What was post modern writing trying to achieve or portray?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Postmodernism in literature, as one can imagine by its name, deals with literature after the "modern" literary period. Whereas the modern era concentrated on what was occurring during the nineteenth century and before, postmodernism is believed to have begun post-World War II as a reaction to modernism. It is difficult to find concrete characteristics of this genre of literature; and there are no specific "markers." For example, in England, eras such as the Elizabethan or Jacobean are named for monarchs: Elizabeth I and James I. Postmodernism seems to concentrate on elements such as:

...fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc.

Deconstruction, disintegration, cultural studies, and multiculturalism are the main themes of the postmodern era. It would seem that the writing itself does not have a definite message: without a reader, the writing is meaningless; and with the reader, meaning is determined by what that individual gleans from it.

The modernist author was responding to a world in chaos. However, the postmodern author avoids:

...often playfully, the possibility of meaning, and the postmodern novel is often a parody of this quest.

Because there are no specific qualities to this type of literature, which includes a diverse group of writers (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Alain Robbe-Grillet, Ishmael Reed, Julia Kristeva, and Susan Sontag, etc.), this literary era is better addressed in generalities, noting that it concentrates on language and the analysis of what knowledge actually is (if this is possible to articulate). So the writers of postmodern literature are most interested in:

imprecision and unreliability of language and with epistemology[—]the study of what knowledge is.