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This section outlines the history of postwar literature highlighting some of the most popular writings and authors. The period immediately after the end of the war to until 1960s saw the publication of the most popular literature work in the history of the American literature.It also contains the thesis of the research, which seeks to investigate the common themes and techniques in post-World War II fictions and poetry. Some unifying features of the literature coincide with Jean-François concept of the “meta-narrative” and “little narrative.” They also portray elements of Jacques Deridda’s concept of “play,” and Baudrillard’s “simulacra.” The tension, horror and purposelessness of the contemporary American life dominated the novelist themes of the 1960s and 70s.


 Common techniques and themes

This section explores some of the common themes and techniques in post world war II literature including poetry and fiction. Some of the common themes include the use of irony, black humor and playfulness, intertextuality and pastiche.


 Conclusion

This section highlights some of the key areas that have been explored by the paper.  The World War II influenced various elements of literature. The period was characterized with the emergence of great writers who focused on subjectivism, and used various techniques. Most postwar literary work share common themes and techniques.


Introduction

            The World War II and the Vietnam War left distinctive marks on the American history.   The period immediately after the end of the war to until 1960s saw the publication of the most popular literature work in the history of the American literature.  The period was dominated by the realistic modernist and the Romantic Beatniks. The American participation in the war influenced the post-war literature.  Some of the most renowned novelist such as Saul Bellow, who was born in Canada, became some of the most influential novelist in the United States.  Bellow popular works such as “The adventures of Augie March” and “Henderson the rain king,” made him a Nobel literature award winner in 1976. After the World War II, returning soldiers were disillusioned to the degree that the veterans of World War I had been, perhaps because the world had grown used to carnage on the grand scale and perhaps because the cause for which nations fought World War I seemed nobler.


 The post-war era resulted into the rise of the postmodern literature and a reaction against the “enlightment” ideas implicit in modernist literature.  It is complicated to define postmodern literature, and there is little agreement on the exact characteristics, scope and importance of postmodern literature.  The modern and postmodern literature presents a break from the 19th century realism, in which narratives were told from an object or omniscient point of view.  The postmodern and modern literature explores subjectivism in case of character development.  Some of the unifying features of the literature coincide with Jean-François concept of the “meat-narrative” and “little narrative.” They also portray elements of Jacques Deridda’s concept of “play,” and Baudrillard’s “simulacra.”


The tension, horror and purposelessness of the contemporary American life dominated the novelist themes of the 1960s and 70s. Authors such as Bellow, Malamud, and Calisher and concentrated on urban intellectuals while authors such as Updike, Cheever treated the middle class, who were largely Protestants. The conflict and violent inherent in post-war America was addressed by writers such William Borroughs, Oates and Raymond Carver.In the post-war period, the perceived need for a national identity promoted the call for a national literature, one that would capture and express distinctively “American” characteristics. Although such calls had been voiced earlier, they were vigorously renewed, and as prose fiction came more and more to dominate the literary scene, the call was especially for the “great American Novel.”


Much of the post-war fiction, including that of William Dean and Henry James, were affected by, and often a conscious response to such expectations.  Authors such as Roth, Heller, and Jules Feiffer used irony and the so call “black humor.” Writers such as Donald Barthelme, Kurt Vonnegut and Jerzy Koinski, expressed their views of the world as unreal and mad by writing fantasies that were charming, obscure, exciting and terrifying.  Most of these writers have been classified as postmodern, but the term postmodern encompasses numerous characteristics such as multiculturalism, self-reflection and new means of communication. Poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso established themselves as renowned poet after the beat.


 The poetry and fiction of the “Beat Generation”, which was largely born of a circle of intellects in New York, came of age immediately post-war.  The term “beat” is used to refer to the countercultural rhythm of the jazz scene. It was regarded as a rebellion against conservative stress of post-war society. Writers of “perceptual verse” such as the great Charles Olson, Denise Lervetove and Robert Cheeley were widely recognized during the 1960s. Robert Lowell was one of the most provocative and active poets of the decade. He was popular for work that focused on anguish and corruption, vices that were popular during the decade.  His practice of revelation about his life eventually evolved into what was commonly known as “the confessional” poetry, which was later popularized by poets such as Anne sexton, John Berryman and Sylvia Plath.  


