Characteristics of Postmodern Fiction

‘One might summarise some of the key characteristics of postmodern fiction as follows. Postmodern fiction often shows:

  1. a preoccupation with the viability of systems of representation;
  2. the decentring of the subject by discursive systems, and the inscription of multiple fictive selves;
  3. narrative fragmentation and narrative reflexivity; narratives which double back on their own presuppositions;
  4. an open-ended play with formal devices and narrative artifice, in which narrative self-consciously alludes to its own artifice, thus challenging some of the presuppositions of literary realism;
  5. an interrogation of the ontological basis of and connections between narrative and subjectivity;
  6. an abolition of the cultural divide beween high and popular forms of culture, embracing all in a mélange;
  7. an exploration of ways in which narrative mediates and constructs history: e.g. Graham Swift’s preoccupation with the relationship between story and history in Waterland (1983);
  8. the displacement of the real by simulacra, such that the original is always already linguistically constructed: novels incorporate ‘historical’ fictions as fact.’

– Tim Woods Beginning Postmodernism, 1999: 81-2


3 thoughts on “Characteristics of Postmodern Fiction

  1. Yikes!!! Do these people ever read their material out loud to, say, ordinary people then ask if by chance anyone understood anything at all? Is he trying to communicate something presumably valuable to someone, or just showing off? Quoting just one line: “2.the decentring of the subject by discursive systems, and the inscription of multiple fictive selves;” Say what?

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