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Postmodern literature is a form of
literature Literature broadly is any collection of written Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entitie ...

literature
that is characterized by the use of
metafiction Metafiction is a form of fiction Fiction is any creative work A creative work is a manifestation of creativity, creative effort including Work of art, fine artwork (sculpture, paintings, drawing, Sketch (drawing), sketching, performance art) ...
, unreliable narration,
self-reflexivity Image:ouroboros.png, The ancient symbol Ouroboros, a dragon that continually consumes itself, denotes self-reference. Self-reference occurs in natural language, natural or formal languages when a Sentence (linguistics), sentence, idea or Well-fo ...
,
intertextuality Intertextuality is the shaping of a text's meaning by another text. It is the interconnection between similar or related works of literature that reflect and influence an audience's interpretation of the text. Intertextuality is the relation betwe ...
, and which often thematizes both historical and political issues. This style of
experimental literature Experimental literature is a genre that is, according to Warren Motte in his essa"Experimental Writing, Experimental Reading" "difficult to define with any sort of precision." He says the "writing is often invoked in an "offhand manner" and the ...
emerged strongly in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
in the 1960s through the writings of
author An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book A book is a medium for recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or item ...

author
s such as
Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (; November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, he published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five nonfiction works, with further collections being ...

Kurt Vonnegut
,
Thomas Pynchon Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. ( , ; born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist. A MacArthur Fellow The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly but unofficially known as the "Genius Grant", is a prize awarded ...
,
William Gaddis William Thomas Gaddis, Jr. (December 29, 1922 – December 16, 1998) was an American novelist. The first and longest of his five novels, ''The Recognitions ''The Recognitions'' is the 1955 debut novel of US author William Gaddis. The ...
,
Philip K. Dick Philip Kindred Dick (December 16, 1928March 2, 1982) was an American writer known for his work in science fiction File:Imagination 195808.jpg, Space exploration, as predicted in August 1958 in the science fiction magazine ''Imagination (magaz ...
,
Kathy Acker Kathy Acker (April 18, 1947 – November 30, 1997) was an American experimental literature, experimental novelist, playwright, essayist, and postmodernism, postmodernist writer, known for her idiosyncratic and transgressive writing that dealt wi ...
, and
John Barth John Simmons Barth (; born May 27, 1930) is an American writer who is best known for his postmodernist Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is th ...
. Postmodernists often challenge
authorities
authorities
, which has been seen as a symptom of the fact that this style of literature first emerged in the context of political tendencies in the 1960s.
Linda Hutcheon Linda Hutcheon, FRSC, O.C. (born August 24, 1947) is a Canadian academic working in the fields of literary theory and criticism Critique is a wikt:method, method of disciplined, systematic study of a written or oral discourse. Although crit ...
(1988) ''A Poetics of Postmodernism.'' London: Routledge, pp. 202-203.
This inspiration is, among other things, seen through how postmodern literature is highly self-reflexive about the political issues it speaks to. Precursors to postmodern literature include
Miguel de Cervantes Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (; 29 September 1547 (assumed)22 April 1616 NS) was a Spanish writer widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language and one of the world's pre-eminent novelists. He is best known for his novel ''D ...

Miguel de Cervantes
’ ''
Don Quixote (, ;Oxford English Dictionary,Don Quixote , ) is a Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ont ...

Don Quixote
'' (1605-1615),
Laurence Sterne Laurence Sterne (24 November 1713 – 18 March 1768), an Anglo-Irish novelist and Anglican cleric, wrote the novels ''The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman'' and ''A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy'', published Sermons ...

Laurence Sterne
’s ''
Tristram Shandy Tristram may refer to: Literature * the title character of ''The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman ''The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman'', also known as just ''Tristram Shandy'', is a novel by Laurence Sterne ...
'' (1760-1767), and
Jack Kerouac Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac (; March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969), known as Jack Kerouac, was an American novelist and poet of French Canadians, French Canadian ancestry, who, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, was a pioneer o ...

Jack Kerouac
's ''
On the Road ''On the Road'' is a 1957 novel by American writer Jack Kerouac Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac (; March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969), known as Jack Kerouac, was an American novelist and poet of French Canadians, French Canadian ancestry, wh ...

On the Road
'' (1957), but postmodern literature was particularly prominent in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 21st century,
American literature American literature is literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In ...
still features a strong current of postmodern writing, like the postironic
Dave Eggers Dave Eggers (born March 12, 1970) is an American writer, editor, and publisher. He wrote the best-selling memoir ''A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius ''A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius'' is a memoir A memoir (; from French: ...
’ ''
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius ''A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius'' is a memoir by Dave Eggers released in 2000 in literature, 2000. It chronicles his stewardship of his younger brother Christopher "Toph" Eggers following the cancer-related deaths of his parents. The ...
'' (2000), and
Jennifer Egan Jennifer Egan (born September 7, 1962) is an American novelist and short-story writer. Egan's novel ''A Visit from the Goon Squad'' won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. As of February 28, 2 ...
’s ''
A Visit from the Goon Squad ''A Visit from the Goon Squad'' is a 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning work of fiction by American author Jennifer Egan. The book is a set of thirteen interrelated stories with a large set of characters all connected to Bennie Salazar, a record company ...
'' (2011). These works, however, also further develop the postmodern form. Sometimes the term "postmodernism" is used to discuss many different things ranging from
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architecture
to historical theory to
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such questio ...

philosophy
and
film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pigmented liquid, liquefiable, ...

film
. Because of this fact, several people distinguish between several forms of postmodernism and thus suggest that there are three forms of postmodernism: (1) Postmodernity is understood as a
historical period Periodized human history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's past. It is understood through archaeology, anthropology, genetics, and linguistics, and since the History of writing, advent of writing, from p ...
from the mid-1960s to the present, which is different from the (2) theoretical postmodernism, which encompasses the theories developed by thinkers such as
Roland Barthes Roland Gérard Barthes (; ; 12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980) was a French literary theorist Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an a ...

