What Is Postmodern Fiction?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Postmodern fiction is a specific kind of contemporary fiction that uses a postmodern philosophical perspective to address its audience. This sort of fiction and literature has certain distinct characteristics that mark it as belonging to this genre. While many experts may disagree on exactly what constitutes postmodern fiction, many libraries and similar institutions have been able to identify this category, and compile lists of novels that constitute some of the most significant examples of this type of writing.

In general, postmodern fiction is part of a greater art form, where works of literature, music, theater, and visual arts can all be identified as postmodern. Many arts analysts use the abbreviation “pomo” to identify postmodern works. In the overall context of the greater art world, postmodern art represents something new and relatively innovative, as well as often eclectic and broadly produced.

Among the characteristics that make up postmodern types of fiction, some experts point out that this type of literature makes advanced use of concepts like semantics or word associations, and semiotics, or the use of symbols. Other examples include philology, ideas that relate to how people process incoming stimuli. For this reason, many consider postmodern fiction to be highly ‘technical’, or less organic than previous artistic eras. Postmodern fiction tends to anticipate a lot of literary criticism, and uses literary symbolism rather aggressively, and even promoting the cliché or blatant reference.


Along with the technical aspect of postmodern type fiction, others identify broad emotional themes in this type of literature. For instance, some of the libraries that present postmodern fiction novel lists reference the use of irony as well as a certain sense of “play”, or active banishing of formalities, in this type of work. Postmodern fiction also tends to borrow concepts and ideas, as well as icons, symbols, and cognitive landmarks from older works of fiction or other artworks. This type of fiction may also borrow heavily from more abstract kinds of traditional ideas, such as those found in the Bible, Torah, Talmud, or Quran.

In terms of its origin, many historians attribute the rise of the postmodern genre in fiction to the time period after World War II, though use of the term dates back to the late 1800s. Some will promote classic writers as possible inspirations for postmodern fiction. For example, the dissociative or stream of consciousness work of Dublin writer James Joyce has been linked to the postmodern. Also, the works of philosophers like Derrida have also been identified as contributions toward this particular art form, which many experts say often relies on a disconnection of ideas, a mental collage, or high incidence of non sequiter writing.


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