Dear budding writers and keen readers,
Today I wish to share with you something interesting I’ve been suddenly inspired to write about.
I’ve in fact been trying my hand at postmodern poetry for a while…..
(Don’t worry, I promise to soon share my postmodern writing with you)
…. and I thought it would be nice in a first instance, to brief you on what it constitutes so you can also try if you feel like doing so.
Here we go:
First of all what is postmodernism?
As you can see, the term can be broken down into two separate terms: “post” and “modernism”.
“Post” means “after”, so logically, before postmodernism, there should have been a modernism for it to rebel against.
“Modernism”, however, is itself a difficult term to define as it encompasses, not one, but a variety of artistic and philosophical movements during the late 19th and early 20th century.
But the unifying feature of all these movements was a sudden break from traditional ways of viewing the world and interacting with it- a break from the conventions of the pre-modern world (“pre” means “before”).
The pre-modern world (Enlightenment era, Victorian age) was characterised by a sense of order and stability that was rooted in:
- the meaningful nature of faith
- collective values and
- a clear sense of identity
Yet the late 19th and early 20th century was a period of great social, political and economic change as well as industrialisation and technological upheaval (the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution and the American Revolution all took place during this period).
Moreover, the mass slaughter of the First World War brought frustration and disillusionment.
The Modernist period was hence characterised by a sense of chaotic instability.
This sense of chaotic instability was rooted in the revelation that collective social values are not particularly meaningful.
This consequently led to faithlessness, skepticism and a confused sense of identity.
For modernists therefore, earlier literary traditions were becoming outdated and did not reflect these changes in the Western industrial society.
They desired to experiment new things and use new forms of writing to reflect their confused sense of identity.
Truth started to be seen as subjective…
Individualism started being elevated…
Modernism started rejecting tradition…
….to focus on freedom of expression.
Yet although modernism flourished in capitalist societies, like all movements, it also had its critique.
And this is when postmodernism emerged (during the late 20th century- after World War 2)…
…as a reaction to modernism or a continuation of it (this is an ongoing debate- and a very messy one I must say).
So while modernists were trying to understand the truth of life, postmodernists believed that there is no absolute truth.
Instead of the modernist quest for meaning in a chaotic world, the postmodernist avoids the possibility of meaning.
While modernists still created original (though new) art forms, postmodernists believed originality was no longer possible.
While modernism coped with the changing society and its “trauma”, Postmodernism saw this optimism as irrelevant and outdated.
Most of all, postmodernism saw human experience and even human identity as unstable, contradictory and ambiguous.
So dear friends, to write a mind-blowing postmodern poem or novel or play in which you reflect these values and beliefs, you should definitely consider using the following 6 techniques:
As I told you, postmodernism focuses on a vision of a contradictory and fragmented world.
We are fragmented beings with fragmented identities. The world is a fragmented place and writing is equally fragmented.
Now how do we achieve this in a poem or a novel for example?
Well, it’s simple.
Try for instance to jumble the sequence of events instead of having a cohesive, linear piece of writing.
Do not follow the cause and effect scenario.
Have an unreliable, fragmented narrator or poetic voice.
Don’t insist on correct grammatical forms. Rather, have ungrammatical sentences and broken structures.
Move forward and backward in time.
Write in free verse.
Pastiche means to combine, or “paste” together multiple elements.
This technique is very popular in post-modern films in particular and is done to reflect the instability in the human identity.
It can be seen as a representation of the chaotic, pluralistic, or information-drenched aspects of postmodern society.
So you can consider:
Combining many different genres to form something new (e.g you can combine the fairy tale with tragedy).
Create a parody of past styles.
Attack the distinction between high and low culture.
Combine multiple cultural elements including subjects and genres not previously deemed fit for literature.
Intertextuality is the shaping of texts’ meanings by other texts (to express the postmodern belief that originality no longer exists).
How to achieve intertextuality in your postmodern poem:
Borrow or transform a prior text or any other kind of text into a poem.
Reference another writer in your poem or novel or short story.
Discuss another already published text.
Adopt the style of an existing writer.
Refer to people in history or characters from fairy tales or those from the literary canon.
Refer to popular genres such as science-fiction and detective fiction.
Metafiction means writing about writing.
It is an attempt to make the reader aware of its ficitionality, and, sometimes, the presence of the author.
Here are some ways how you can use metafiction in your writing:
Mention in your poem or story that you are writing a postmodern poem or story.
Maintain emotional distance of the narrator/speaker/persona.
Make the reader aware of your presence as the author e.g by intruding to comment on the writing.
Call attention to the writing process.
Address the reader directly.
Become involved with the characters.
Hyperreality is an inability of human consciousness to distinguish actual reality from a simulation of reality.
This happens especially in technologically advanced postmodern societies.
It is when what is real and what is fiction are blended so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins.
You can in your writing:
Deal with themes like augmented reality, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Show how the media has invaded the society.
Create a Matrix-style scenario.
Blur the real and the unreal.
Rework existing poems.
Create a futuristic setting for e.g a high-tech consumer society.
- Magic realism
Postmodernism asserts that truth is not mirrored in human understanding of it.
Rather, it is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own personal reality.
One way of showing this is through Magical realism- the introduction of fantastic or impossible elements into a narrative that it seems real or normal.
Here are some ways how you can achieve this:
Include dreams taking place during normal life.
Include the return of previously deceased characters.
Create extremely complicated plots.
Have wild shifts in time.
Make myths and fairy tales (or a parody of these) part of your writing.
Ok budding writers and keen readers, I think I’ll stop here for today.
I encourage you to read more on postmodernism. Believe me, there’s still a lot more to learn than you imagine.
And try some postmodern writing soon, that you can of course share with us anytime.
All the best.