Futurism

In the early 20th century Futurism was a movement that celebrated innovation, science, technology and industrialisation. However, it evolved against a backdrop of increasing fascism, militarism, violence and war. It was a movement full of power and energy alongside aggression and defiance. Let us look at the meaning, ideology, characteristics and authors of futurism to better understand this movement.

Futurism Futurism

Create learning materials about Futurism with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    Futurism meaning

    The meaning of Futurism is that it is a modernist movement within the literature that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. The movement promoted experimentation within literature and breaking free from linguistic traditions.


    Modernist Literature: Literature that focuses on breaking free from traditional ways of writing and instead experiments with form and expression. It is characterised by writing that engages with technology and societal changes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


    Futurism promoted literature that was concise and fast-paced in language and length and packed with violence, intensity, youth and dynamic expressions of life. This was because the futurist movement merged with the historical setting in Italy where the advent of World War II (1939-1945) and industrialisation led to literature that was inspired by technology and fast powerful machines. This is also why futurist writers glorified ideas of militarism, nationalism and war.


    Art, in fact, can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice.


    - Manifesto of Futurism (1909)

    Futurism is known for rejecting traditional linguistic conventions such as lyricism, romanticism, symbolism, static reflection, meter, syntax and spelling.


    Here are the opening lines from Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov's (1885-1922) futuristic poem 'Incantations with Laughter' (1910) which consists of phrases built around the word 'laughter'. In this poem, Khlebnikov adds absurd puns, prefixes and suffixes to the word 'laugh' to experiment with wordplay and syntax.


    'O, laugh, laughers!

    O, laugh out, laughers!

    You who laugh with laughs, you who laugh it up laughishly

    O, laugh out laugheringly.' (Lines 1-4)

    Futurism movement

    Futurism in literature was a part of the futurism art movement which aimed to express the beauty of speed, power, energy and movement of life through art.


    Futuristic art attempted to portray a subject's movement and therefore contained repetitions of the object's outline to depict its movement through time. The colours used were bright and vibrant and the brush strokes were bold and aggressive to symbolise energy and violent movement. Elements of cubism were also largely present in artistic forms where an object was broken up and then reassembled in an abstract fragment form- sort of like a puzzle piece being put together!


    Giacomo Balla (1871-1958) was an Italian painter who painted the Futuristic painting Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash in 1912. The painting depicts a dachshund on a leash being walked by a lady, with the blurring and multiplication of their bodies representing their movement.


    Futurism, Futurism movement painting by Balla, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, painting by Giacomo Balla, 1912.


    Similarly, architecture was representative of industrial city life with simplistic, practical and structured high-rise buildings with straight forms and no aesthetic appeal.


    Futurism was a movement that spread to all forms of artistic expression including painting, sculpture, ceramics, interior design, theatre, film, fashion, textiles, literature, music, dance, architecture, and cooking.

    Futurism characteristics

    Futurist literature focuses on seven different characteristics, be it the implementation of these characteristics or the complete abolishment of some.

    Intuition

    Futurists believed that literature should be driven by intuition and therefore be a product of spontaneous creation. Futurists also believed that art has its own language and should be expressed in its own language, free from intellectual approaches and extrapolation.

    Analogy

    Futurists strongly believe that under the surface, everything in life is interconnected to each other and such is the reality of life. Futurists referred to these connections as analogies and the aim of futuristic literature was to discover and unveil these analogies.


    Analogy: The comparison between two (or more) seemingly unrelated events or concepts to find a connection or shared meaning between the two.


    The impact of discovering an analogy should be surprising or 'stupefying'. The more seemingly unrelated the subjects of an analogy may seem the more successful the unveiling of their connection will be.

    Irony

    Futurists encouraged the use of irony in literature as they believed that it was a forgotten tradition that should be renewed by contemporary writers.


    Irony: In literature, irony refers to creating inconsistencies and contradictions between the reality of a situation and its actual meaning and context.

    Abolition of syntax

    Futurists believed that formal syntax was too restrictive for modern writers. While this did not mean that syntax was completely abolished, writers were allowed the freedom to remodify syntax and experiment with vocabulary and wordplay. New words and combinations were considered to be at the heart of futuristic creativity.


    Syntax: Syntax refers to the relationship and proper arrangement of words and phrases in a sentence and how this affects the meaning we derive from these arrangements.


    This could be anything from sentence structure (subject-verb-object), positioning of adjectives and adverbs, use of punctuation and other technical aspects of grammar.


    The rejection of formal syntax rules led to a relaxation in using adjectives, adverbs, tense and punctuation. More attention was paid to creating variations within typography.


    Typography: The graphic style and presentation of printed text on a page.

    Metrical reform

    Futurists rejected all forms of meter in poetry. Now you might be wondering — if their work lacked any meter, then was all futuristic poetry essentially just free verse?


    Futurists believed that free verse was too traditional and relied heavily on syntax. Hence, they began to use words as a unit in poetry by making them a structural element that replaced metric patterns.


    Here are lines 1-3 from Velimir Khlebnikov's poem 'Grasshopper' (1908):


    'Wingletting with the goldenscrawl
    Of its finest sinews,
    The grasshopper loaded its trailer-belly.'


    Khlebnikov has invented many new words, such as 'wingletting' and 'goldenscrawl' to fit the word count of 5 words per line in this poem.

    Onomatopoeia

    Futurists advocated the use of different types of onomatopoeia.