Roland Barthes
,
Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (; ; born Jackie Élie Derrida; See also . July 15, 1930 – October 9, 2004), born in Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers ...
,
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, History of ideas, historian of ideas, writer, political activist, and Literary criticism, literary critic. Foucault's theories primarily address the relationship ...

Michel Foucault
and others. The third category is the “cultural postmodernism,” which includes film, literature, visual arts, etc. that feature postmodern elements. Postmodern literature is, in this sense, part of cultural postmodernism.


Background


Notable influences

Late 19th and early 20th century playwrights whose work influenced the aesthetics of postmodernism include
August Strindberg Johan August Strindberg (, ; 22 January 184914 May 1912) was a Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, essayist and painter.Lane (1998), 1040. A prolific writer who often drew directly on his personal experience, Strindberg's career spanned four de ...

August Strindberg
,
Luigi Pirandello Luigi Pirandello (; 28 June 1867 – 10 December 1936) was an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian l ...

Luigi Pirandello
, and
Bertolt Brecht Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956), known professionally as Bertolt Brecht, was a German theatre practitioner A theatre practitioner is someone who creates theatrical performances and/or produces a theoretica ...

Bertolt Brecht
. Another precursor to postmodernism was
Dadaism Dada () or Dadaism was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century, with early centres in Zürich, Switzerland, at the Cabaret Voltaire (Zurich), Cabaret Voltaire (c. 1916). New York Dada began c. 1915, and after 1920 ...
, which challenged the authority of the artist and highlighted elements of chance, whim, parody, and irony.
Tristan Tzara Tristan Tzara (; ; born Samuel or Samy Rosenstock, also known as S. Samyro; – 25 December 1963) was a Romanian and French avant-garde The avant-garde (; In 'advance guard' or '', literally 'fore-guard') are people or works that are exper ...

Tristan Tzara
claimed in "How to Make a Dadaist Poem" that to create a Dadaist poem one had only to put random words in a hat and pull them out one by one. Another way Dadaism influenced postmodern literature was in the development of collage, specifically collages using elements from advertisement or illustrations from popular novels (the collages of
Max Ernst Max Ernst (2 April 1891 – 1 April 1976) was a German (naturalised American in 1948 and French in 1958) painter, sculptor, graphic artist A graphic designer is a professional within the graphic design Graphic design is the art, professio ...
, for example). Artists associated with
Surrealism Surrealism was a cultural movement A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") ...

Surrealism
, which developed from Dadaism, continued experimentations with chance and parody while celebrating the flow of the subconscious mind.
André Breton André Robert Breton (; 18 February 1896 – 28 September 1966) was a French writer and poet. He is known best as the co-founder, leader, principal theorist and chief apologist of surrealism Surrealism was a that developed in Europe in the ...

André Breton
, the founder of Surrealism, suggested that automatism and the description of dreams should play a greater role in the creation of literature. He used automatism to create his novel ''
Nadja Nadja may refer to: * Nadja (given name) * Nadja Malacrida, Nadja, pen-name of Louisa Nadia Green (1896—1934), British poet * Nadja (novel), ''Nadja'' (novel), 1928 surrealist novel by André Breton * Nadja (film), ''Nadja'' (film), 1994 vampire ...
'' and used photographs to replace description as a parody of the overly-descriptive novelists he often criticized. Surrealist
René Magritte René François Ghislain Magritte (; 21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967) was a List of Belgians, Belgian surrealist artist, who became well known for creating a number of witty and thought-provoking images. Often depicting ordinary objects in a ...
's experiments with signification are used as examples by
Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (; ; born Jackie Élie Derrida; See also . July 15, 1930 – October 9, 2004), born in Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers ...
and
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, History of ideas, historian of ideas, writer, political activist, and Literary criticism, literary critic. Foucault's theories primarily address the relationship ...

Michel Foucault
. Foucault also uses examples from
Jorge Luis Borges Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (; ; 24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986) was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and a key figure in Spanish literature, Spanish-language and international literature. His ...

Jorge Luis Borges
, an important direct influence on many postmodernist fiction writers. He is occasionally listed as a postmodernist, although he started writing in the 1920s. The influence of his experiments with
metafiction Metafiction is a form of fiction Fiction is any creative work A creative work is a manifestation of creativity, creative effort including Work of art, fine artwork (sculpture, paintings, drawing, Sketch (drawing), sketching, performance art) ...
and
magic realism Magic realism (also known as magical realism or marvelous realism) is a 20th-century style Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style An architectural style is a set of characteristics and features ...
was not fully realized in the Anglo-American world until the postmodern period. Ultimately, this is seen as the highest stratification of criticism among scholars.Lewis, Barry. ''Postmodernism and Literature // The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism''. NY: Routledge, 2002. Other early 20th-century novels such as
Raymond Roussel Raymond Roussel (; 20 January 1877 – 14 July 1933) was a French poet, novelist, playwright, musician, and chess enthusiast. Through his novels, poems, and plays he exerted a profound influence on certain groups within French literature of the 20t ...

Raymond Roussel
's ' (1910) and ''
Locus Solus ''Locus Solus'' is a 1914 French novel by Raymond Roussel Raymond Roussel (; 20 January 1877 – 14 July 1933) was a French poet, novelist, playwright, musician, and chess enthusiast. Through his novels, poems, and plays he exerted a profound in ...
'' (1914), and
Giorgio de Chirico Giorgio de Chirico ( , ; 10 July 1888 – 20 November 1978) was an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** I ...
's '' Hebdomeros'' (1929) have also been identified as important "postmodern precursor .


