Which Literary Movement Do You Belong In?
If you've got glimmerings of creativity in your dark, dark soul, chances are you've always identified a little bit more with one literary movement or another. Maybe you like the epic drama of the golden era of Russian literature, or the smoky chaos and loud metaphors of the Beats. Maybe you relate most to the people who wrote pre-typewriter.
Whatever your literary poison is, I'm here to help you pick it. Find the paragraph that most closely describes your personality — or are you a combination of two? — and get ready to flaunt your new literary in-crowd. I've also included a flagship book from each movement, as well as a more indie one, so that you can familiarize yourself with the movement before you run into the streets being all pretentious about it.
(Necessary caveat: I'm focusing mostly on the Big Literary Movements That Changed the Course of History, though once you start digging, there are zillions of cool little movements worth exploring further. Cavelier poets? Mexican avant-garde Stridentism? I wish I could tell you about all of them, but I've gotta go embody my own particular spirit movement, The Lost Generation, by sitting at a coffee shop and drinking gin while complaining loudly about writers more successful than me.)
1. Your spirit literary movement is the Medieval Period (500-1500), if...
You've always been the first to do important things. First to graduate college, first to have a baby, first to write the earliest surviving novel in the English language. You can be fairly incomprehensible — early Medieval literature was written in Anglo-Saxon, which looks nothing like today's English — but that's just because you're ahead of the curve. When you start a project, you make sure to follow the form very closely. You can be extremely religious, but you can also get really profane really fast. You probably read Latin.
Major spirit work: Beowulf
Minor spirit work: The Lais of Marie de France
2. Your spirit literary movement is the Renaissance (1500-1670), if...
You're fun, but exhausting to be around because you see possibilities in everything. Everything is new to you! You're obsessed with the idea of rebirth! You wear your friends out by your ornate language and the way you max out apartment decorations, music, and credit cards. In fact, you're so verbally gifted that you're constantly making up new words and phrases in order to express your thoughts perfectly. This drives your friends crazy, but they've got to hand it to you — you know how to make the most of a chaotic time.
Major spirit work: Shakespeare's entire First Folio
Minor spirit work: The Nobility and Excellence of Women and the Defects and Vices of Men by Cassandra Fedele
3. Your spirit literary movement is the Enlightenment (1700-1800), if...
In high school, your friends voted you Most Rational, and you loved it. Your god is logic and you're confident that the world is becoming a better, more progressive, more scientific, more egalitarian place. You're constantly questioning authority and you're always the first to offer up an opinion, which can get a little bit annoying. When you read, you do so in order to talk about what you've read with engaged citizens of the world, not just to let the ideas ferment in the back of your mind. You've probably had a lot of coffee today.
Major spirit work: Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Minor spirit work: The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope
4. Your spirit literary movement is the Romantic Period (1798-1870), if...
Nothing makes you swoon like the sight of water trickling down the moss on the side of an old oaken bucket — unless it's a Grecian urn or the drug-like song of a nightingale. You're crazy for nature, and often spend hours hiking alone in the wilderness or gazing in rapture at a field of dancing daffodils. You're an introvert, but the world inside your head is populated with wonder. You've got a drug problem.
Major spirit work: Don Juan by Lord Byron
Minor spirit work: Mathilda by Mary Shelley
5. Your spirit literary movement is the Victorian Period (1837-1901), if...
Unlike those frothy Romantics, you care about real world problems. You're extraordinarily polite, but you've got a serious dark side. Your obsession with morals and social graces barely covers your inner upheaval, and though you attend tea parties during the day, you stalk the moors at night. You're very socially conscious, sometimes to the point of being preachy, because you believe in nudging society toward a higher good. Still, some people consider you a hypocrite for focusing so much on external social cues and leading a debauched double life.
Major spirit work: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Minor spirit work: Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens
6. Your spirit literary movement is Modernism (1910-1965), if...
Can you ever really know another person, man? You're preoccupied with your own inner self and the workings of consciousness and how lonely it is to be an individual. That doesn't mean you don't have a large circle of friends who are all preoccupied with similar issues, though. What makes you really happy is breaking away from tradition and making things new — you love Pinterest crafts — though underneath it all, you despair at the brokenness of the modern world. At cocktail parties, you often get accused of being an unreliable narrator.
Major spirit work: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Minor spirit work: Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
7. Your spirit literary movement is Existentialism (1940s-1950s), if...
Really, you consider yourself more of a philosopher than anything else. You're consumed with the problem of finding meaning in existence, and on your worst days, you're something of a nihilist. But in order to keep existence from being a boring void, you try to do some good in the world — otherwise, what's the point?
Major spirit work: Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre
Minor spirit work: The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
8. Your spirit literary movement is the Beat Generation (1945-1965), if...
You hate consumer culture and you think your parents are prudes. Sex! Drugs! Rock 'n' roll! You're all about expressing yourself, and you usually do it with jazz playing in the background. When you inevitably get censored, it only makes you feel cooler, and gives you yet another antiestablishment story to tell your awesome friends. You flatter yourself that you were hipster before hipster was a thing. Despite your provocative swagger, you're quite intelligent, and could easily back up your arguments if you weren't always wasted.
Major spirit work: On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Minor spirit work: Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note by Amiri Baraka
9. Your spirit literary movement is the New York School (1950s-1960s), if...
You're not a surrealist, but you adore surrealist art. You're extraordinarily gay-friendly and there's a chance you went to Columbia University. All of your furniture is either avant-garde or collected during your world travels. When you flirt, you strive to be witty, low-key, and suave. You charm your dates by hinting at what you mean instead of giving it all away at once.
Major spirit work: Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara
Minor spirit work: Miniatures and Other Poems by Barbara Guest
10. Your spirit literary movement is Postmodernism (1965-today), if...
You're difficult to pin down, and you like it that way. Friends would call you playful and cool; frenemies (of which you have many) would call you pretentious. At parties, you're self-conscious, ironic, and make too many pop culture references, but your apartment looks great because you've mastered the art of high/low mixing. When you're getting philosophical — which is often — you express just how suspicious you are of the grand narratives of life. You want to break 'em down. You watch a lot of TV.
Major spirit work: Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Minor spirit work: Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker
11. Your spirit literary movement is Magic Realism (more of a genre than an era), if...
Of all your friends, you were voted Most Likely to Believe in Ghosts. You drift easily between the real and the fantastical, whether you're recounting stories from your childhood or writing in your diary. You're probably from a non-Western culture, but if not, you've managed to overcome your innate distrust of mythology. Either way, you see the world in a completely different way than most people. Those who don't know you think you're a little bit impractical, but anyone you date is transported by your spell.
Major spirit work: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Minor spirit work: A Universal History of Infamy by Jorge Luis Borges
12. Your spirit literary movement is Postcolonial Literature (more of a genre than an era), if...
You care deeply about the defining traits of individual cultures and will fight tooth and nail to reclaim space for yourself or for your friends, whether that means saving the community garden from the clutches of McDonalds or just holding a table for your pal at the local coffee shop. You're fascinated with your ancestors and have a strong sense of personal identity. You have no patience with stereotypes.
Major spirit work: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Minor spirit work: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
13. Your spirit literary movement is Hysterical Realism (early 2000s), if...
In middle school, you were that one kid who wouldn't shut up. This trait has stuck with you over the years, but you've matured into a wise-cracking speed-talking fast-walking charmer with a brilliant knack for coming up with fun things to do. You're the "weird one" in your group of friends and have a million stories to tell at every gathering. You're most likely a runner.
Major spirit work: White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Minor spirit work: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Images: Wikimedia Commons (12), Getty (2)