List of Literary Movements

This is a list of modern literary movements: that is, movements after the Renaissance. These terms, helpful for curricula or anthologies, evolved over time to group certain writers who are often loosely related. Some of these movements (such as Dada and Beat) were defined by the members themselves, while other terms (the metaphysical poets, for example) emerged decades or centuries after the periods in question. Ordering is approximate, as there is considerable overlap.

These are movements either drawn from or influential for literature in the English language.

Amatory fiction

  • Romantic fiction written in the 18th and 19th centuries.
    • Notable authors: Eliza Haywood, Delarivier Manley

Cavalier Poets

  • 17th century English royalist poets, writing primarily about courtly love, called Sons of Ben (after Ben Jonson).
    • Notable authors: Richard Lovelace, William Davenant

Metaphysical poets

  • 17th century English movement using extended conceit, often (though not always) about religion.
    • Notable authors: John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell

The Augustans

  • 18th century literary movement based chiefly on classical ideals, satire and skepticism.
    • Notable authors: Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift


  • 19th century (1800 to 1860) movement emphasizing emotion and imagination, rather than logic and scientific thought. Response to the Enlightenment.
    • Notable authors: Victor Hugo, Lord Byron and Camilo Castelo Branco

Gothic novel

  • Fiction in which Romantic ideals are combined with an interest in the supernatural and in violence.
    • Notable authors: Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker

Lake Poets

  • A group of Romantic poets from the English Lake District who wrote about nature and the sublime.
    • Notable authors: William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

American Romanticism

  • Distinct from European Romanticism, the American form emerged somewhat later, was based more in fiction than in poetry, and incorporated a (sometimes almost suffocating) awareness of history, particularly the darkest aspects of American history.
    • Notable authors: Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne,


  • 19th century, primarily English movement based ostensibly on undoing innovations by the painter Raphael. Many were both painters and poets.
    • Notable authors: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti


  • 19th century American movement: poetry and philosophy concerned with self-reliance, independence from modern technology.
    • Notable authors: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau

Dark romanticism

  • 19th century American movement in reaction to Transcendentalism. Finds man inherently sinful and self-destructive and nature a dark, mysterious force.
    • Notable authors: Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, George Lippard


  • Late-19th century movement based on a simplification of style and image and an interest in poverty and everyday concerns.
    • Notable authors: Gustave Flaubert, William Dean Howells, Stendhal, Honoré de Balzac, Leo Tolstoy, Frank Norris and Eça de Queiroz


  • Also late 19th century. Proponents of this movement believe heredity and environment control people.
    • Notable authors: Émile Zola, Stephen Crane


  • Principally French movement of the fin de siècle based on the structure of thought rather than poetic form or image; influential for English language poets from Edgar Allan Poe to James Merrill.
    • Notable authors: Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Valéry

Stream of consciousness

  • Early-20th century fiction consisting of literary representations of quotidian thought, without authorial presence.
    • Notable authors: Virginia Woolf, James Joyce


  • Variegated movement of the early 20th century, encompassing primitivism, formal innovation, or reaction to science and technology.
    • Notable authors: Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, H.D., James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Fernando Pessoa

The Lost Generation

  • It was traditionally attributed to Gertrude Stein and was then popularized by Ernest Hemingway in the epigraph to his novel The Sun Also Rises, and his memoir A Moveable Feast. It refers to a group of American literary notables who lived in Paris and other parts of Europe from the time period which saw the end of World War I to the beginning of the Great Depression.
    • Notable Authors: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Waldo Pierce


  • Touted by its proponents as anti-art, dada focused on going against artistic norms and conventions.
    • Notable authors: Guillaume Apollinaire, Kurt Schwitters

First World War Poets

  • Poets who documented both the idealism and the horrors of the war and the period in which it took place.
    • Notable authors: Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke


  • Mexican artistic avant-garde movement. They exalted modern urban life and social revolution.
    • Notable authors: Manuel Maples Arce, Arqueles Vela, Germán List Arzubide

Los Contemporáneos

  • A Mexican vanguardist group, active in the late 1920s and early 1930s; published an eponymous literary magazine which served as the group's mouthpiece and artistic vehicle from 1928-1931.
    • Notable authors: Xavier Villaurrutia, Salvador Novo


  • Poetry based on description rather than theme, and on the motto, "the natural object is always the adequate symbol."
    • Notable authors: Ezra Pound, H.D., Richard Aldington

