revolution to the collapse of colonialism.  Post-modern is the period after colonialism ended to the present, where Western thinking/culture is no longer assumed to be the only "correct" philosophy in the world. 

As for something like Burning Man, I would actually call that post-structural rather than post-modern, precisely because it's been made to seem "out of time."  It's lots of people bringing their own myth structure, cultural values and practices, and expectations into one place without regard to what social convention would normally demand and without the need for dichotomies.  But I would never use "post-structural" in fiction and I'd still be hesitant to use it in non-fiction, except if you were talking about specific things to a specific audience.  Same with modern/post-modern.  Non-conformist maybe?  Relativistic?  Global? I guess it depends on what you are trying to describe when you say "modern."  Are you trying to describe something's age?  It's impact on the world?  It's attitudes and ideas?  How people react to it? 

The question of modern seems to elicit a basket response, whereas earlier in the Twentieth Century it would have been spoken more confidently and crisply in its meaning, in prose and conversation.  Yes, the industrial age to the collapse of colonialism are benchmarks, and I suppose I would go along with them for the sake of agreement in this discussion.  Remember, though, that Western thinking had incorporated outside influences for a long time.  It had engendered its "specialists," if you will, like T.E. Lawrence, who could represent the British Empire to the Arabs.  So that when you speak of "correctness" you may be speaking more of an internal criticism within the Western orbit than some actual historical successor to Western civilization. 

Offline dkgould

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2013, 01:52:13 PM »
  Remember, though, that Western thinking had incorporated outside influences for a long time.  It had engendered its "specialists," if you will, like T.E. Lawrence, who could represent the British Empire to the Arabs.  So that when you speak of "correctness" you may be speaking more of an internal criticism within the Western orbit than some actual historical successor to Western civilization. 
  Oh, I have no doubt at all that we are all (all as in everyone in the world) a wonderful mix of ideas and traditions that come from all over, for thousands of years we've traded ideas and practices and goods, etc.  I was talking about the belief or attitude of superiority of the West that pervaded imperial traditions, not my personal belief at all.

Offline Hudson Owen

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2013, 02:00:29 PM »
Modern. It has all the baggage of the post modern fiction. And then there is modern in the twenties and thirties sense of the word Then there is modern in the Jetson mode. Funny word modern. The Moderns really  belong to the early twentieth century. Maby we we need a new wor.d  The Ubermoderns.

I sometimes use High Modernism to describe our culture in overdrive, as in the financial meltdown of 07-08 when so many people, the experts in the middle of the whole thing, didn't understand what they were doing.

Good shot at Burning Man.  Again, basket of ideas.  I wouldn't use a term like post-structural in fiction, either.
Youre talking about using words like modern and contemporary in a cultural or ideological sense, rather than a chronological one. The Burning Man isnt part of modernism, so it cant be called "modern" in a cultural sense; and its only "contemporary" in a chronological sense (i.e., it happens nowadays) because its not contemporary art.

Dkgould has a point that one could characterize it as post-modern in the loosest sense of the term (i.e., as something thats not part of modernism). And post-modernists would no doubt hold it up as a post-modern phenomenon. But post-modern is too broad to be meaningful when everything is so called, so the festival is really better characterized as new ageism or neo-paganism. 

Yes, neo-pagan but more sophisticated than that.  I'd guess most playas brought their tech toys, without baggage or dichotomies--not anti-modern in the way the Taliban uses cell phones but culturally and socially is anti-modern.

Offline Dan Fiorella

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2013, 02:07:12 PM »
Usually between "Thoroughly" and "Millie."

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Offline Hudson Owen

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Re: How do you use 'modern' in your writing?
« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2013, 02:18:44 PM »
Pretty sure I have never used the word in fiction.  :)

Interesting that one can scan her fiction mental database and come up with an assertion like that.
Usually between "Thoroughly" and "Millie."

Cute. 

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