The term "postmodern literature" is used to describe certain characteristics of post-World War II literature (relying heavily, for example, on fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc.) and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature.
Postmodern literature, likepostmodernismas a whole, is hard to define and there is little agreement on the exact characteristics, scope, and importance of postmodern literature. However, unifying features often coincide withJean-François Lyotard's concept of the "meta-narrative" and "little narrative," Jacques Derrida's concept of "play," and Jean Baudrillard's "simulacra." For example, instead of the modernist quest for meaning in a chaotic world, the postmodern author eschews, often playfully, the possibility of meaning, and the postmodern novel is often a parody of this quest.
This distrust of totalizing mechanisms extends even to the author and his own self-awareness; thus postmodern writers often celebrate chance over craft and employ metafiction to undermine the author's "univocation" (the existence of narrative primacy within a text, the presence of a single all-powerful storytelling authority). The distinction between high and low culture is also attacked with the employment of pastiche, the combination of multiple cultural elements including subjects and genres not previously deemed fit for literature. A list of postmodern authors often varies; the following are some names of authors often so classified, most of them belonging to the generation born in the interwar period: William Gaddis; William Burroughs; Alexander Trocchi; Kurt Vonnegut; John Barth; Donald Barthelme; E. L. Doctorow; Robert Coover; Jerzy Kosinski; Don DeLillo; Thomas Pynchon; Ishmael Reed; Kathy Acker; Paul Auster; Orhan Pamuk; and Haruki Murakami.
Source: "Postmodern Literature." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 13 Dec. 2010. Web. 20 Dec. 2010.
Summary: The National Association of
Scholars (NAS) is “an independent membership
association of academics working to foster intellectual freedom and to sustain
the tradition of reasoned scholarship and civil debate in America’s colleges
and universities.” The NAS serves
as a type of “watchdog” for intellectual integrity in higher education and focuses
on a number of issues facing colleges and universities, among which is “the post-modernist evisceration of the humanities.” In addition to providing information about
joining the NAS, events, updates, and recommended common readings for higher
education, the NAS website provides access to a large number of searchable,
scholarly articles dealing with a wide variety topics, among which are
postmodern ideas and their effects on and relationships with higher education
systems. These articles offer insight
into the significance of postmodern ideology that help one understand the
forces at work within and behind postmodern fiction as a genre.
Evaluation: The executive board members of
the NAS are presented with their credentials as well as contact information for
the NAS. The authors of the individual articles
are also identified by name and their credentials are provided. The very nature of the NAS as an organization
that maintains intellectual integrity requires its website to be
reputable. There are citations and
bibliographies where necessary and the references and information is easy to
navigate. The site has articles from
when the NAS was first founded in 1987 through today, and it has been updated
as recently as this year. The individual
articles offer original, academic thoughts rooted in strong research, and it is
easy to search the archives for a particular topic or date, making this a very
helpful, creditable source.
Summary: Project MUSE is a collaboration
of publishers and libraries working to provide academic content to all scholars
by “providing 100% full-text, affordable and user-friendly
online access to a comprehensive selection of prestigious humanities and social
sciences journals.” The website offers a highly organized,
searchable database of scholarly journal articles and reviews on a widespread
variety of topics that are peer-reviewed for credibility and available in both PDF
and HTML form. This site provides access
to over six thousand articles referencing postmodern fiction, allowing the
reader seeking information on everything from postmodern literature in the
United States to the history of postmodern literature to find satisfying and
reputable articles, reviews, and images.
MUSE full contact information for the website, as well as credentials of authors
of individual articles. The publishers
and journals it provides access to are also provided. It is sponsored by John Hopkins University
Press in collaboration with The Milton S. Eisenhower Library and is designed to
support scholarly research. The site is
maintained by university and library faculty.
It was created in 1993 and has been updated as recently as last
year. All articles are cited and
organized with Library of Congress headings and links by subject, and each
article includes a works cited section.
