A7 Postmodernists

c. 1940-present

A7 Old_timer_structural_worker2, PostmodernistsThe Postmodernist Period in American literature usually refers to works produced after the end of World War II. The Modernist Period had been characterized by intense social, political, financial and personal upheavals, but these seemed to be minimized to some extent by the need for national unity of purpose that arose when America officially entered the war. America ultimately emerged from the Second World War as a global power and its industrial mobilization during and after the war resulted in a wave of prosperity that touched and improved the life of almost everyone in the nation.

A7 USMC-450223B, PostmodernistsVeterans returning from the war often had the perspective of conquering heroes and, for the most part, their experiences of the horrors of war were quickly set aside in favor of resuming their private lives and pursuing the boundless economic opportunities of post-war America. Likewise, American civilians who lived through the war years were ready to leave behind the memory of the hard times of the Depression and the many personal sacrifices required to support the war effort.

The habit of social, moral and emotional questioning that began during the Modernist era resumed in earnest among the writers of this period – the Postmodernists – and their works reflect their anxieties about what the war had achieved and what kind of life could be expected in the post-war world. Beyond issues of the war itself, America was entering the Cold War Era and McCarthyism consumed the national consciousness, creating new fears and apprehensions about the future and the threat of the various new technologies that had been developed.

A7 Draft_card_burning_NYC_1967, PostmodernistsAt this same time, during the 1950s, a youth movement emerged to challenge the values and traditions of the generation that had fought in World War II. Referred to as “The Beat Generation,” young writers rebelled against established social order, against authority, against traditions and against the intellectual establishment. Not unlike the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-1800s, Beat writers sought truth and enlightenment through nature and introspection, rather than through conventional channels of awareness, and began to popularize the use of marijuana and other illicit drugs in an effort to “transcend” their world’s realities. The Beat generation’s anti-establishment attitudes stood in stark contrast to the conventional social norms modeled by the Eisenhower years in America and never seemed to get serious traction as a literary form, but traces of A7 SUBWAY_PASSENGERS_ABOARD_A_NEW_YORK_CITY_TRANSIT_AUTHORITY_CAR_ON_THE_LEXINGTON_AVENUE_LINE_ARE_OBLIVIOUS_TO_THE..._-_NARA_-_556813, Postmoderniststhis genre’s nonconformism continued to appear throughout the late 1960s and in response to the political climate of the Vietnam War Era in the early 1970s.

Postmodernism continues to the present day as novels, short stories, plays and poems express a more personal reaction to the world’s events and circumstances. Narrative forms first popularized in the earliest literary history of America returned to the fore with a renewed energy of self-examination and free expression of thought and feeling. Stories and poems now showcase individualized responses to the incursion of technology into every aspect of life and attempt to explain how these may make life better or worse than it was before. Questions continue to be asked about the meaning of life, but concrete answers still are not forthcoming.

Postmodernist Literature

The following authors in our database represent the Postmodernist Period of American Literature:

Agee, JamesBook Icon (1909-1955) Levine, PhilipBook Icon (1928-2015)
Ammons, A.R.Book Icon (1926-2001) Lorde, AudreBook Icon (1934-1992)
Anaya, RudolfoBook Icon (1937-) Lowell, RobertBook Icon (1917-1977)
Angelou, MayaBook Icon (1928-2014) Lowry, LoisBook Icon (1937-)
Armstrong, William H.Book Icon (1911-1999) Mailer, NormanBook Icon (1923-2007)
Arnow, HarrietteBook Icon (1908-1986) Malamud, BernardBook Icon (1914-1986)
Ashbery, JohnBook Icon (1927-2017) Marshall, PauleBook Icon (1929-)
Asinof, EliotBook Icon (1919-2008) McCarthy, CormacBook Icon (1933-)
Avi (Edward Irving Wortis)Book Icon (1937-) McCarthy, MaryBook Icon (1912-1989)
Babbitt, NatalieBook Icon (1932-) McCourt, FrankBook Icon (1931-2009)
Baldwin, JamesBook Icon (1924-1987) McCullers, CarsonBook Icon (1917-1967)
Bambara, Toni CadeBook Icon (1939-1995) McCullough, DavidBook Icon (1933-)
Baraka, Imamu Amiri (LeRoi Jones)Book Icon (1934-2014) McMurtry, LarryBook Icon (1936-)
Barth, JohnBook Icon (1930-) Merrill, JamesBook Icon (1926-1995)
Barthelme, DonaldBook Icon (1931-1989) Merton, ThomasBook Icon (1915-1968)
Bellow, SaulBook Icon (1915-2005) Miles, JosephineBook Icon (1911-1985)
Berendt, JohnBook Icon (1939-) Miller, HenryBook Icon (1891-1980)
Berryman, JohnBook Icon (1914-1972) Mitchell, MargaretBook Icon (1900-1949)
Bishop, ElizabethBook Icon (1911-1979) Momaday, N. ScottBook Icon (1934-)
Bly, RobertBook Icon (1926-) Morrison, ToniBook Icon (1931-)
Bowles, PaulBook Icon (1910-1999) Myers, Walter DeanBook Icon (1937-2014)
Bradbury, RayBook Icon (1920-2012) Nabokov, VladimirBook Icon (1899-1977)
Brautigan, RichardBook Icon (1935-1984) Nash, OgdenBook Icon (1902-1971)
Brooks, GwendolynBook Icon (1917-2000) Naylor, Phyllis ReynoldsBook Icon (1933-)
Bukowski, CharlesBook Icon (1920-1994) Nemerov, HowardBook Icon (1920-1991)
Bulosan, CarlosBook Icon (1913-1956) Niedecker, LorineBook Icon (1903-1970)
Bunting, EveBook Icon (1928-) O’Connor, FlanneryBook Icon (1925-1964)
Burns, Olive AnnBook Icon (1924-1990) O’Dell, ScottBook Icon (1898-1989)
Burroughs, William S.Book Icon (1914-1997) O’Hara, FrankBook Icon (1926-1966)
Byars, BetsyBook Icon (1928-) Oates, Joyce CarolBook Icon (1938-)
Capote, TrumanBook Icon (1924-1984) Okada, JohnBook Icon (1923-1971)
Carruth, HaydenBook Icon (1921-2008) Oliver, MaryBook Icon (1935-)
Carver, RaymondBook Icon (1938-1988) Olsen, TillieBook Icon (1912-2007)
Chandler, RaymondBook Icon (1888-1959) Olson, CharlesBook Icon (1910-1970)
Cheever, JohnBook Icon (1912-1982) Oppen, GeorgeBook Icon (1908-1984)
Ciardi, JohnBook Icon (1916-1986) Ozick, CynthiaBook Icon (1928-)
Clifton, LucilleBook Icon (1936-2010) Paley, GraceBook Icon (1922-2007)
Cormier, RobertBook Icon (1925-2000) Patchen, KennethBook Icon (1911-1972)
Corso, GregoryBook Icon (1930-2001) Paterson, KatherineBook Icon (1932-)
Creeley, RobertBook Icon (1926-2005) Paulsen, GaryBook Icon (1939-)
DeLillo, DonBook Icon (1936-) Petry, AnnBook Icon (1908-1997)
Dewey, JohnBook Icon (1859-1952) Plath, SylviaBook Icon (1932-1963)
Dick, Philip K.Book Icon (1928-1982) Postman, NeilBook Icon (1931-2003)
Dickey, JamesBook Icon (1923-1997) Potok, ChaimBook Icon (1929-2002)
Didion, JoanBook Icon (1934-) Pynchon, ThomasBook Icon (1937-)
Doctorow, E.L.Book Icon (1931-2015) Quinn, DanielBook Icon (1935-)
Dorn, EdwardBook Icon (1929-1999) Rand, AynBook Icon (1905-1982)
Duncan, RobertBook Icon (1919-1988) Rawls, WilsonBook Icon (1913-1984)
Dusinberre, WilliamBook Icon (unknown) Reed, IshmaelBook Icon (1938-)
