Literary postmodernism: what is it, its origin, characteristics and main authors?


What is postmodern literature?

Postmodernism, also known as postmodern literature, is a literary movement that began around 1970 as a response to and rejection of the traditional position of literature. It was a cultural, philosophical and artistic movement, although at this point we will focus on its participation and implication for the world of literature.

What is postmodern literature

Postmodern literature opposes the idea that reality is natural and objective with respect to the human being, qualified by postmodernist authors as a kind of naive realism. Thus, this new current will gain a high recognition for its rejection of the concept of “enlightened reason”. Thus, their literature is based on the notion of “difference” to explain how human thought and behavior depend on sensitivity rather than reason.

Origin of postmodern literature

The emergence of postmodernism began after World War II, that is, around 1945, as a project to overcome the modernist project through a radical renovation of the forms of art that had been established until then, a process that did not materialize. However, in the literary field it constitutes both a negation and an affirmation of the modernist panorama.

On the other hand, much of the idea of how postmodern literature was born has to do with the reaction of postmodern writers in relation to the precepts of modernism, parodying the forms and styles that were associated with modernism and its literary expression.

An important aspect that is necessary to highlight is that it was a movement that did not have an organization, which is why it was absent of leaders or founding personalities of the current. This means that it is not known whether the movement has ended or not. However, experts affirm that it ended in the 1980s with the appearance of magical realism, which would have been inspired by Raymond Carver.

Development of postmodernist literature

It is possible to define a series of elements within its development, among which we find the preference for cultural references, where novels will be one of its main axes. On the other hand, there is a flexibilization within the narrative structures, which will allow him to build dynamic stories. Often the themes worked on in postmodernism will be urban themes, although rural environments are not left out entirely.

Particularly within postmodern literature, mediocre characters abound, whose moral values lack a visible determination. Their authors are impregnated by humor, although the use of nostalgia can also be seen. Thus, a great variety of subgenres emerged within the narrative and the novel, among which we find the intimate novel, the culturalist novel, the historical novel and the detective novel, also known as the crime novel.

In short, his literature was marked by the use of a language that creates reality and that thought cannot exist without it. In addition, he states that truth is a matter of perspective and never something absolute.

Other aspects of the development of postmodernism in the novel are: the use of characters that do not have a marked psychological depth, the use of more limited points of view, leaving aside the omniscient narrator, a fragmented narrative with jumps in time and sometimes repetitions of situations on several occasions and intertextuality.


Although the greatest changes took place in narrative, poetry also played a fundamental role in the field of postmodern literature. Thus, it is possible to identify the emergence of pure poetry among its main currents, as well as black poetry with themes of the black or mulatto world and its traditions and customs, in addition to other trends in poetry that included social content.

Characteristics of postmodernism

Characteristics of postmodernism

Let’s see below the most important characteristics of this literary current in relation to its creation and foundations in order to better understand the bases of this movement that was of vital importance for the world of literature and that broadened the view, also, for the authors of the movement.

Breaking the rules

Among the most important characteristics of this literary current, we find that it is presented as a movement willing to break with the rules and structures established in relation to artistic manifestations, in this case literature, where it begins to incorporate an era of freedom that expands the possibilities for writers. Its anti-authority character was decisive for its development, since it rejects any kind of influence.

Importance of fictionality

One of the most important features of postmodern literature has to do with the way in which the fictional character of literature is highlighted. Particularly in this literary current, the real has no space for development and special importance is given to fictionality.

Use of humor

The use of resources such as humor and humorous tone, will be fundamental for the writing of postmodern literature texts, since it is shown as an ironic movement and in some cases ridiculous, this in order to challenge the scope of taste at the collective level.


It is a term used as a rejection of realism. Thus, it is able to challenge traditional concepts that had been applied to the literary world, in this case within the classic structure of the novel or, also, to the role played by the narrator within the works. In this way, he incorporates elements such as myth, magic and others that come from science fiction.


This is the name given to this concept associated with intertextuality, which refers to “joining” or “pasting” elements. In writing, authors resort to a combination, even of genres, for the construction of a particular narrative.

Parody of the consecrated

Under this element, postmodern literature imitates other literary genres, however, it does not do so faithfully, but in the process tends to exaggerate, especially the most distinctive features of these genres.

Feminist literature

Considering the complex moment in which this movement develops, it is necessary to mention its contact with a generation of women belonging to the current who begin to explore other spaces, this time led by them, to give visibility to the otherness that women represented. Their reflections took varied paths among which were the politics of pornography, eroticism, the commercialization of the female body, transsexuality, among others.

Main authors of postmodern literature

There are many authors who embraced the current of postmodernism to start building new literary works. However, it is possible to identify some of the most representative ones, among them are: Antonio Tabuchi, Doris Lessing, Imre Kertész, Gunter Grass, Milán Kundera, Diamela Eltit, José Emilio Pachecho, Jozé Balza, Ricardo Piglia, Rafael Humerto Moreno-Durán, Margaret Atwood, Elsa Morante, Angela Carter, Marguerite Duras, Christina Wolf, Montserrat Roig, José Saramago and Umberto Eco.

As for the most representative works of the movement, we find: Juana de América, Las lenguas del diamante and Raíz salvaje by Juana Ibarbourou, El hermano Asno by Eduardo Barrios, Los senderos ocultos by Enrique González Martinez, El dulce daño and Ocre by Alfonsina Storni, and Desolación by Gabriela Mistral.

Postmodernism will mark important moments for literary development, in terms of renewal and formulation of new paths for writers, especially in narrative and in the world of poetry. If you want to know more about this artistic expression, don’t forget to visit our Literature section in Types of Art, where you will find much more information about other movements, genres, authors and more.