What are the characteristics of postmodernist literature that makes it challenging to read?
Irony has lost both its humor and its drive to correct social wrongs in Postmodernist literature, so the ironic tone that might amuse in Austen's Pride and Prejudice becomes a biting, humorless sarcasm in postmodern works. The Fault in Our Stars is a good example of this postmodernist stripping of humor and intent from irony. This is one characteristic that makes these works challenging to read.
mostly friendless, ... exploiting his cancertastic past, slowly working his way toward a master's degree that will not improve his career prospects, waiting ... for the sword of Damocles to give relief that he escaped lo those many years ago.... (John Green, The Fault in Our Stars)
Even more challenging is what postmodernist Marxist critic Fredric Jameson calls chronological, or temporal, "schizophrenia." Until modernists and postmodernists, chronology in literature was fairly straightforward following a cause-effect order through time. Flashbacks were employed to tell backstories or to fill in events that transpired away from the point-of-view focus, but temporal cohesion was kept intact. An example of such a flashback occurs in Austen's Sense and Sensibility when Willoughby bursts in on Eleanor and tells her the story of his away-from-point-of-view events: he is speaking about a time he flashes back to, so temporal consistency is not lost, only momentarily redirected.
"I do not know ... how YOU may have accounted for my behaviour to your sister ... [but] When I first became intimate in your family, I had no other intention, no other view in the acquaintance than to pass my time pleasantly while I was obliged to remain in Devonshire,..." (Jane Austen,
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