James Dickey and Elizabeth Bishop emerged as some of the advocates of idiosyncratic styles.  To some extent, poetry was popularized along ideological lines as seen in the work of feminist poets such as Adrienne Rich.  The concern of the generation was expressed by poets such as James Merrill.  Many writers of the 1960s were intrigued by the pressure and fascination of events of the decade. Writers such as the Truman Capote and James Michener wrote with perception about the politics of the time, murders, demonstrations, and economic challenges facing the society.  Post-Vietnam literature brought to light many realities and assumptions that went unchallenged.


 Consequently, novelists such as Don DeLillo, Richard Ford, and Robert Stone explored various prose styles and explored a wide variety of experiences and attitudes in the contemporary American society.  The literature of the 1980s and 190s saw an influx of many African-American writers such as the noble winner Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, Latino writers such as  Rudolfo Anaya and Oscar Hijuelos, native-America writers such as Louise Erdrich and Asian-American such as Maxine Hong (Schaub, 79).  One of the most popular post-war novel “The naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer provides a narrow and terrifying view of the war, focusing on the lives of a small group of men fighting in the south pacific. The novel explores the experience the terrific experience and dehumanizing situation.


 Common techniques and themes in post-war literature

Some of the common themes and techniques evident in postmodern literature include:

Iron, playfulness and black humor

Iron, playfulness and black humor, are the trademark of postwar literature.  Postwar writers choose critical and serious issues such as wars and depict their stories ironically and humorously.    According to Linda Hutcheon, postwar fiction is characterized by the ironic quotes marks that much of these literatures can be taken as tongue-in-cheek.   Iron, playfulness and black humor, which are related to Derrida’s concept of play, are some of the outstanding aspects of postwar fiction.   However, the idea of using Iron, playfulness and black humor did not start with postmodern writers and had been in existence for decades.  The use of these elements made novelists such as John Barth, William Gaddis and Jay Friedman to be regarded as black humorists.


  Most postwar/postmodern writers treat serious issues and subjects in playful and humorous way.   A good example is how Vonnegut and Pynchon address world war issues.    In “The school”, Donald Barthelme uses irony and black humor.   Donald humorous talk about the ironic death of plants, animals, and people associated with children in one class, but the curious repetition of death is treated as a joke and the narrator remains distant emotionally throughout the narrative.  Irony is also central to Joseph Heller’s catch-22. The narrative of the novel is structured around long series of humor.  Exemplary example of playfulness is found in Thomas Pynchon’s “The crying of lot 49.”  The novel contain characters such Mike Fallopian, and Stanley, a radio station known as KCUF while the novel has a serious subject and a complex structure .The element of irony is closely related to metafiction.


 Metafiction is a phenomenon that seems to occur in particular with post-war literature.  In fact, metafiction is closely connected with ways of thinking typically of that time, generally called the post-modernist period, where “doubt” and “irony” are central ideas.  Furthermore, self-preferentiality is the most common form of metafiction, particularly frequent in romantic irony.  Romantic irony is the metafiction in that it explicitly draws attention to the artificiality of novel. Romantic writers and theorists, of whom German Friedrich is the most prominent, use irony to undermine the neo-classical belief that words can grasp everything and that reality so becomes fully reproducible for human beings. There is an increased interest in metafiction after the second war (Gesa 201).  


 Intertextuality

            Intertextuality is a concept often associated with postmodernism, particularly the sphere of modernism where literature meets critical theory.  Postmodernism represents a decenter concept of the globe in which individual works are interrelated; Intertextuality has been accorded a lot of focus in postmodern literature.  Intertextuality is the relationship between one text, for example, a novel, and another or one text within the interwoven fabric of literary history.  Various critics have used this concept as an indication of lack of creativity in post-war literature.


