Postmodern literature

From Academic Kids


The literature which arose as a series of styles and ideas in the post-World War II period which reacted against the perceived norms of modernism has been termed postmodern literature, even as it extended many of the fundamental techniques and assumptions of modern literature (see modernism, postmodernism).


Postmodern literature does not set itself against modern literature as much as it develops and extends the style, making it self-conscious and ironic. Both modern and postmodern literature represent a break from 19th century realism, in which a story was told from an objective or omniscient point of view. In character development, both modern and postmodern literature explore subjectivism, turning from external reality to examine inner states of consciousness, in many cases drawing on modernist examples in the stream of consciousness styles of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. In addition, both modern and postmodern literature explore fragmentariness in narrative- and character-construction, reflective of the works of Swedish dramatist August Strindberg and the Italian author Luigi Pirandello.

Unlike postmodern literature, however, modernist literature saw fragmentation and extreme subjectivity as an existential crisis or a Freudian internal conflict. In postmodern literature, however, this crisis is avoided. The tortured, isolated anti-heroes of, say, Knut Hamsun or Samuel Beckett, and the nightmare world of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, make way in postmodern writing for the self-consciously deconstructed and self-reflexive narrators of novels by Vladimir Nabokov, Vladimir Sorokin, Gerhard Anna Concic-Kaucic, John Fowles, John Barth, or Julian Barnes. Meanwhile, authors such as David Foster Wallace, Don DeLillo, and Thomas Pynchon in Gravity's Rainbow satirise the paranoid system-building of the kind associated, by postmodernists, with Enlightenment modernity. This shift in the role of the "inner narrative of the self," from the self at war with itself to the self as arbiter points back to the phenomenological roots of postmodern thought.

Dubbed maximalism by some critics, the sprawling canvas and fragmented narrative of such writers as David Eggers has generated controversy on the "purpose" of a novel as narrative and the standards by which it should be judged. The postmodern position is that the style of a novel must be appropriate to that which it depicts and represents, and points back to such examples in previous ages as Gargantua by Franois Rabelais and the Odyssey of Homer, which Nancy Felson-Rubin hails as the exemplar of the polytropic audience and its engagement with a work. Many modernist critics attack the maximalist novel as being disorganized, sterile and filled with language play for its own sake, empty of value as a narrative—and therefore empty of value as a novel.

The postmodern novel was also part of a larger social project: integration and ending discrimination against women. From the perspective of postmodern writers such as Maya Angelou, the life experiences of women had been systematically suppressed, either by men who did not understand them, or by women who engaged in self-censorship. The hard version of this critique was that this suppression came from the use of rape and incest as tools for the subjugation of women, and their suppression in literature was designed, in an Orwellian sense, to create an absence of language and meta-narrative to shape a response to these realities. The softer version of this critique takes a more modernist shape: that sexism and racism are holdovers from another, less enlightened age and need to be stamped out by exposure and the creation of normative art.

This social project has also been the root of a great deal of controversy. Proponents see it as part of the progressive removal of barriers to social participation in power and art. Opponents deride it as political correctness, where moralizing takes the place of literary merit. This debate reflects larger political conflicts—not only over what is to be done, but how it is to be accomplished.ja:ポストモダン文学 it:Letteratura_postmoderna


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