Beyond Literary Landscapes—Postmodernist Literature

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


While previous columns have focused on Modernism and Modernismo, this week’s column looks ahead to Postmodernist Literature in depth.


As a philosophy, postmodernism can be defined as “a late 20th-century movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power.”

As a literary movement, postmodernism “eschews absolute meaning and instead emphasizes play, fragmentation, metafiction, and intertextuality.”

In particular, intertextuality is an interesting concept, which “posits that everything has some form of influence or borrowing from literary works of the past.”  In other words, it “is a literary theory stating all works of literature are a derivation or have been influenced by a previous work of literature.”

Some postmodernist works include Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  For students who would like to learn more about postmodernism from a literary criticism perspective, consider Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, and Roland Barthes.


These works take place in the United Kingdom and the United States.


These novels are set in the 19 and 20-centuries.


These works may be of interest to AU students who would like to learn more about the history of literature, and understand the difference between modernist literature and the later postmodernism.  They may also interest students who would like to learn more about the absurd, a theme seen in many 20th century works.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to Postmodern Literature are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in this topic may consider enrolling ENGL 316: Approaches to Literary Theory and Criticism, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “is an introductory level course designed to familiarize you with a variety of critical perspectives and help you understand literary works more profoundly by integrating literary theory in your response to these works.”  (Please note that this course requires ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays as prerequisites.)  Happy reading!