By the mid-to-late 1960s, the stage had long been set for a theory of intertextuality. On the side of Atlantic, Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of criticism (1957), assumed what would come to be known as intertextuality principles. It presents, in part, a conception of literature as containing life and reality in a system of verbal relationships. It subsumes the work of the “major” authors with that of ‘minor” figures in a multiply positional typology based on relation and differences.  Intertextuality manifests in fairy tales. The works of Margret Atwood and Donald Barthelme are a good example of how Intersexuality is used in postmodern literature.  It is also evident in other genres such as detective fiction and sci-fi.   


Pierre Menard is an example of perfect use of intertextuality, which influenced postmodern writers. His work “Quixote” references intertextuality in medieval romances.  Don Quixote is referred by numerous post-war writers such as Kathy Acker in her novel Don Quixote, which was a dream.  Another classic example of intertextuality in post-war literature is John Barth’s “The sot-weed Factor,” which deals with Ebenezer’s Cooke’s poem of the same name.  In most cases, intertextuality is complicated that the reference of one text to another text.  Robert Coover’s in his novel “Pinicchio in Venice” links to Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice.” Similarly, Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose” assumes the structure of a detective novel and refers to numerous authors such as Aristotle (Gupta 154).   


 Pastiche

            Pastiche is another common characteristic in post-war literature. The concept is closely related to intertextuality. The term means to combine or to “paste” together, multiple elements in a literature work.  In postwar literature, pastiche is a homage to or parody of past styles.  It represents the chaotic, pluralistic, or information drenched concept of the modern society.  Often it is seen as a combination of multiple genres to create a unique novel or narrative or to comment on situations in post-war.  A good example is seen in Williams Burroughs novel, which combines science fiction and detective fiction. Similarly, Margaret Atwood combines science fiction and fairy tales.


Umberto Ecos utilizes a combination of fairy tales, detective fiction and science fiction while Derek Pell uses collage and noir detective, travel guides, erotica and manuals (Lauter 215).  Pastiche involves a combination of genres. However, it can involve a combination of other elements such as metafiction and temporal distortion. This is evident in Thomas Pynchon work, which combines detective fiction, songs, pop culture reference and war fiction.  Another classical example of element combination is seen in Robert Cover’s 1977 novel “The Public burning.” In the novel, Robert combines historically inaccurate accords of President Richard Nixon interaction with historical figures and fictional characters such as Uncle Sam. Pastiche can also be considered as a compositional technique. This is clearly demonstrated in Johnson’s novel “The Unfortunates.” The book was released in a box without binding so that readers could assemble it the way they want.  


 Conclusion

            The World War II influenced various elements of literature. The period was characterized with the emergence of great writers who focused on subjectivism, and used various techniques. Most postwar literary work share common themes and techniques. Novelists explored various prose styles and explored a wide variety of experiences and attitudes in the contemporary American society. Postwar writers choose critical and serious issues such as wars and depict their stories ironically and humorously. In postwar literature, pastiche is a homage to or parody of past styles.  It represents the chaotic, pluralistic, or information drenched concept of the modern society


 Work cited

American literature. The lost generation and after.  The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Columbia University Press. 2012.

Gupta Satish. American fiction in perspective. Contemporary essays.  Atlantic Publishers and distributors.  New Delhi. 2000.

Paul Lauter. The heath anthology of American literature, Volume C: Late Nineteenth Century.  Cengage Learning. 2010; 213-215.  Print

Schaub H. American fiction in the cold war. The University of Wisconsin Press.  1991, 79. Print

Erick V & Karen M. Contemporary American literature, 1945 to present.  DWJ books LLC. 2010; 154.

Gesa Giesing. Metafiction Aspects in the novel by Muriel Spark. 


 

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