Harlem Renaissance

  • African American poets, novelists, and thinkers, often employing elements of blues and folklore, based in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the 1920s.
    • Notable authors: Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston


  • Originally a French movement, influenced by Surrealist painting, that uses surprising images and transitions to play off of formal expectations and depict the unconscious rather than conscious mind.
    • Notable authors: Jean Cocteau, Jose Maria Hinojosa, André Breton

Southern Agrarians

  • A group of Southern American poets, based originally at Vanderbilt University, who expressly repudiated many modernist developments in favor of metrical verse and narrative. Some Southern Agrarians were also associated with the New Criticism.
    • Notable authors: John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren


  • Mid-20th century poetry and prose based on seemingly arbitrary rules for the sake of added challenge.
    • Notable authors: Raymond Queneau, Walter Abish


  • Postwar movement skeptical of absolutes and embracing diversity, irony, and word play.
    • Notable authors: Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Pynchon, Alasdair Gray

Black Mountain Poets

  • A self-identified group of poets, originally based at Black Mountain College, who eschewed patterned form in favor of the rhythms and inflections of the human voice.
    • Notable authors: Charles Olson, Denise Levertov

Beat poets

  • American movement of the 1950s and 1960s concerned with counterculture and youthful alienation.
    • Notable authors: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Ken Kesey

Hungryalist Poets

  • A literary movement in postcolonial India (Kolkata) during 1961-65 as a counter-discourse to Colonial Bengali poetry.
    • Notable poets:Shakti Chattopadhyay, Malay Roy Choudhury, Binoy Majumdar, Samir Roychoudhury

Confessional poetry

  • Poetry that, often brutally, exposes the self as part of an aesthetic of the beauty and power of human frailty.
    • Notable authors: Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Alicia Ostriker

New York School

  • Urban, gay or gay-friendly, leftist poets, writers, and painters of the 1960s.
    • Notable authors: Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery

Magical Realism

  • Literary movement in which magical elements appear in otherwise realistic circumstances. Most often associated with the Latin American literary boom of the 20th century.
    • Notable authors: Gabriel García Márquez, Octavio Paz, Günter Grass, Julio Cortázar, Sadegh Hedayat


  • A diverse, loosely connected movement of writers from former colonies of European countries, whose work is frequently politically charged.
    • Notable authors: Jamaica Kincaid, V. S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott, Salman Rushdie, Giannina Braschi, Wole Soyinka

Prakalpana Movement

  • This ongoing movement launched in 1969 based in Calcutta, by the Prakalpana group of Indian writers in Bengali literature, who created new forms of Prakalpana fiction, Sarbangin poetry and the philosophy of Chetanavyasism, later spreads world wide.
    • Notable authors: Vattacharja Chandan, Dilip Gupta.


  • A literary movement founded in the late 1960s by René Philoctète, Jean-Claude Fignolé, and Frankétienne centered around the idea that the universe is interconnected, unpredictable, and governed by chaos.
    • Notable authors: Frankétienne

Spoken Word

  • A postmodern literary movement where writers use their speaking voice to present fiction, poetry, monologues, and storytelling arising in the 1980s in the urban centers of the United States. The textual origins differ and may have been written for print initially then read aloud for audiences.
    • Notable authors: Spalding Gray, Laurie Anderson, Pedro Pietri, Piri Thomas, Giannina Braschi.

New Formalism

  • A late-20th and early 21st century movement in American poetry advocating a return to traditional accentual-syllabic verse.
    • Notable authors: Molly Peacock, Brad Leithauser, Timothy Steele, Mary Jo Salter.

Performance Poetry

  • This is the lasting viral component of Spoken Word and one of the most popular forms of poetry in the 21st century. It is a new oral poetry originating in the 1980s in Austin, Texas, using the speaking voice and other theatrical elements. Practitioners write for the speaking voice instead of writing poetry for the silent printed page. The major figure is American Hedwig Gorski who began broadcasting live radio poetry with East of Eden Band during the early 1980s. Gorski, considered a post-Beat, created the term Performance Poetry to define and distinguish what she and the band did. Instead of books, poets use audio recordings and digital media along with television spawning Slam Poetry and Def Poets on television and Broadway.
    • Notable authors: Hedwig Gorski, Bob Holman, Marc Smith.

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