The wind of change blows
straight into the face of time, and, living in the epoch of postmodernism, many writers know
little about the essence of the genre, although they write according to its
canons, and very successfully at times. I want to talk (briefly) about the history and the main
signs of modernism and postmodernism. I do believe any aspiring author must
know the roots J.
Modernism is the direction in the
literature of the late XIX – early XX
century, characterized by a departure from the classic novel in favor of the search for a new style and a
radical revision of literary forms.
Modernism gained its strength at the
beginning of the XX century. The best-known representatives of the directions are W. Faulkner, E. Hemingway, F. Kafka, T. Mann,
V. Woolf, and others. Most of all, modernism was distinguished by the desire to
be different in practically everything. However, there were some especially
|Faulkner and Hemmingway trash-talking each |
Experiments with literary forms. The authors of the new generation were trying to move away
from the traditional form of the novel. They introduce a fragmentary
construction of the storyline. We can see the story on behalf of several
characters, often with opposing viewpoints.
Mindflow. This is probably the most grandiose change that
modernism brought to us. The stream of consciousness overturns all notions of
literature and ways of presenting information. It allows the reader to capture
the movement of thought and express complex nuances of the internal state,
which were previously unavailable. Undoubtedly, the desire to reveal the inner
world of the protagonist is one of the greatest achievements of modernism.
The theme of war and the "lost generation." The beginning of XX century along with the First
World War and the Great Depression greatly affected the topics of works of
modernists. Of course, the focus was still on people, but the issues discussed
in books of that time were quite different from the novels of the XIX century. The topics of the new century are more global.
Another important point is that the
requirements for the reader have grown rapidly. Realism does not imply any
reader training, deliberately disclosing everyday topics understandable to
everyone, while modernism tends to be elitist. "Ulysses," one of the
greatest works of that period, clearly demonstrates that modernism is designed
exclusively for well-educated readers.
Well, due to the phenomenal breadth and
complexity of the phenomenon, that’s not so easy to give an accurate definition
of postmodernism. However, one thing is clear: it’s opposite to modernism.
Simply put, postmodernism is what happened after modernism and rethought it.
This cultural phenomenon of the second half of the XX century rejects the basic
principles of modernism and uses elements of various styles of the past, often
An important difference between the
literature of postmodernism and modernism is that the first is closely related
to the popular culture and has a huge impact on it. This became possible not only because of the simplicity and wide
availability of books but also because of
the numerous screen adaptations.
And this connection with mass culture,
though it may seem at first glance evil, in fact, is very important! Once written, the work is not lost somewhere on shelves – it
continues to live and develop in the form of films and TV series, video games
and numerous references in other books, etc.
The rules have changed, and never,
perhaps, they have been so liberal.
Let's talk a little bit about the
distinctive features of postmodernism:
Irony and dark humor. The first thing that catches the eye in the literature of
postmodernism is a change in the attitude of authors towards their style, the
tone of the narrative. In what is it expressed? Earlier, writers-realists have raised
serious social themes, placed characters into the center of the acutest conflicts, both personal and social, which
often ended tragically, but now writers often sneer at the problems of modern
society. Many go even further, and tragedies become a breeding ground for black
|American Gods by Neil Gaiman,|
a postmodern classic
Irony is the most powerful tool in the
hands of the modern author. And it is no accident. Ironically, in my humble
opinion, there is an escape of a thinking individual against the pathos of pop
culture. Although pathos and irony are the two sides of the same coin, many
readers refuse to identify themselves with popular culture. Smart authors just use it to their advantage J.
the viewpoint of postmodernism, borrowing
is a sign not of the bad taste but rather high cultural level. Borrowing reminds
me of a game with the reader: the author flatters the reader’s ego, putting in
the story elements that a smart reader will recognize. In general, we have come
to the state when the media space is full of repeated images, archetypes, and situations that we've all seen
a hundred times. And here is the point when irony comes!
A mix of genres. Authors
have not abandoned experiments with form. More and more often we see a mix of
genres, especially in household plots combined with fantasy elements. And often
it turns so well that gives rise to new genres, for example, magical realism – an
original and very interesting area, an example of the impact of postmodern
ideas on well-known motives.
To Sum Up
First and foremost, the young author
should realize that he lives in the era of postmodernism. Not in the XIX century
among the geniuses of literature and ignorant serfs but the information space
of a planet where themes and motifs evolve from one form to another, and none
of those is the final one. And if so, then everyone has the right to use all
the knowledge that was gained by the predecessors.
Therefore, the primary task of the
young author is to get acquainted with the achievements of the literature of
the XX century. However, this requires considerable time and wisdom. On boring,
confusing, and often nauseous pages the writer has to see how modernism ruined
all foundations and patterns of classical literature and then put them together.
Yes, we live in a postmodern era, when
literature is closely intertwined with
popular culture, and the requirements to the reader are not very different from
the demands of the XIX century. But think, do you have the right to ignore the
experiments and achievements of the literature of the past century? If you
think you don’t, fill the gap immediately!
Lucy Adams is a Buzz
essay writer and
blogger. This generalist is always in touch and ready to take the most exciting
ideas of yours. Feel free to suggest Lucy a few intriguing topics, let her
choose one or two that she likes best, and wait a week or so to get an in-depth
research on the matter!
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