    Onomatopoeia: A literary device that uses and creates words that phonetically imitate or resemble certain sounds. Examples include 'cuckoo', 'bang', 'thud' and 'sizzle'!


    Some forms of onomatopoeia were more realistic representations of sound, such as 'boom', 'splash' or 'clash'. Others were more experimental and abstract in nature such as using random words to represent sounds regardless of the actual meaning of the word. This also meant ascribing sounds to objects that typically do not produce sound, such as the internal motions of the soul.

    Lyricism

    Futuristic literature is characterised by conciseness and compactness in language that was almost unnatural. Hence, Futurists rejected lyricism.


    Lyricism: A writer's use of language that is highly descriptive, emotive and poetic in quality.

    This explains why most futuristic works are poetry and why there are no futuristic novels in existence. Futurists felt like novels were just too long!

    Futurism authors

    Most futuristic authors were poets rather than novelists. Here are two notable examples of futuristic authors and some of their prominent works in the genre.

    Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944)

    Futurism made its debut in literature with the publication of Manifesto del Futurismo (1909), or the Manifesto of Futurism, authored by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. The manifesto outlined the characteristics of Futurism within art and literature. For this reason, Marinetti is considered to be the father of the futurist movement.


    As a supporter of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), Marinetti's outline of futurism contained elements of fascism, militarism, nationalism and the glorification of war.


    Futurism, Futurist writer Filippo Tommaso, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the father of Futurism.


    'To a Racing Car' (1909) is a well-known poem by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti where he uses imagery describing a car to appreciate the aesthetic value of speed, power, movement and machinery.

    'Vehement god from a race of steel,

    Automobile drunk with space,

    Trampling with anguish, bit between your strident teeth!

    O formidable Japanese monster with forge,

    Nourished with flame and mineral oils,

    Hungry for horizons and sidereal prey,

    I unleash your heart to the diabolical vroom-vroom

    And your giant radials, for the dance

    You lead on the white roads of the world.' (lines 1-9)

    Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)

    Mayakovsky was a prominent writer in the futurist movement in Russia. He wrote countless poems and plays and even co-authored the Russian futurism manifesto titled A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1912).


    The Russian futurist movement began in the 1910s when a Russian literary group called Hylea was formed. The group consisted of various futurist writers such as Vasily Kamensk, Velimir Khlebnikov, Aleksey Kruchenykh and Vladimir Mayakovsky. They published a manifesto called A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1912) which contained ideas similar to Marinetti's Manifesto del Futurismo (1909).


    Much like the Italian futurists, Russian futurists also celebrated speed, vitality, power, violence, machinery and urbanism. However, unlike their Italian counterparts, Russian futurists were also extremely political and often used their works as a means to provide social commentary. Due to its revolutionary nature, the Russian Futuristic movement was brought to an end following the rise of the Communist Party in 1917.

    ‘Talking With the Taxman About Poetry’ (1926) is a futuristic poem by Mayakovsky where he compiles random parts of a conversation with a tax collector in the form of a poem. The resultant fragmented conversation is actually a social commentary on the Soviet state in the 20th century.

    Citizen tax collector!

    Excuse me for disturbing you.

    Thank you…

    don’t bother…

    I’ll stand…

    I have here

    a business

    of a delicate nature:

    (lines 1-8)


    Futurism - Key takeaways

    • Futurism is a modernist movement within the literature that originated in Italy in the early 20th century.
      Futurism promoted literature that was concise and fast-paced in language and length and packed with violence, intensity, youth and dynamic expressions of life.
    • The futurism movement in literature was a part of the larger futurism art movement, which aimed to express the beauty of speed, power, energy and movement of life through art.
    • Characteristics of futurism include:
      • Intuition
      • Analogy
      • Irony
      • Abolition of syntax
      • Metrical reform
      • Onomatopoeia
      • Essential and synthetic lyricism

    • Notable futuristic authors include:

      • Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944)

      • Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)


    References

    1. Fig. 1 - Public domain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Giacomo_Balla,_1912,_Dynamism_of_a_Dog_on_a_Leash,_oil_on_canvas,_89.8_x_109.8_cm,_Albright-Knox_Art_Gallery.jpg
    2. Fig. 2 - Public domain: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Filippo_Tommaso_Marinetti.jpg


    Futurism Futurism
    Learn with 11 Futurism flashcards in the free StudySmarter app

    We have 14,000 flashcards about Dynamic Landscapes.

    Sign up with Email

    Already have an account? Log in

    Frequently Asked Questions about Futurism

    What is Futurism known for?

    Futurism is known for being concise and fast-paced in language and length, and packed with violence, intensity, youth and dynamic expressions of life.

    What are the characteristics of futurism?

    Characteristics of futurism include:

    • Intuition
    • Analogy
    • Irony
    • Abolition of syntax
    • Metrical reform
    • Onomatopoeia
    • Lyricism

    What does futurism mean?

    Futurism is a modernist movement within the literature that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. The movement promoted experimentation within the literature and breaking free from linguistic traditions. 

    What is the style of futurism?

    Works of futurism are usually concise and fast-paced in language and length and packed with themes celebrating speed, vitality, power, violence, machinery and urbanism.  

    What are three facts about futurism?

    Here are three facts about futurism:

    1. Futurism is a modernist movement within the literature that originated in Italy in the early 20th century.

    2. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) is considered to be the father of the futurist movement as he published the Manifesto del Futurismo (1909).

    3. Futurism celebrates speed, dynamism, vitality, power, violence, machinery and urbanism through artistic expression.  

    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Futurism Teachers

    • 10 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App