Summary: This site provides four
different encyclopedia articles on postmodernism: the New
Dictionary of the History of Ideas, the International Encyclopedia of the
Social Sciences, the Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, and the Dictionary
of American History. Each entry provides
insight into the concept of postmodernism as a whole as well as focusing in on
literature, art, policies, and characteristics of the postmodern movement. The site also provides links to further
readings related to postmodernism in newspapers and magazines, images related
to postmodernism, and videos about postmodernism from YouTube, creating an easy
to use, unified site for all mediums of information.
Evaluation: While the authors are given for
the articles, the contact information for them may not be complete in all
cases. This is not a major concern due
to the fact that they are encyclopedia articles, written to present factual
information, and include detailed bibliographies. High Beam Research, the association that
sponsors the site, is an online library for research assistance. Even though some of the articles on the site
are more than three years old, the site itself has been updated as recently as
2011. The site offers links to a variety
of scholarly research as well as an abundance of factual information. While there are a lot of ads on the webpage,
it still provides access to reputable sources of information.
Summary: Dr. Mary Klages’s explanation
of postmodernism focuses on how the postmodern approach is different from the
modernist approach to literature and art by first defining modernism. She then describes the ways in which the
postmodern approach is similar to modernism (ie. both views focus on the
fragmentation of the world) before explaining that the major difference is the
light in which these focuses are viewed (ie. Postmodernism views the
fragmentation of the world reflected in art and literature as positive, not
negative). Next, she turns to
“modernity” to explain the historical connotation of postmodern as a movement
toward fragmentation, provisionality, performance, and instability before
finally discussing the implications of postmodernism.
Dr. Mary Klages is an Associate Professor of English at the University of
Colorado, Boulder. Because the page is
supported by the University of Colorado at Boulder, it should offer dependable
information. The domain of the URL is .edu and the sources
are cited at the end of the article, making the information fairly
credible. Although the article was last
revised in 2003, it still provides original academic thought that gives one an
increasingly clearer perception of postmodernism as it relates to literature
and art. Since the site deals primarily with defining the terms, new
discoveries do not replace its meaning but rather add to it, and it can be
taken as still being relatively accurate in today’s world.
Summary: Richter uses a multitude of
links on his site to show the connections between his studies of postmodernism. His links provide a map of his thought
process and essentially reflect the fragmentation of postmodern thought itself
as he ties in a bibliography of books and articles about postmodernism complete
with notes and quotations, websites that reference postmodernism, and his own
writing dialogues and essays on postmodern topics. The site provides an overwhelming amount of
information on postmodernism as applies to everything from fiction to philosophy
and displays the information through a variety of clever formats such as “The
Ten Commandments of the Postmodern.”
Evaluation: Richard Richter is the
president of Ursinus College, and his complete contact information is provided,
contributing to the website’s credibility.
While it is more than ten years old, it still provides a good
perspective on postmodern thought from a variety of angles. The information is clearly cited and linked
to the original sources wherever possible, and while it is not representative
of Ursinus College’s views, it is a part of the Ursinus College website
(therefore the domain of the URL is .edu).
The site offers some factual information, but its primary purpose is to
draw connections between various sources and synthesize a multitude of ideas
about postmodernism, making it a legitimate academic source.
article “Allegories of Immersion: Virtual Narration in Postmodern Fiction”
considers how “virtual” narration can play a role in the overall development of
postmodern fiction. She uses the term “virtual” very loosely to
refer to that which exists beyond physical reality and that which there is
potential for. The article argues that
virtual narration is not only a legitimate method of narrating literature, but
that is an effective method, which should be taken advantage of, especially
concerning the postmodern. As she
explains the various aspects and functions of this virtual narration, it is
clear that it allows the form of the narration to reflect the postmodern
ideology of a text by exposing the artificiality of it. This matching of form to function allows the
reader to gain an understanding of how postmodern fiction can have concrete
Evaluation: While Ryan is identified by name only without
complete credentials, the article is from Style,
which is a scholarly journal “published quarterly by Northern Illinois
University that examines the aesthetics, poetics, stylistics, and
interpretation of film and literature.” The
sources are cited in a bibliography and extensive notes following the article. While the article was written in 1995,
literary style endures in its uses even if interpretations change, and the
article’s value is in its original perspective on virtual narration in relation
to postmodern fiction at that particular time.
While there are a lot of ads on the site, the access to the article is
through the CBS interactive business network and the full original article is
examines Paul Auster’s postmodern fiction by evaluating it in terms of story,
character, and meaning. She focuses on
how Aristotelian logic cannot be applied to his postmodern fiction because it
is so disjointed, without a linear plot.
She supplies widespread information about both Aristotle’s theories and
Auster’s actual works of fiction before synthesizing how the postmodern fiction
cannot be explained by the theories of logic, emphasizing postmodern fiction’s
departure from definable reality. She
concludes that Auster’s works, keeping with postmodern literature, reflect the
fragmentation of language and do not end with closure or the eventual delivery
of a message.
Nikolic wrote this thesis on Paul Auster as her Master’s dissertation at for
her masters at the Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. It serves the clear purpose of using
scholarly research to support her original thoughts on the postmodern fiction
of Paul Auster. The resources are cited
through footnotes ate the end of the text.
The resource is from a website dedicated to exploring Paul Auster’s life
and work in association with Amazon.com.
While Nikolic’s dissertation is from 1998, the analysis of Auster’s
fiction expressed within it is still a valid source of understanding of
postmodern fiction through examples, especially in combination with the
detailed explanation of Aristotle’s poetic theory.
Summary: This site offers information about a variety of different “worldviews,” or
“presuppositions that influence our outlook on life,” comparable to a lens one
perceives the world though. One of these
worldviews is the postmodern worldview.
The article on postmodernism as a general worldview focuses on the
implications of holding a postmodern worldview, while the sub articles under
“Postmodern Worldview” focus more specifically on a single area of postmodern
thought, allowing the reader to apply the concepts of postmodernism to a
variety of fields and gain a deeper understanding of its breadth.
Evaluation: While the contact information and credentials are not
complete for all of the contributing authors, the sources used are cited in a
bibliography following each individual article.
The site has also been updated as recently as within the last year.
Although All About Worldview is somewhat unknown and seems to be a Christian
organization, the articles are primarily factual representations of the
different ways to view the world (some of which stem from religion) with
minimum bias. The site also links
referenced articles together for easy comparison of ideology.
Summary: This PDF from the Johnson County Library (Overland
Park, Kasas) defines postmodern fiction as “contemporary fiction that uses irony,
playfulness, and literary borrowing to explore themes of city life, pop
culture, technology, and, often, the writing of fiction itself.” It then provides a list of twenty-nine works
considered to be “postmodern fiction” with brief one to two sentence
synopses. The synopses merely set the
scene of the books without giving away the plot, both to make one want to read
the actual book and because by the very nature of postmodern literature, the
plot is often nonlinear and difficult to explain. The site also includes a link back to the
library’s homepage to search for the call number of book or another genre of
Evaluation: While there
is no named specific author if the website, it was created by the Johnson
County Library, a well-known authority in regards to literature. The information is not clearly sited, but a
lot of it can be considered common knowledge of anyone who has read the work in
question. The main function of the site
is to assist the reader in choosing a work of postmodern fiction, but this
allows one to gather concrete examples of postmodern fiction that work with the
definition. The definition itself offers
a more concise and definite way of classifying postmodern fiction than most
sources are able to provide. Finally,
the site was published relatively recently in 2008.
Summary: This site
offers a brief explanation of postmodernism as applied to “literature, art, philosophy,
architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism.” It defines postmodernism as “a reaction” to assumed
certainties about realities and explains its skeptical approach to universal
theories, emphasizing its dependence on interpretation of the world to find
reality. It also explains postmodernism
as valuing concrete experience. The
definition continues on to explain the composition of the word and finally
brings up the impossibility of giving the term a single concrete meaning based
on the concept of postmodernism itself.
Evaluation: While there is no author provided, PBS is a reputable
organization that aims to provide educational programming to the masses as
“America’s largest classroom.” There is
no date provided for the glossary definition, but while the connotations of
words may change over time, the actual denotations remain fairly constant. The information links
back to the glossary home page and the information is a factual definition of
postmodernism free from personal bias.
This definition is valuable to the reader because it allows him or her
to gain and understanding of what postmodern means before trying to apply it to
fiction and its implications.