Contemporary/Postmodern Literature (1940-Present) Lit Book pg. 1144

Contemporary/Postmodern Literature
Lit Book pg. 1144
Modern Warfare
1945: the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima brings in the
Nuclear Age
– Mushroom cloud represents both the height
of scientific ingenuity and its potential for
total destruction
• 1960s: Vietnam war sharply divides the
nation, causes American disillusionment
• 1970s: The Watergate Scandal and
America’s Bicentennial sharply contrast
disappointment and patriotism
• 1980s: Regarded as the “Me Generation”; saw the end
of the Cold War
• Has the concept of the individual been lost in the fastpaced, computerized world?
Contemporary Fiction
• Postmodernism: a term still being defined; sees
contemporary culture as change from modernism
• Postmodern writers allow for multiple meanings and
multiple worlds
• Postmodernists ask themselves, “Why choose one version?
Why limit ourselves?”
• Structured in nontraditional forms and does not follow
conventional rules
• Literature comments upon and critique itself; encourages
readers to come up with their own interpretation
• Contemporary fiction incredibly diverse, blends genres and
time periods
• Gallows Humor: ironic humor arising from acknowledging
the absurd or grotesque
Contemporary Nonfiction
• Since the 1970s, nonfiction also
considered art
• Problems with nonfiction:
– Traditional literary terms don’t apply
– Ideas of accuracy and truth
• New Journalism
– Uses literary devices
– Does not keep personal opinions/
experiences out of writing
Hunter S.
Truman Capote
Contemporary Poetry
• Modernist poetry (impersonal and intellectual)
declined after WWII
• Poets felt the need to challenge 1950s culture of
I saw the best minds of
my generation
• The Beat Poets
destroyed by madness…
– Focused on ideas of
nonconformity and self
expression (Howl by Allen
– Beat lifestyle included poetry,
jazz, late night coffee houses
– Places like San Francisco and Greenwich Village (NYC)
Contemporary Poetry
• Confessional School
– Poets focused on their own private
lives (unlike the Moderns)
– Deals with personal experiences frankly
and sometimes brutally
• Overall, American poetry since the
1970s characterized by its diversity,
reflecting growing diversity of
American audiences
Full Circle
• Today’s literature takes influence from
Transcendentalists, Dark Romantics…. and
even the Puritans