What Makes a Piece Postmodern?

Postmodernism, ranging from 1965 to today, is rooted in the basic idea that nothing is original and there is no such thing as a 100% original work of literature. Kind of depressing, but postmodernism writers have fun with it, often experimenting with different surreal and abstract elements. They challenge what is “traditional” and are often rebellious in their works. While postmodern works are typically all over the place in terms of content (they have a very “everything goes” mantra), they often play with certain themes, usually centered around “what is reality vs what is fairytale.” Some more specifics include:

  1. Irony and Black Humor — postmodern writers often write about serious topics, but with a sense of dark and ironic humor, usually from a disconnected or displaced perspective.
  2. Pastiche — this goes with the “nothing is original” catchphrase of the era. Authors will often “copy and paste” pieces of other’s work into their writing to help form their own distinct style.
  3. Temporal distortion — a literary technique that uses a nonlinear timeline, very popular among postmodern writers
  4. Paranoia — Postmodern writers often dealt with the idea of paranoia, which can be seen in many of their characters and themes. The high interest in paranoia was most likely a result of the rise of technology and the Cold War era
  5. Magical realism — the introduction of magical elements into a plot that is otherwise normal. Can include dreams while being awake, overly complicated plots, fairy tales and myths becoming true in a story, wild shifts in time, etc.

Key Historical Events

Several historical events led to the development and shaping of postmodern writers today. Some significant events include:

  1. The Vietnam War (1954-1975) — seen as a “postmodern war” as people began to focus less on the fight and more on the conditions the soldiers were coming home in (see The Things They Carried)
  2. The Cold War (1947-1991) — created a sense of insecurity and paranoia among the American people, which was reflected in the writing of the time
  3. New Technology (1950s-today) — the rise of Apple and other big time tech corporations gave people the power to access information globally. It also gave the government opportunities to spy on the American people. This also spawned an age of paranoia that still continues today.

Fight Club

The postmodern era produced some of the most popular movies to date. One of its more recognizble titles is the movie Fight Club. The movie’s main character, known as Jack, possesses many of the traits a postmodern hero is expected to have — disconnected from the world, an uncertainty of reality and fiction, not a completely sound mental state, etc. (Don’t wanna put too much in this description cause spoilers). The movie basically helps to illustrate a state where the line between what is real and what isn’t becomes skewed.

The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried is a good example of postmodernism literature because it plays with the idea of both mental and physical aspects, while also taking on a dark, realistic view of the Vietnam War and the impact the soldiers went through. It plays with the idea of what is real and what is fiction, and this particular story rebelled against the typical “war stories” that were often told about World War I and II. It challenged what was traditional — war stories before Vietnam were often told in the same order, beginning with a noble example, followed by an act of courage, with the battle serving as initiation. The Things They Carried, instead, focused more heavily on the reality of war and what turmoils its soldiers go through, something that was often overlooked before this era.

http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/568/tim-obriens-the-things-they-carried-postmodern-fiction-for-a-postmodern-war?ab=scroll_left&utm_expid=22625156-1.Wovr3IOcQ7OKnauEqV69-g.1&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Top 10 Postmodern Reads

  1. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  2. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  3. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
  4. Labyrinths Jorges Luis Borges
  5. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  6. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  7. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  8. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  9. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  10. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace