The key difference between modernism and postmodernism in literature is that modernist authors deliberately broke away from traditional styles of writing and focused on inner self and consciousness in their writings whereas postmodernist writers deliberately used a mixture of earlier styles in their writings.
Modernism and postmodernism are two literary movements of the twentieth century. Both these movements were greatly influenced by events like world wars, industrialization, and urbanization.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Modernism in Literature
3. What is Postmodernism in Literature
4. Similarities Between Modernism and Postmodernism in Literature
5. Side by Side Comparison – Modernism vs Postmodernism in Literature in Tabular Form
What is Modernism in Literature?
Modernism is a literary movement that became popular at the beginning of the twentieth century. This style of writing was also greatly influenced by events like World Wars, industrialization, and urbanization. These kinds of events made people question the foundations of the western society and the future of humanity. Thus, modernist authors began to write about the decline of civilization, inner self, and consciousness. Their work also reflects a sense of disillusionment and fragmentation.
The stream of consciousness (a method of narration depicting the countless thoughts and feelings that pass through the mind) was a commonly used technique in modernist writings. In addition, writers also used irony, satire as well as comparison to point out the shortcomings of the society.
Examples of Modernism Literature
- James Joyce’s Ulysses
- S. Eliot’s The Waste Land
- Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying
- Virginia Woolf’s Dalloway
What is Postmodernism in Literature?
Postmodern literature is a form of literature marked by reliance on narrative techniques such as fragmentation, unreliable narrator, parody, dark humor, and paradox. Postmodernism came into prominence after the Second World War and it is often seen as a response or reaction against modernism. As a result, postmodern authors often highlight the possibility of multiple meanings within a single literary work or a complete lack of meaning. Therefore, some common literary techniques in postmodernism are as follows:
Pastiche – taking various ideas from previous work and styles and pasting them together to create a new story
Temporal distortion – non-linear timeline and fragmented narrative
Metafiction – Making readers aware of the fictional nature of the text they are reading
Intertextuality – acknowledging previous literary works within a literary work
Magical Realism – incorporating magical or unrealistic events into a realistic story
Maximalism – highly detailed, disorganized and long writing
Minimalism – using common and non-exceptional characters and events
In addition, postmodern authors also used techniques such as irony, dark humor, paradox, parody, fragmentation and unreliable narrators.
Some Examples of Post Modern Novels
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
- Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
- Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
What are the Similarities Between Modernism and Postmodernism in Literature?
- Modernism and Postmodernism reflect the insecurities, disorientation, and fragmentation of the 20th century.
- They were greatly influenced by events like world wars, industrialization, and urbanization.
What is the Difference Between Modernism and Postmodernism in Literature?
Modernism is a movement in literature that was predominant in the 20th century, characterized by a strong and deliberate break from the traditional styles of prose and poetry. In contrast, postmodernism was a response against modernism and was marked by its reliance on narrative techniques such as unreliable narrator, fragmentation, parody, etc. Samuel Beckett, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Sylvia Plath, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Butler Yeats, and Virginia Woolf are some examples of modernist writers. Thomas Pynchon, Joseph Heller, John Barth, Vladimir Nabokov, Umberto Eco, Richard Kalich, Giannina Braschi, John Hawkes, and Kurt Vonnegu are some examples of postmodernist authors.
Modernist authors deliberately broke away from traditional styles of writing and focused on inner self and consciousness in their writings. The stream of consciousness was the major technique introduced during this movement. However, postmodernist writers deliberately used a mixture of earlier styles. They also used techniques such as fragmentation, intertextuality, unreliable narrator, parody, dark humor and paradox. This is the main difference between modernism and postmodernism in literature.
Summary – Modernism vs Postmodernism in Literature
Modernism and postmodernism are two literary movements of the twentieth century. The difference between modernism and postmodernism in literature depends on their themes and literary and narrative techniques.
1. “Postmodernism in Literature: Definition & Examples.” Study.com. Available here
2. “What Are Characteristics of Modernist Literature, Fiction in Particular?” Cliff Notes. Available here
3. “Modernism.” The Literature Network: Online Classic Literature, Poems, and Quotes. Essays & Summaries. Available here