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English/Anglophone Literature

in the 20th century

POSTMODERN AND
POSTCOLONIAL LITERATURE
Postmodern Literature
The term Postmodern literature is used to describe
certain tendencies in post-World War II literature. It
is both a continuation of the experimentation of
modernist writers (fragmentation, paradox,
questionable narrators, etc.) and a reaction against
Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature.
Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a
whole, is difficult to define and there is little
agreement on the exact characteristics, scope, and
importance of postmodern literature.
Background
Influenced by authors and works who
experimented with form, narrative and
chronology; who employed parody,
chance, playfulness, dreams
Sternes Tristram Shandy, Byrons Don
Juan, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Caroll
Comparisons with Modernism
Both modern and postmodern literature - a
break from 19th century realism.
Character development: both modern and
postmodern literature explore subjectivism,
turning from external reality to examine inner
states of consciousness, in many cases
drawing on modernist examples in the stream
of consciousness styles of Virginia Woolf and
James Joyce, or explorative poems like The
Waste Land by T. S. Eliot.
Both modern and postmodern literature
explore fragmentariness in narrative- and
character-construction.
Modernist literature sees fragmentation and extreme
subjectivity as an existential crisis, or Freudian
internal conflict, a problem that must be solved, and
the artist is often cited as the one to solve it.
Postmodernists, however, often demonstrate that this
chaos is insurmountable; the artist is impotent, and
the only solution against "ruin" is to play within the
chaos. Playfulness is present in many modernist
works (Joyce's Finnegans Wake or Virginia Woolf's
Orlando, for example) and they may seem very
similar to postmodern works, but with
postmodernism playfulness becomes central order
and meaning cannot be achieved.
Post?
After Modernism?
Against Modernism?
A new era?
Or all three?
Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a
whole, is hard to define.
Hardly any agreement on the exact
characteristics, scope, and importance of
postmodern literature.
For example, instead of the modernist quest for
meaning in a chaotic world, the postmodern
author abandons, often playfully, the possibility
of meaning, and the postmodern novel is often
a parody of this quest.
Common Themes and
Techniques
Irony, playfulness, black humour (treating
serious subjects in a humorous way Joseph
Heller, Catch 22 World War II)
Intertextuality (reference or parallels to another
literary work, often of a different genre fairy
tales, myth, crime fiction, SF Umberto Eco,
The Name of the Rose, Margaret Atwood, The
Blind Assasin)
Pastiche (similar to intertextuality, pasting
together multiple elements SF, detective
fiction, fairy tales)
Metafiction or self-reference (writing about
writing, author character in John Fowles
The French Lieutenants Woman)
Historiographic metafiction (fictionalizing
actual historical events or figures Kazuo
Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day WW II
and the events leading to it seen through
the narrators eyes)
Temporal distortion (Non-linear
narratives, fragmentation, frame
narrative, multiple endings present in
many PoMo novels)
Questionable narrators (instead of the
omniscient author, narrators are
characters themselves who often deceive
the reader The Remains of the Day,
The Blind Assasin, American Psycho)
Technoculture and hyperreality (information
age - society has moved past the industrial
age.Baudrillard -postmodernity defined by a
shift into hyperreality in which simulations have
replaced the real. Technology has become a
central focus in many lives, and our
understanding of the real is mediated by
simulations of the real. Don DeLillo's White
Noise - characters are bombarded with a
"white noise" of television, product brand
names, and clichs.)
British PoMo Authors
Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses
Julian Barnes, Flauberts Parrot
Ian McEwan, Atonement
Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor
Martin Amis, Times Arrow
Angela Carter, Wise Children
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
John Fowles, The French Lieutenants Woman
Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger
American PoMo Authors
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
Thomas Pynchon, Gravitys Rainbow
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
Toni Morrison, Beloved
Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Introduction to
Australian Literature
Australian literature literary work produced in the area or
by the people of the Commonwealth of Australia and its
preceding colonies.
Australia was a collection of British colonies, therefore, its
literary tradition begins with and is linked to the broader
tradition of English literature.
Since 1788, the character of a new continent is introduced
into literature - exploring such themes as Aboriginality,
mateship, egalitarianism, democracy, migrant and national
identity, distance from other Western nations and
proximity to Asia, the complexities of urban living and the
"beauty and the terror" of life in the Australian bush
First landing by Dutch explorers,
beginning of 17th century
First settled at the end of the 18th
century, as a penal colony of Great
Britain.
First literary works by British explorers
and officers accounts of the
settlement of Australia.
As a British colony and later a Commonwealth
state, Australia profoundly influenced by Britain
in all aspects of society
AustLit since 19th century
First popular works novels about life on the
frontier, using vernacular language (Australian
dialect)
Later in the 19th century Gothic novels,
poetry, drama, childrens literature, histories
Themes in AustLit