Comparisons with modernist literature

Postmodern literature represents a break from the 19th century
realism Realism, Realistic, or Realists may refer to: In the arts *Realism (arts) Realism in the arts is generally the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding speculative fiction and fantasy literature, su ...
. In character development, both modern and postmodern literature explore
subjectivism Subjectivism is the doctrine that "our own mental activity is the only unquestionable fact of our experience", instead of shared or communal, and that there is no external or objective truth. The success of this position is historically attribute ...
, turning from external reality to examine inner states of consciousness, in many cases drawing on
modernist Modernism is both a philosophical movement A philosophical movement refers to the phenomenon defined by a group of philosophers A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and ...
examples in the "
stream of consciousness In literary criticism Literary criticism (or literary studies) is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical analysis, philosophica ...
" styles of
James Joyce James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet and literary critic. He contributed to the modernist , Solomon Guggenheim Museum 1946–1959 Modernism is both a philosoph ...
and
Virginia Woolf Adeline Virginia Woolf (; ; 25 January 1882 28 March 1941) was an English writer, considered one of the most important modernist Modernism is both a philosophical movement A philosophical movement refers to the phenomenon defined by a ...

Virginia Woolf
, or explorative poems like ''
The Waste Land ''The Waste Land'' is a poem by T. S. Eliot Thomas Stearns Eliot (26 September 18884 January 1965) was a poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet ma ...
'' by
T. S. Eliot Thomas Stearns Eliot (26 September 18884 January 1965) was a poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform the ...
. In addition, both modern and postmodern literature explore fragmentariness in narrative- and character-construction. ''The Waste Land'' is often cited as a means of distinguishing modern and postmodern literature. The poem is fragmentary and employs pastiche like much postmodern literature, but the speaker in ''The Waste Land'' says, "these fragments I have shored against my ruins". Modernist literature sees fragmentation and extreme subjectivity as an existential crisis, or Freudian internal conflict, a problem that must be solved, and the artist is often cited as the one to solve it. Postmodernists, however, often demonstrate that this chaos is insurmountable; the artist is impotent, and the only recourse against "ruin" is to play within the chaos. Playfulness is present in many modernist works (Joyce's ''
Finnegans Wake ''Finnegans Wake'' is a novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfiction Nonfiction (also spelled non-fiction) is any documen ...
'' or Woolf's ''
Orlando Orlando () is a city in the U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in ...
'', for example) and they may seem very similar to postmodern works, but with postmodernism playfulness becomes central and the actual achievement of order and meaning becomes unlikely.
Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) was an American novelist, poet, playwright, and art collector. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh ( ) is a city in the Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English t ...

Gertrude Stein
's playful experiment with metafiction and genre in '' The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas'' (1933) has been interpreted as postmodern.


Shift to postmodernism

As with all stylistic eras, no definite dates exist for the rise and fall of postmodernism's popularity. 1941, the year in which Irish novelist
James Joyce James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet and literary critic. He contributed to the modernist , Solomon Guggenheim Museum 1946–1959 Modernism is both a philosoph ...
and English novelist
Virginia Woolf Adeline Virginia Woolf (; ; 25 January 1882 28 March 1941) was an English writer, considered one of the most important modernist Modernism is both a philosophical movement A philosophical movement refers to the phenomenon defined by a ...

Virginia Woolf
both died, is sometimes used as a rough boundary for postmodernism's start. Irish novelist
Flann O'Brien Brian O'Nolan ( ga, Brian Ó Nualláin; 5 October 1911 – 1 April 1966), better known by his pen name Flann O'Brien, was an Irish novelist, playwright and satirist, considered a major figure in twentieth century Irish literature. Born in Stra ...

Flann O'Brien
completed ''
The Third Policeman ''The Third Policeman'' is a novel by Irish writer Brian O'Nolan, writing under the pseudonym Flann O'Brien. It was written between 1939 and 1940, but after it initially failed to find a publisher, the author withdrew the manuscript from circula ...
'' in 1939. It was rejected for publication and remained supposedly lost until published posthumously in 1967. A revised version called ''
The Dalkey Archive ''The Dalkey Archive'' is a 1964 novel by the Irish Irish most commonly refers to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlanti ...
'' was published before the original in 1964, two years before O'Brien died. Notwithstanding its dilatory appearance, the literary theorist Keith Hopper regards ''The Third Policeman'' as one of the first of that genre they call the postmodern novel. The
prefix A prefix is an affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) ...
"post", however, does not necessarily imply a new era. Rather, it could also indicate a reaction against
modernism Modernism is both a philosophical movement A philosophical movement refers to the phenomenon defined by a group of philosophers A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and ...
in the wake of the Second World War (with its disrespect for human rights, just confirmed in the
Geneva Convention upright=1.15, Original document as PDF in single pages, 1864 The Geneva Conventions are four treaties A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public ...
, through
the rape of Nanking The Nanjing Massacre or the Rape of Nanjing (formerly Chinese postal romanization, romanized as ''Nanking'') was the mass-scale random murder, wartime rape, looting and arson committed by the Imperial Japanese Army against the residents of Na ...
, the Bataan Death March, the
atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki The United States detonated two nuclear weapons A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive fo ...
,
the Holocaust The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the genocide Genocide is the attempted destruction of a people, usually defined as an ethnic An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify wi ...
, the
bombing of Dresden The bombing of Dresden was a British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British iden ...
, the
Katyn massacre The Katyn massacre, "Katyń crime"; russian: link=yes, Катынская резня ''Katynskaya reznya'', "Katyn massacre", or russian: link=no, Катынский расстрел, ''Katynsky rasstrel'', "Katyn execution" was a series of m ...

Katyn massacre
, the fire-bombing of Tokyo, and
Japanese American internment In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, st ...
). It could also imply a reaction to significant post-war events: the beginning of the
Cold War The Cold War was a period of geopolitical Geopolitics (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country loc ...
, the
Civil Rights Movement The 1954–1968 civil rights movement in the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North ...
, postcolonialism (Postcolonial literature), and the History of computing hardware (1960s–present), rise of the personal computer (Cyberpunk and Hypertext fiction). Some further argue that the beginning of postmodern literature could be marked by significant publications or literary events. For example, some mark the beginning of postmodernism with the first publication of John Hawkes (novelist), John Hawkes' ''The Cannibal (Hawkes novel), The Cannibal'' in 1949, the first performance of ''En attendant Godot'' in 1953 (''Waiting for Godot'', 1955), the first publication of ''Howl'' in 1956 or of ''Naked Lunch'' in 1959. For others the beginning is marked by moments in critical theory:
Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (; ; born Jackie Élie Derrida; See also . July 15, 1930 – October 9, 2004), born in Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers ...
's "Structure, Sign, and Play" lecture in 1966 or as late as Ihab Hassan's usage in ''The Dismemberment of Orpheus'' in 1971. Brian McHale details his main thesis on this shift, although many postmodern works have developed out of modernism, modernism is characterised by an epistemological dominant while postmodern works are primarily concerned with questions of ontology.


