The article is concerned with the transformations in the understanding of the relationship between the external reality and the inner reality of the perceiving subject that led to a significant shift in the complex way of depicting the subject-object relation in literary works. The author shows that the ability of an individual to understand the world around him and to understand himself changes in the framework of the subject-object relation. The author points out the understanding of the inner reality that prevails in the period of Romanticism, while in the period of Realism and Naturalism, the external reality prevails. At the end of the 19th century, there is a loss of the understanding of both the external and inner reality and a disharmony between the two poles arises. Modern literature with its specific features is taken as a natural consequence of this process. In this way, the author relates the character of the works of art with the sudden transformation of the concept of the world, which is reflected in them.