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Futurism is an avant-garde movement that originated in Italy in the 20th century. It was part of the broader Futurist art movement.

The poetry associated with this movement is known for its concise speech and overall length. The same can be said for Futurist theatre, in which actors deliver short lines. These plays place emphasis on humor and the subversion of the traditions of theatre. Because brevity and compression are so important within the tenants of Futurism, novels and longer works of fiction are not part of the movement. The first work considered part of the Futurist movement was Manifesto of Futurism by Filippo Tommaso Marnetti in 1909.

Futurism pronunciation: few-ture-eh-zum

Futurism definition and literary examples

Definition of Futurism

Futurism was a movement that started in 20th century Italy. It was concerned with visual and literary arts. The writers in this movement valued concise language, new styles, a complete overhaul of how the meter was used, irony, and more. Futurist literature includes plays and poems. The authors didn’t believe in writing anything that could resemble a book or longer work of literature.

Characteristics of Futurism

The seven characteristics of futurism are:

  • Intuition: the means through which writing or art took place. It was about spontaneous creation and creating art in its own language.
  • Analogy: demonstrated that everything was related to everything else. Doing so connected all things and showed the truth of existence.
  • Irony: used as an “untried” and forgotten method of writing. Appealed to futurists need to try new things.
  • Abolition of syntax: syntax was thrown off in order to free the poet’s mind. It acted as a filter that Futurists didn’t want to deal with.
  • Metrical reform: all types of meter were rejected, and words were centered as the primary structural element. They did not consider their poetry as written in free verse.
  • Onomatopoeia: four forms used in futurism. They were indirect, direct, integral, and abstract. Direct is the most commonly used. Integral referred to the use of any and every sound “irrespective of its similarity to significant words,” as described in Futurism and Its place in the development of Modern Poetry: A Comparative Study and Anthology. Abstract tried to represent the interior movements and motions of the soul.
  • Essential and synthetic lyricism: hyper consciousness that allowed for better analogies. This type of lyricism, referred to the removal of superfluous parts of writing and led to the exclusion of novels from the Futurist movement.

Important Futurist Writers

  • Vladimir Mayakovsky
  • Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
  • Alvin Toffler
  • Ray Kurzweil
  • David Burliuk
  • Velimir Khlebnikov

Examples of Futurist Literature

Incantation by Laughter by Velimir Khlebnikov

Velimir Khlebnikov was an important Russian, futurist poet. His ‘Incantation by Laughter’ is one of his better-known poems. In it, he creates a series of phrases that are all built around the root word, “smekh” or “laughter.” He adds prefixes and suffixes, many of which feel impossible or absurd. It explores word construction, as some of the best futurist poems do. Here is a translation of the first lines of the poem:

O, laugh, laughers!

O, laugh out, laughers!

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

O, laugh out laugheringly

It should be noted that Futurist poems can be quite hard to translate. Such is the case, especially when they push the boundaries of the original language they were written in.

A Talk With a Tax Collector by Vladimir Mayakovsky

Vladimir Mayakovsky is another famed Futurist Russian poet. Below is an excerpt from one of his better-known poems, ‘A Talk With a Tax Collector.’ This poem is an interesting one. It jumps across the page, making use of the beginning, middle, and end of lines in a random-seeming way. Some of the lines read:

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:

The poem continues on in this way, relaying the two sides of the conversation with the tax collector.

To a Racing Car by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

Here are a few lines from ‘To a Racing Car,’ one of Marinetti’s best poems.

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.

Here, the reader can explore a wide variety of imagery, as translated from the original Italian, without much getting in the way. The poet used as few unnecessary words as possible, making sure he stuck to the root of what he wanted the poem to be about and what he wanted the reader to experience.

Futurism and Visual Arts

In addition to being a literary movement, Futurism was an artistic one. It took place at the same time and sought to capture the movement and energy of the contemporary world. Futurist painting included elements of cubism and neo-impressionism. The composition was often fragmented and energetic feeling. Some of the most important artists of the movement were Giacomo Balla and Umberto Boccioni.


What is futurism in Russian Literature?

In Russian literature, Futurism was an important movement. Authors like Vladimir Mayakovsky and Velimir Khlebnikov wrote some of the best-known Russian Futurist poems.

Is futurism a genre?

Futurism is a modernist movement in literature and part of the broader Futurist art movement that occurred around the world during the early 1900s. It is defined by a few interesting characteristics and limited to plays, poems, and other short literary works.

Who started futurism?

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti is credited with laying the groundwork of Futurism. His book, Manifesto of Futurism, published in 1909, contains much of what a reader would need to know in order to understand Futurism.

What is futurism known for?

Futurism is known for its concise avant-garde style, use of irony, rejection of both meter and free verse, use of imagery, unexpected analogies, and comparisons, as well as nonsensical humor. The latter was especially prominent in the theatre.

In which countries did futurism have a strong influence?

Russia and Italy are the two countries that were most strongly influenced by Futurism. It’s from these two countries that the vast majority of Futurist writers emerged. Others include Poland, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia, Portugal, Brazil, and Ukraine.

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