Post-war developments and transition figures

Though postmodernist literature does not include everything written in the postmodern period, several post-war developments in literature (such as the Theatre of the Absurd, the Beat Generation, and
magic realism Magic realism (also known as magical realism or marvelous realism) is a 20th-century style Style is a manner of doing or presenting things and may refer to: * Architectural style An architectural style is a set of characteristics and features ...
) have significant similarities. These developments are occasionally collectively labeled "postmodern"; more commonly, some key figures (Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs,
Jorge Luis Borges Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (; ; 24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986) was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and a key figure in Spanish literature, Spanish-language and international literature. His ...

Jorge Luis Borges
, Julio Cortázar and Gabriel García Márquez) are cited as significant contributors to the postmodern aesthetic. The work of Alfred Jarry, the Surrealists, Antonin Artaud,
Luigi Pirandello Luigi Pirandello (; 28 June 1867 – 10 December 1936) was an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian l ...

Luigi Pirandello
and so on also influenced the work of playwrights from the Theatre of the Absurd. The term "Theatre of the Absurd" was coined by Martin Esslin to describe a tendency in theatre in the 1950s; he related it to Albert Camus's concept of the absurdism, absurd. The plays of the Theatre of the Absurd parallel postmodern fiction in many ways. For example, ''The Bald Soprano'' by Eugène Ionesco is essentially a series of clichés taken from a language textbook. One of the most important figures to be categorized as both Absurdist and Postmodern is Samuel Beckett. The work of Beckett is often seen as marking the shift from modernism to postmodernism in literature. He had close ties with modernism because of his friendship with James Joyce; however, his work helped shape the development of literature away from modernism. Joyce, one of the exemplars of modernism, celebrated the possibility of language; Beckett had a revelation in 1945 that, in order to escape the shadow of Joyce, he must focus on the poverty of language and man as a failure. His later work, likewise, featured characters stuck in inescapable situations attempting impotently to communicate whose only recourse is to play, to make the best of what they have. As Hans-Peter Wagner says: The "Beat Generation" was the youth of America during the materialistic 1950s;
Jack Kerouac Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac (; March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969), known as Jack Kerouac, was an American novelist and poet of French Canadians, French Canadian ancestry, who, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, was a pioneer o ...

Jack Kerouac
, who coined the term, developed ideas of automatism into what he called "spontaneous prose" to create a maximalistic, multi-novel epic called the Duluoz Legend in the mold of Marcel Proust's ''In Search of Lost Time''. More broadly, "Beat Generation" often includes several groups of post-war American writers from the Black Mountain poets, the New York School (art), New York School, the San Francisco Renaissance, and so on. These writers have occasionally also been referred to as the "Postmoderns" (see especially references by Charles Olson and the Grove Press, Grove anthologies edited by Donald Allen). Though this is now a less common usage of "postmodern", references to these writers as "postmodernists" still appear and many writers associated with this group (John Ashbery, Richard Brautigan, Gilbert Sorrentino, and so on) appear often on lists of postmodern writers. One writer associated with the Beat Generation who appears most often on lists of postmodern writers is William S. Burroughs. Burroughs published ''Naked Lunch'' in Paris in 1959 and in America in 1961; this is considered by some the first truly postmodern novel because it is fragmentary, with no central narrative arc; it employs pastiche to fold in elements from popular genres such as detective fiction and science fiction; it's full of parody, paradox, and playfulness; and, according to some accounts, friends Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg edited the book guided by chance. He is also noted, along with Brion Gysin, for the creation of the "cut-up" technique, a technique (similar to Tzara's "Dadaist Poem") in which words and phrases are cut from a newspaper or other publication and rearranged to form a new message. This is the technique he used to create novels such as ''Nova Express'' and ''The Ticket That Exploded''. Magic Realism is a technique popular among Latin American writers (and can also be considered its own genre) in which supernatural elements are treated as mundane (a famous example being the practical-minded and ultimately dismissive treatment of an apparently angelic figure in Gabriel García Márquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"). Though the technique has its roots in traditional storytelling, it was a center piece of the Latin American Boom, Latin American "boom", a movement coterminous with postmodernism. Some of the major figures of the "Boom" and practitioners of Magic Realism (Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar etc.) are sometimes listed as postmodernists. This labeling, however, is not without its problems. In Spanish-speaking Latin America, ''modernismo'' and ''posmodernismo'' refer to early 20th-century literary movements that have no direct relationship to ''modernism'' and ''postmodernism'' in English. Finding it anachronistic, Octavio Paz has argued that postmodernism is an imported grand récit that is incompatible with the cultural production of Latin America. Along with Beckett and Borges, a commonly cited transitional figure is Vladimir Nabokov; like Beckett and Borges, Nabokov started publishing before the beginning of postmodernity (1926 in Russian, 1941 in English). Though his most famous novel, ''Lolita'' (1955), could be considered a modernist or a postmodernist novel, his later work (specifically ''Pale Fire'' in 1962 and ''Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle'' in 1969) are more clearly postmodern.


