Postmodernism refers to period of time in the 20th century when many aspects of the world’s literature, architecture, drama, design, and film began to change. Even the interpretation of things like the law, religion, and history reflected the sentiments and philosophy of the times.

The term “modern” means “now” so when modernism was popular, it referred to the changes that took place when people began to move away from the “traditional.” Postmodernism was somewhat the same – only instead of moving away from the “traditional,” people began moving away from the “modern.”

Modernism began in the 1890s. It was based on using rational means to gain knowledge for solving problems. The movement aimed to construct a logical worldview, placing emphasis on rationality and reason. Many “modern” thinkers were of the opinion that the world had a universal order which could be figured out.

Postmodernism, which came about after 1968, is much harder to define. Even historians can’t agree on what actually constitutes postmodern thought. It is agreed that postmodernism challenges modernism directly in that it seeks to reject the fact that there is a universal order. Many “postmodern” thinkers rejected the idea that the world had a “system” at all. The concept that power is to be distrusted was widely embraced by postmodernists. Consciousness was very important to postmodernists who embraced the idea of being “self-aware.” Unlike modernists who tried to suppress their own consciousness, postmodernists allowed their awareness to dictate their actions and work.

In literature, subjectivity was an integral part of postmodern thought. Subjectivity, a person’s own personal perspective, is based on experiences, thoughts, and feelings which are different than anyone else’s. Many postmodern authors explored the concept of subjectivity and how it affected everything. Since everyone’s experiences are unique, they pointed out that the “system” of the modernists was flawed in that it could change, depending on the person who’s “in charge.” Nearly every piece of literature written during the postmodern movement was entirely subjective. Whether it was fiction or non-fiction, the author’s personal opinions and worldviews were emphasized above everything else.

Unique literally styles also became popular. Black humor – humor based on subjects that realistically should not be amusing – was featured prominently. So was irony – where there is an incongruity between what someone says and what they actually mean – and tongue-in-cheek playfulness.

Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is an example of irony in postmodern literature. Multiple narrations – where a writer tells the same story from many different points of view – were also heavily used by writers. These stories are a perfect example of subjectivity because the reader got to see how one situation was different for everyone. Meanwhile, authors like Faulkner used partially fragmented dialog to break up his story’s text and narrative, giving them a sometimes jarring, realistic feel than other novels.

Postmodernism is one of the most fascinating movements in the world of literature, producing some of the most thought-provoking works ever. Thomas Pynchon, Maya Angelou, Jack Kerouac, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, and Marguerite Duras are some of the more notable postmodern writers. To look for more of the postmodern era’s famous authors, simply run a quick people search