The key difference between modern and contemporary literature is their time period. Modern literature refers to the literature dating from late nineteenth century to nineteen sixties while the contemporary literature refers to the literature dating from the Second World War to the present.
Modern literature and contemporary literature are two overlapping taps and many people don’t know the exact difference between them. Although both modern and contemporary refer to new or current work, in literature, contemporary literature is the literary period that follows modernist period.
What is Modern Literature?
As a literary period, modern literature basically refers to the modernist period in the literature that has its origins in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The most significant feature of this period is the deliberate break from traditional writing, in both prose and verse. Modernist writers experimented with new form and content. Most importantly, revolutionary figures such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, and Friedrich Nietzsche influenced writers to think in a new way. The industrial revolution, urbanization and world wars were also main influential forces behind the modernist period.
Furthermore, inner self and consciousness were predominant concerns in modernist literature. The stream of consciousness was one of the main literary techniques modernist writers used to convey their ideas. They also used techniques such as irony, satire, and interior monologues. James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, William Butler Yeats, and Virginia Woolf are some popular modernist writers.
What is Contemporary Literature?
The term contemporary literature is a very broad one. In a general sense, contemporary literature refers to literary work published in the modern world. However, in literature, contemporary literature refers to literature dating from the Second World War to the present. However, this is only a vague definition; it is important to notice that there is no clear-cut explanation for this period. Furthermore, most scholars consider contemporary literature as the literary period that follows modernist period.
Work in contemporary literature mainly includes believable stories with a base in reality. The characters are strong and believable while the setting is modern era. Moreover, stories in contemporary literature are considered to be more character driven than plot driven. Some genres of this period include flash fiction, slam poetry, memoirs, autobiographies, novels, and poetry.
Moreover, studies in contemporary literature typically also include a variety of topics such as African American literature, post-colonial literature, and Latin literature. In other words, one can study contemporary works written by many literary figures in Asia, Middle East, and Africa when learning contemporary literature.
What is the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Literature?
Modern literature or modernist literature refers to a late 19th century and early 20th century style/movement that broke away from the traditional styles. Contemporary literature is the period that followed modernist literature. Modern literature refers to the literature dating from late nineteenth century to nineteen sixties while the contemporary literature refers to the literature dating from the Second World War to the present. Thus, the main difference between modern and contemporary literature is their time period. Moreover, modernist literature mainly included North American and European literature whereas contemporary literature includes literature all over the world.
Summary – Modern vs Contemporary Literature
Many people confuse the two terms modern literature and contemporary literature. Although both may refer to the same in a general sense, there is a difference between modern and contemporary literature according to their time periods. Modern literature refers to the literature dating from late nineteenth century to nineteen sixties while the contemporary literature refers to the literature dating from the Second World War to the present.
1.“Modernism.” The Literature Network: Online Classic Literature, Poems, and Quotes. Essays & Summaries. Available here
2.“What is Contemporary Literature? – Definition & Writing Style.” Study.com. Available here
3.“Literary Modernism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 June 2018. Available here