Scope

Some of the earliest examples of postmodern literature are from the 1950s:
William Gaddis William Thomas Gaddis, Jr. (December 29, 1922 – December 16, 1998) was an American novelist. The first and longest of his five novels, ''The Recognitions ''The Recognitions'' is the 1955 debut novel of US author William Gaddis. The ...
' ''The Recognitions'' (1955), Vladimir Nabokov's ''Lolita'' (1955), and William Burroughs' ''Naked Lunch'' (1959). It then rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s with the publication of Joseph Heller's ''Catch-22'' in 1961, John Barth's ''Lost in the Funhouse'' in 1968, Kurt Vonnegut's ''Slaughterhouse-Five'' in 1969, and many others.
Thomas Pynchon Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. ( , ; born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist. A MacArthur Fellow The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly but unofficially known as the "Genius Grant", is a prize awarded ...
's 1973 novel ''Gravity's Rainbow'' is "often considered as postmodern novel, redefining both postmodernism and the novel in general." The 1980s, however, also saw several key works of postmodern literature. Don DeLillo's ''White Noise (novel), White Noise'', Paul Auster's ''New York Trilogy'' and this is also the era when literary critics wrote some of the classic works of literary history, charting American postmodern literature: works by Brian McHale,
Linda Hutcheon Linda Hutcheon, FRSC, O.C. (born August 24, 1947) is a Canadian academic working in the fields of literary theory and criticism Critique is a wikt:method, method of disciplined, systematic study of a written or oral discourse. Although crit ...
, and Paul Maltby who argues that it was not until the 1980s that the term "postmodern" caught on as the label for this style of writing. A new generation of writers—such as David Foster Wallace, William T. Vollmann,
Dave Eggers Dave Eggers (born March 12, 1970) is an American writer, editor, and publisher. He wrote the best-selling memoir ''A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius ''A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius'' is a memoir A memoir (; from French: ...
, Michael Chabon, Zadie Smith, Chuck Palahniuk,
Jennifer Egan Jennifer Egan (born September 7, 1962) is an American novelist and short-story writer. Egan's novel ''A Visit from the Goon Squad'' won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. As of February 28, 2 ...
, Neil Gaiman, Carole Maso, Richard Powers, Jonathan Lethem—and publications such as ''Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, McSweeney's'', ''The Believer (magazine), The Believer'', and the fiction pages of ''The New Yorker'', herald either a new chapter of postmodernism or possibly post-postmodernism. Many of these authors emphasize a strong urge for sincerity in literature.


Common themes and techniques

Several themes and techniques are indicative of writing in the postmodern era. These themes and techniques are often used together. For example, metafiction and pastiche are often used for irony. These are not used by all postmodernists, nor is this an exclusive list of features.


Irony, playfulness, black humor

Linda Hutcheon Linda Hutcheon, FRSC, O.C. (born August 24, 1947) is a Canadian academic working in the fields of literary theory and criticism Critique is a wikt:method, method of disciplined, systematic study of a written or oral discourse. Although crit ...
claimed postmodern fiction as a whole could be characterized by the ironic quote marks, that much of it can be taken as tongue-in-cheek. This irony, along with black humor and the general concept of "play" (related to Derrida's concept or the ideas advocated by
Roland Barthes Roland Gérard Barthes (; ; 12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980) was a French literary theorist Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an a ...

Roland Barthes
in ''The Pleasure of the Text'') are among the most recognizable aspects of postmodernism. Though the idea of employing these in literature did not start with the postmodernists (the modernists were often playful and ironic), they became central features in many postmodern works. In fact, several novelists later to be labeled postmodern were first collectively labeled black humorists:
John Barth John Simmons Barth (; born May 27, 1930) is an American writer who is best known for his postmodernist Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is th ...
, Joseph Heller,
William Gaddis William Thomas Gaddis, Jr. (December 29, 1922 – December 16, 1998) was an American novelist. The first and longest of his five novels, ''The Recognitions ''The Recognitions'' is the 1955 debut novel of US author William Gaddis. The ...
,
Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (; November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, he published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five nonfiction works, with further collections being ...

Kurt Vonnegut
, Bruce Jay Friedman, etc. It is common for postmodernists to treat serious subjects in a playful and humorous way: for example, the way Heller and Vonnegut address the events of World War II. The central concept of Heller's ''Catch-22'' is the irony of the now-idiomatic "catch-22 (logic), catch-22", and the narrative is structured around a long series of similar ironies.
Thomas Pynchon Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. ( , ; born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist. A MacArthur Fellow The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly but unofficially known as the "Genius Grant", is a prize awarded ...
's ''The Crying of Lot 49'' in particular provides prime examples of playfulness, often including silly wordplay, within a serious context. For example, it contains characters named Mike Fallopian and Stanley Koteks and a radio station called KCUF, while the novel as a whole has a serious subject and a complex structure.


Intertextuality

Since postmodernism represents a decentred concept of the universe in which individual works are not isolated creations, much of the focus in the study of postmodern literature is on
intertextuality Intertextuality is the shaping of a text's meaning by another text. It is the interconnection between similar or related works of literature that reflect and influence an audience's interpretation of the text. Intertextuality is the relation betwe ...
: the relationship between one text (a novel for example) and another or one text within the interwoven fabric of literary history. Intertextuality in postmodern literature can be a reference or Parallel novel, parallel to another literary work, an extended discussion of a work, or the adoption of a style. In postmodern literature this commonly manifests as references to fairy tales—as in works by Margaret Atwood, Donald Barthelme, and many others—or in references to popular genres such as sci-fi and detective fiction. Often intertextuality is more complicated than a single reference to another text. Robert Coover's ''Pinocchio in Venice'', for example, links Pinocchio to Thomas Mann's ''Death in Venice''. Also, Umberto Eco's ''The Name of the Rose'' takes on the form of a detective novel and makes references to authors such as Aristotle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Borges.''The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory''. J.A.Cuddon. An early 20th century example of intertextuality which influenced later postmodernists is "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" by
Jorge Luis Borges Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (; ; 24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986) was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and a key figure in Spanish literature, Spanish-language and international literature. His ...

Jorge Luis Borges
, a story with significant references to ''
Don Quixote (, ;Oxford English Dictionary,Don Quixote , ) is a Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ont ...

Don Quixote
'' which is also a good example of
intertextuality Intertextuality is the shaping of a text's meaning by another text. It is the interconnection between similar or related works of literature that reflect and influence an audience's interpretation of the text. Intertextuality is the relation betwe ...
with its references to Medieval romances. ''Don Quixote'' is a common reference with postmodernists, for example
Kathy Acker Kathy Acker (April 18, 1947 – November 30, 1997) was an American experimental literature, experimental novelist, playwright, essayist, and postmodernism, postmodernist writer, known for her idiosyncratic and transgressive writing that dealt wi ...
's novel ''Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream''. References to ''Don Quixote'' can also be seen in Paul Auster's post-modern detective story, ''City of Glass (Paul Auster book), City of Glass''. Another example of intertextuality in postmodernism is John Barth's ''The Sot-Weed Factor (1960 novel), The Sot-Weed Factor'' which deals with Ebenezer Cooke (poet), Ebenezer Cooke's The Sot-Weed Factor (1708 poem), poem of the same name.


Pastiche

Related to postmodern intertextuality, pastiche means to combine, or "paste" together, multiple elements. In Postmodernist literature this can be a homage to or a parody of past styles. It can be seen as a representation of the chaotic, pluralistic, or information-drenched aspects of postmodern society. It can be a combination of multiple genres to create a unique narrative or to comment on situations in postmodernity: for example, William S. Burroughs uses science fiction, detective fiction, westerns; Margaret Atwood uses science fiction and fairy tales; Umberto Eco uses detective fiction, fairy tales, and science fiction, and so on. Though commonly involves the mixing of genres, many other elements are also included (metafiction and temporal distortion are common in the broader pastiche of the postmodern novel). In Robert Coover's 1977 novel ''The Public Burning'', Coover mixes historically inaccurate accounts of Richard Nixon interacting with historical figures and fictional characters such as Uncle Sam and Betty Crocker. Pastiche can instead involve a compositional technique, for example the cut-up technique employed by Burroughs. Another example is B. S. Johnson's 1969 novel ''The Unfortunates''; it was released in a box with no binding so that readers could assemble it however they chose.


Metafiction

Metafiction is essentially writing about writing or "foregrounding the apparatus", as it's typical of deconstructionist approaches, making the artificiality of art or the fictionality of fiction apparent to the reader and generally disregards the necessity for "willing suspension of disbelief." For example, postmodern sensibility and metafiction dictate that works of parody should parody the idea of parody itself. Metafiction is often employed to undermine the authority of the author, for unexpected narrative shifts, to advance a story in a unique way, for emotional distance, or to comment on the act of storytelling. For example, Italo Calvino's 1979 novel ''If on a winter's night a traveler'' is about a reader attempting to read a novel of the same name.
Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (; November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, he published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five nonfiction works, with further collections being ...

Kurt Vonnegut
also commonly used this technique: the first chapter of his 1969 novel ''Slaughterhouse-Five'' is about the process of writing the novel and calls attention to his own presence throughout the novel. Though much of the novel has to do with Vonnegut's own experiences during the firebombing of Dresden, Vonnegut continually points out the artificiality of the central narrative arc which contains obviously fictional elements such as aliens and time travel. Similarly, Tim O'Brien (author), Tim O'Brien's 1990 short story cycle ''The Things They Carried'', about one platoon's experiences during the Vietnam War, features a character named Tim O'Brien; though O'Brien was a Vietnam veteran, the book is a work of fiction and O'Brien calls into question the fictionality of the characters and incidents throughout the book. One story in the book, "How to Tell a True War Story", questions the nature of telling stories. Factual retellings of war stories, the narrator says, would be unbelievable, and heroic, moral war stories don't capture the truth. David Foster Wallace in ''The Pale King'' writes that the copyright page claims it is fiction only for legal purposes, and that everything within the novel is non-fiction. He employs a character in the novel named David Foster Wallace. Giannina Braschi also has a namesake character and uses metafiction and pastiche in her novels ''Yo-Yo Boing!'' and ''United States of Banana'' about the collapse of the American empire.


Fabulation

Fabulation is a term sometimes used interchangeably with metafiction and relates to pastiche and Magic Realism. It is a rejection of realism which embraces the notion that literature is a created work and not bound by notions of mimesis and verisimilitude. Thus, fabulation challenges some traditional notions of literature—the traditional structure of a novel or role of the narrator, for example—and integrates other traditional notions of storytelling, including fantastical elements, such as magic and myth, or elements from popular genres such as science fiction. By some accounts, the term was coined by Robert Scholes in his book ''The Fabulators''. Strong examples of fabulation in contemporary literature are found in Salman Rushdie's ''Haroun and the Sea of Stories''.


Poioumena

Poioumenon (plural: poioumena; from grc, wikt:ποιέω, ποιούμενον, "product") is a term coined by Alastair Fowler to refer to a specific type of metafiction in which the story is about the process of creation. According to Fowler, "the poioumenon is calculated to offer opportunities to explore the boundaries of fiction and reality—the limits of narrative truth." In many cases, the book will be about the process of creating the book or includes a central metaphor for this process. Common examples of this are Thomas Carlyle's ''Sartor Resartus'', and
Laurence Sterne Laurence Sterne (24 November 1713 – 18 March 1768), an Anglo-Irish novelist and Anglican cleric, wrote the novels ''The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman'' and ''A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy'', published Sermons ...

