Iconoclastic and irreverent, the postmodern novel is by definition a radical experiment that emerges when a writer feels the customary tropes of fiction have been exhausted. For the postmodernist, the well-worn genre of the novel is insufficient and no longer capable of conveying the imagination of the writer or the magnitude of historical events.
Several critics agree that postmodern fiction is a product of the post-World War II period. At that time, many of the major modernist writers, such as Joseph Conrad, Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf, had died. Other writers, including William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, had ceased publishing innovative and experimental work. Critics also tend to concur that postmodernism is an extension of rather than a decisive break or deviation from modernism, the defining literary movement of the twentieth century.
Many different authors have been labeled postmodernist. These writers include Thomas Berger, Richard Brautigan, Don DeLillo, William Gaddis, Vladimir Nabokov, and Thomas Pynchon, Peter Ackroyd, Angela Carter, Salman Rushdie, and Umberto Eco. Most critical discussion, however, focuses on American writers publishing since the late 1950’s.
Like the modern novel, the postmodern novel is subversive; that is, it counters traditional notions of plot, narrative, chronology, and character development. Postmodern novels are often described as self-reflexive—that is,...
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