Ellison, RalphBook Icon (1914-1994) Rexroth, KennethBook Icon (1905-1982)
Erikson, ErikBook Icon (1902-1994) Rich, AdrienneBook Icon (1929-2012)
Evans, MariBook Icon (1923-2017) Rivera, TomasBook Icon (1935-1984)
Everson, William (Brother Antoninus)Book Icon (1912-1994) Roethke, TheodoreBook Icon (1908-1963)
Ferlinghetti, LawrenceBook Icon (1919-) Roth, HenryBook Icon (1906-1995)
Forbes, EstherBook Icon (1891-1967) Roth, PhillipBook Icon (1933-)
Fox, PaulaBook Icon (1923-2017) Rukeyser, MurielBook Icon (1913-1980)
Frank, PatBook Icon (1908-1964) Salinger, J.D.Book Icon (1919-2010)
Gaines, ErnestBook Icon (1933-) Sanchez, SoniaBook Icon (1934-)
Gardner, JohnBook Icon (1933-1982) Sandoz, MariBook Icon (1896-1966)
George, Jean CraigheadBook Icon (1919-2012) Saroyan, WilliamBook Icon (1908-1981)
Ginsberg, AllenBook Icon (1926-1997) Sexton, AnneBook Icon (1928-1974)
Guest, BarbaraBook Icon (1920-2006) Sherrill, John and ElizabethBook Icon (1923/28-)
Guest, JudithBook Icon (1936-) Sills, Steven David JustinBook Icon (unknown)
Guy, RosaBook Icon (1922-2012) Sneve, Virginia Driving HawkBook Icon (1933-)
Haley, AlexBook Icon (1921-1992) Snodgrass, W.D.Book Icon (1926-2009)
Hall, DonaldBook Icon (1928-) Snyder, GaryBook Icon (1930-)
Hamilton, EdithBook Icon (1868-1963) Sontag, SusanBook Icon (1933-2004)
Hamilton, VirginiaBook Icon (1936-2002) Southern, TerryBook Icon (1924-1995)
Harper, Michael S.Book Icon (1938-2016) Speare, Elizabeth GeorgeBook Icon (1908-1994)
Hayden, RobertBook Icon (1913-1980) Stafford, WilliamBook Icon (1914-1993)
Heinlein, RobertBook Icon (1907-1988) Stegner, WallaceBook Icon (1909-1993)
Heller, JosephBook Icon (1923-1999) Stolz, MaryBook Icon (1920-2006)
Hersey, JohnBook Icon (1914-1993) Styron, WilliamBook Icon (1925-2006)
Hillerman, TonyBook Icon (1925-2008) Talese, GayBook Icon (1932-)
Hinojosa-Smith, RolandoBook Icon (1929-) Thompson, Hunter S.Book Icon (1937-2005)
Hunt, IreneBook Icon (1907-2001) Tolson, Melvin B.Book Icon (1898-1966)
Inada, Lawson FusaoBook Icon (1938-) Toole, John KennedyBook Icon (1937-1969)
Jackson, ShirleyBook Icon (1916-1965) Trevino, Elizabeth Borton deBook Icon (1904-2001)
Jarrell, RandallBook Icon (1914-1965) Uchida, YoshikoBook Icon (1921-1992)
Jordan, JuneBook Icon (1936-2002) Updike, JohnBook Icon (1932-2009)
Keith, HaroldBook Icon (1903-1998) Vidal, GoreBook Icon (1925-2012)
Kerouac, JackBook Icon (1922-1969) Vizenor, GeraldBook Icon (1934-)
Kesey, KenBook Icon (1935-2001) Vonnegut, KurtBook Icon (1922-2007)
Kinnell, GalwayBook Icon (1927-2014) Walcott, DerekBook Icon (1930-2017)
Kizer, CarolynBook Icon (1925-2014) Walker, MargaretBook Icon (1915-1998)
Knight, EtheridgeBook Icon (1931-1991) Watkins, Yoko KawashimaBook Icon (1933-)
Knowles, JohnBook Icon (1926-2001) Welty, EudoraBook Icon (1909-2001)
Koch, KennethBook Icon (1925-2002) White, E.B.Book Icon (1899-1985)
Kumin, MaxineBook Icon (1925-2014) Wilbur, RichardBook Icon (1921-)
Kunitz, StanleyBook Icon (1905-2006) Williams, C.K.Book Icon (1936-2015)
L’Engle, MadeleineBook Icon (1918-2007) Wolfe, TomBook Icon (1931-2018)
Lawrence, Jerome and Robert LeeBook Icon (1915-2004) Wright, JamesBook Icon (1927-1980)
Lee, HarperBook Icon (1926-2016) Yamamoto, HisayeBook Icon (1921-2011)
LeGuin, UrsulaBook Icon (1929-) Yates, RichardBook Icon (1926-1992)
Levertov, DeniseBook Icon (1923-1997) Zindel, PaulBook Icon (1936-2003)
Levin, IraBook Icon (1929-2007) Zukofsky, LouisBook Icon (1904-1978)

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