Laurence Sterne
's ''
Tristram Shandy Tristram may refer to: Literature * the title character of ''The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman ''The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman'', also known as just ''Tristram Shandy'', is a novel by Laurence Sterne ...
'', which is about the narrator's frustrated attempt to tell his own story. A significant postmodern example is Vladimir Nabokov's ''Pale Fire'' (1962), in which the narrator, Kinbote, claims he is writing an analysis of John Shade's long poem "Pale Fire", but the narrative of the relationship between Shade and Kinbote is presented in what is ostensibly the footnotes to the poem. Similarly, the self-conscious narrator in Salman Rushdie's ''Midnight's Children'' parallels the creation of his book to the creation of chutney and the creation of independent India. ''Anagrams'' (1970), by David R. Slavitt, describes a week in the life of a poet and his creation of a poem which, by the last couple of pages, proves remarkably prophetic. In ''The Comforters'', Muriel Spark's protagonist hears the sound of a typewriter and voices that later may transform into the novel itself. Jan Křesadlo purports to be merely the translator of a "chrononaut's" handed down Homeric Greek science fiction epic, the ''Astronautilia''. Other postmodern examples of poioumena include Samuel Beckett's trilogy (''Molloy (novel), Molloy'', ''Malone Dies'' and ''The Unnamable (novel), The Unnamable''); Doris Lessing's ''The Golden Notebook''; John Fowles's ''Mantissa (novel), Mantissa''; William Golding's ''The Paper Men''; Gilbert Sorrentino's ''Mulligan Stew (novel), Mulligan Stew''; and S. D. Chrostowska's ''Permission''.Fowler, Alastair. ''The History of English Literature'', p. 372 Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA (1989)


Historiographic metafiction

Linda Hutcheon Linda Hutcheon, FRSC, O.C. (born August 24, 1947) is a Canadian academic working in the fields of literary theory and criticism Critique is a wikt:method, method of disciplined, systematic study of a written or oral discourse. Although crit ...
coined the term "historiographic metafiction" to refer to works that fictionalize actual historical events or figures; notable examples include ''The General in His Labyrinth'' by Gabriel García Márquez (about Simón Bolívar), ''Flaubert's Parrot'' by Julian Barnes (about Gustave Flaubert), ''Ragtime (novel), Ragtime'' by E. L. Doctorow (which features such historical figures as Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, Booker T. Washington, Sigmund Freud, and Carl Jung), and Rabih Alameddine's ''Koolaids: The Art of War'' which makes references to the Lebanese Civil War and various real life political figures.
Thomas Pynchon Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. ( , ; born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist. A MacArthur Fellow The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly but unofficially known as the "Genius Grant", is a prize awarded ...
's ''Mason and Dixon'' also employs this concept; for example, a scene featuring George Washington smoking marijuana is included. John Fowles deals similarly with the Victorian period in ''The French Lieutenant's Woman''. Kurt Vonnegut's ''Slaughterhouse-Five'' has been said to feature a metafictional, "Janus, Janus-headed" outlook in the way the novel seeks to represent both from World War II while, at the same time, the very notion of doing exactly that.Jensen, Mikkel (2016)
Janus-Headed Postmodernism: The Opening Lines of ''Slaughterhouse-Five''
in ''The Explicator'', 74:1, 8-11.


Temporal distortion

Temporal distortion is a common technique in modernist fiction: fragmentation and nonlinear narratives are central features in both modern and postmodern literature. Temporal distortion in postmodern fiction is used in a variety of ways, often for the sake of irony. Historiographic metafiction is an example of this. Distortions in time are central features in many of
Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (; November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, he published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five nonfiction works, with further collections being ...

Kurt Vonnegut
's nonlinear novels, the most famous of which is perhaps Billy Pilgrim in ''Slaughterhouse-Five'' becoming "unstuck in time". In ''Flight to Canada'', Ishmael Reed deals playfully with anachronisms, Abraham Lincoln using a telephone for example. Time may also overlap, repeat, or bifurcate into multiple possibilities. For example, in Robert Coover's "The Babysitter" from ''Pricksongs & Descants'', the author presents multiple possible events occurring simultaneously—in one section the babysitter is murdered while in another section nothing happens and so on—yet no version of the story is favored as the correct version.


Magic realism

Magic realism may be literary work marked by the use of still, sharply defined, smoothly painted images of figures and objects depicted in a surrealistic manner. The themes and subjects are often imaginary, somewhat outlandish and fantastic and with a certain dream-like quality. Some of the characteristic features of this kind of fiction are the mingling and juxtaposition of the realistic and the fantastic or bizarre, skillful time shifts, convoluted and even labyrinthine narratives and plots, miscellaneous use of dreams, myths and fairy stories, expressionistic and even surrealistic description, arcane erudition, the element of surprise or abrupt shock, the horrific and the inexplicable. It has been applied, for instance, to the work of
Jorge Luis Borges Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (; ; 24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986) was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and a key figure in Spanish literature, Spanish-language and international literature. His ...

Jorge Luis Borges
, author of ''Historia universal de la infamia'' (1935) is considered a bridge between modernism and postmodernism in world literature. Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez is also regarded as a notable exponent of this kind of fiction—especially his novel ''One Hundred Years of Solitude''. The Cuban Alejo Carpentier (''The Kingdom of This World'', 1949) is another described as a "magic realist". Postmodernists such as Italo Calvino (''The Baron in the Trees'', 1957), and Salman Rushdie (''The Ground Beneath Her Feet'', 1999), commonly use magic realism in their work. A fusion of fabulism with magic realism is apparent in such early 21st-century American short stories as Kevin Brockmeier's "The Ceiling (short story), The Ceiling", Dan Chaon's "Big Me", Jacob M. Appel's "Exposure", and Elizabeth Graver's "The Mourning Door".


Technoculture and hyperreality

Fredric Jameson called postmodernism the "cultural logic of late capitalism". "Late capitalism" implies that society has moved past the industrial age and into the information age. Likewise, Jean Baudrillard claimed postmodernity was defined by a shift into hyperreality in which simulations have replaced the real. In postmodernity people are inundated with information, technology has become a central focus in many lives, and one's understanding of the real is mediated by simulations of the real. Many works of fiction have dealt with this aspect of postmodernity with characteristic irony and pastiche. For example, the virtual reality of "empathy boxes" in Philip K. Dick, Philip K. Dick's novel ''Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'' in which a new technology-based religion called Mercerism arises. Another example is Don DeLillo's ''White Noise (novel), White Noise'' presents characters who are bombarded with a "white noise" of television, product brand names, and clichés. The cyberpunk fiction of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and many others use science fiction techniques to address this postmodern, hyperreal information bombardment.


