How is The Secret Room, by James Laughlin, representative of Postmodern Literature?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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James Laughlin's The Secret Room is most assuredly a text representative of Postmodernism. According to the eNOtes Study Guide on Postmodernism, the period is represented by "imprecision and unreliability of language and the study of what knowledge is." Postmodernists focus upon "stream of consciousness" (a depiction of the numerous thoughts and feelings which pass through one's mind).

James Laughlin's text contains a section on poetry, epigrams/comic verses, and thirty-nine pentastichs (five line poems). A wonderful example of Laughlin's postmodernistic style is found in the very first section of the text. Laughlin's poem "In Old Age" contains imagery which forces the reader to examine what he or she thinks about the subject. The poem is open and draws readers in given its ability to pertain to all. The poem relies upon the readers thoughts to be more than it is on paper.

The poem speaks to the universal truth behind aging. All people will age and die. The poem reflects upon this idea. Given that many people do not reflect upon this idea a lot, the poem allows readers to just that. Many of the poems reflect on love, a major theme of the text overall. While love tends to be a subject people do reflect upon, how Laughlin presents the idea of love draws readers in (again forcing the reader to reflect upon what thoughts the poem draws out of the reader).

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