Browning's modernism has most often been seen as originating in his use of the dramatic monologue. Blending traditional poetic genres and emphasizing powerfully realized psychological states, the monologues have been described as a source of literary technique in authors as diverse as Conrad, Pound, Eliot, and Joyce. This strain of criticism suggests that Browning's sense of character is his primary strength and that it combines with his dramatic ability to place a fictional consciousness in accurately circumscribed historical time. These arguments leave one essential question unanswered – “to what extent is Browning sympathizing with his characters and to what extent is he passing judgment on them from some objective viewpoint outside the poem?” This question has become an increasingly important focus of critical discussion in recent years. The notion of sympathy is affirmed by defenders of Browning's moral relativism, while the idea of an absolute standard is advanced by those who defend his ability to identify with characters with whom he is actually in disagreement.