Paranoia

Perhaps demonstrated most famously and effectively in Heller's ''Catch-22'', the sense of paranoia, the belief that there's an ordering system behind the chaos of the world is another recurring postmodern theme. For the postmodernist, no ordering is extremely dependent upon the subject, so paranoia often straddles the line between delusion and brilliant insight. Pynchon's ''The Crying of Lot 49'', long-considered a prototype of postmodern literature, presents a situation which may be "coincidence or conspiracy – or a cruel joke". This often coincides with the theme of technoculture and hyperreality. For example, in ''Breakfast of Champions'' by
Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (; November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, he published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five nonfiction works, with further collections being ...

Kurt Vonnegut
, the character Dwayne Hoover becomes violent when he's convinced that everyone else in the world is a robot and he is the only human. This theme is likewise present in the satirical dystopian science-fiction tabletop role-playing game ''Paranoia (role-playing game), Paranoia''.


Maximalism

Dubbed maximalism by some critics, the sprawling canvas and fragmented narrative of such writers as
Dave Eggers Dave Eggers (born March 12, 1970) is an American writer, editor, and publisher. He wrote the best-selling memoir ''A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius ''A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius'' is a memoir A memoir (; from French: ...
and David Foster Wallace 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 what it depicts and represents, and points back to such examples in previous ages as ''Gargantua'' by François Rabelais and the ''Odyssey'' of Homer, which Nancy Felson hails as the exemplar of the polytropic audience and its engagement with a work. Many modernist critics, notably B.R. Myers in his polemic ''A Reader's Manifesto'', attack the maximalist novel as being disorganized, sterile and filled with language play for its own sake, empty of emotional commitment—and therefore empty of value as a novel. Yet there are counter-examples, such as Pynchon's ''Mason & Dixon'' and David Foster Wallace's ''Infinite Jest'' where postmodern narrative coexists with emotional commitment.


Minimalism

Literary minimalism can be characterized as a focus on a surface description where readers are expected to take an active role in the creation of a story. The characters in minimalist stories and novels tend to be unexceptional. Generally, the short stories are "slice of life" stories. Minimalism, the opposite of maximalism, is a representation of only the most basic and necessary pieces, specific by economy with words. Minimalist authors hesitate to use adjectives, adverbs, or meaningless details. Instead of providing every minute detail, the author provides a general Context (language use), context and then allows the reader's imagination to shape the story. Among those categorized as postmodernist, literary minimalism is most commonly associated with Jon Fosse and especially Samuel Beckett.


Fragmentation

Fragmentation is another important aspect of postmodern literature. Various elements, concerning plot, characters, themes, imagery and factual references are fragmented and dispersed throughout the entire work. In general, there is an interrupted sequence of events, character development and action which can at first glance look modern. Fragmentation purports, however, to depict a metaphysically unfounded, chaotic universe. It can occur in language, sentence structure or grammar. In ''Z213: Exit'', a fictional diary by Greek writer Dimitris Lyacos, one of the major exponents of fragmentation in postmodern literature, an almost telegraphic style is adopted, devoid, in most part, of articles and conjunctions. The text is interspersed with Lacuna (manuscripts), lacunae and everyday language combines with poetry and biblical references leading up to syntax disruption and distortion of grammar. A sense of alienation of character and world is created by a language medium invented to form a kind of intermittent syntax structure which complements the illustration of the main character's subconscious fears and paranoia in the course of his exploration of a seemingly chaotic world.


Different perspectives

John Barth John Simmons Barth (; born May 27, 1930) is an American writer who is best known for his postmodernist Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is th ...
, the postmodernist novelist who talks often about the label "postmodern", wrote an influential essay in 1967 called "The Literature of Exhaustion" and in 1980 published "The Literature of Replenishment" in order to clarify the earlier essay. "The Literature of Exhaustion" was about the need for a new era in literature after modernism had exhausted itself. In "The Literature of Replenishment" Barth says: Many of the well-known postmodern novels deal with World War II, one of the most famous of which being Joseph Heller's ''Catch-22''. Heller claimed his novel and many of the other American novels of the time had more to do with the state of the country after the war: In his ''Reflections on 'The Name of the Rose'', the novelist and theorist Umberto Eco explains his idea of postmodernism as a kind of double-coding, and as a transhistorical phenomenon: Novelist David Foster Wallace in his 1990 essay "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction" makes the connection between the rise of postmodernism and the rise of television with its tendency toward self-reference and the ironic juxtaposition of what's seen and what's said. This, he claims, explains the preponderance of pop culture references in postmodern literature: Hans-Peter Wagner offers this approach to defining postmodern literature:


See also

* Postmodernism * Hysterical realism * Metafiction * List of postmodern critics * List of postmodern novels * List of postmodern writers


References


Further reading

* Barthes, Roland (1975). ''The Pleasure of the Text'', New York: Hill and Wang. * Barthes, Roland (1968). ''Writing Degree Zero'', New York: Hill and Wang. * Foucault, Michel (1983). ''This is Not a Pipe''. Berkeley: University of California Press. * Hoover, Paul. ed. (1994). ''Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology''. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. * Jameson, Fredric (1991). ''Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism'' () * Lyotard, Jean-François (1984) ''The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge'' () * Lyotard, Jean-François (1988). ''The Postmodern Explained: Correspondence 1982–1985''. Ed. Julian Pefanis and Morgan Thomas. () * Robert Magliola, Magliola, Robert (1997), ''On Deconstructing Life-Worlds: Buddhism, Christianity, Culture'' (Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1997; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000; ). This book's long and experimental first part is an application of Derridean "oto-biography" to postmodern life-writing. {{Authority control Postmodern literature, 20th-century literature 1950s in literature 1960s in literature 1970s in literature 1980s in literature 1990s in literature 2000s in literature 2010s in literature