Relationship to Australia country often


seen as threatening and alien
Mateship - intensly loyal relationship of
shared experience, mutual respect and
unconditional assistance existing between
friends (mates) in Australia
National identity what it means to be
Australian Patrick White and Peter Carey
Since mid-20th century, AustLit emerges
with a distinctive voice of its own
Not least under the influence of
extensive immigration from Asia and
Europe
Immigrants brought in elements of their
culture and identity to Australian
literature
Significant and Contemporary
Australian Authors
Patrick White (Nobel Prize 1973), Riders in
the Chariot
Elizabeth Jolley, Milk and Honey, Lovesong
Peter Carey (Man Booker Prize 1988,
2001), Oscar and Lucinda, True History of
the Kelly Gang
Thomas Keneally, Schindlers Ark
Colleen McCullough, The Thorn Birds
Introduction to
Canadian Literature
Canada's dominant cultures were
originally British and French, as well as
aboriginal. Since the 1970s, Canada
gradually became home to a more
diverse population of readers and
writers. The country's literature has
been strongly influenced by
international immigration, particularly in
recent decades.
Similar to Australia, as a British colony and
later a Commonwealth state, Canada was
profoundly influenced by Britain in all
aspects of society.
Canada officially became a country only in
1867, it has been argued that literature
written before this time was colonial.
Literatures of Australia and Canada are
often labelled postcolonial.
First Authors
Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill,
English sisters who adopted the country as
their own, moved to Canada in 1832. They
recorded their experiences as pioneers.
Moodie's Roughing It in the Bush (1852)
and Life in the Clearings (1853).
Their books often dealt with survival and
the rugged Canadian environment.
Characteristics of CanLit
Canadas literature, whether written in
English or French, often reflects the
Canadian perspective on: (1) nature, (2)
frontier life, and (3) Canadas position in
the world.
Canada's ethnic and cultural diversity are
reflected in its literature, with many of its
most prominent writers focusing on ethnic
life.
Important Themes of CanLit
Failure and futility of human efforts (human vs.
nature since colonial times)
Mild anti-Americanism (rivarly between two
nations)
Multiculturalism
National identity (often against the US)
Nature (human vs. nature) nature portrayed
both as an enemy, and a divine force
Search for self-identity need to find ones
identity and justify ones existance
Since 1970s, CanLit emerges with a voice of its own.
During the post-war decades only a handful of books
of any literary merit were published each year in
Canada, and Canadian literature was viewed as an
appendage to British and American writing.
The best-known living Canadian writer internationally
is Margaret Atwood, a prolific novelist, poet, and
literary critic.
Atwood and Alice Munro, who has been called the
best living writer of short stories in English, were the
first to elevate Canadian Literature to the world
stage.
Significant Canadian Authors
Michael Ondaatje (Man Booker Prize,
1992), The English Patient
Margaret Atwood (Man Booker Prize,
2000), The Blind Assasin
Yann Martel (Man Booker Prize, 2002),
Life of Pi
Leonard Cohen poet, singer and
songwriter
Alice Munro, short-story writer