Post Modernism

By: Elaina Baaklini, Kasey Morone, and Katherine Mullinax

Postmodernism: Design in a Nutshell (6/6)

Historical Events

As expected, the historical events and characters in this still on-going time period affected how people thought, spoke, and wrote. For example, in 1954, "the Supreme court rules public school segregation to be unconstitutional" (Timeline 1946 to Present 958). During this period, African Americans were still fighting for their rights in America and expressed their hardships through poetry and novels.

However, African Americans were not the only ones to bring attention to certain topics that they thought should be addressed; Rachel Carson, a well known American author, published a book that made people become more aware of protecting the environment.

The generation that had lived through the Great Depression and World War 2 was called "the Silent Generation". During the 1960's, this changed drastically; suddenly, the generation was seeing civil right's movements, protests, and women's movements.

In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and there was an uproar in the public. Martin Luther King Jr. was the voice of so many and he played a huge role as a civil rights activist. Since his voice was no longer there, African Americans needed a new one. Once again, they resorted to literature.


Predominant Themes and Genres

Modernism itself was full of confidence. Common themes and styles were not questioned, but simply followed. Postmodernism, on the other hand, was full of question, intrigue, and doubt.


  • Social Criticism- this was the idea that the modern world was now regulated by commercial nature.
  • Rites of Passage- a significant point or boundary in a person's life that marks a transition (often times it is of cultural importance)
  • "A Literary movement during the nineteenth century that influenced poets" (Glossary R15).
  • A new theme arised: there was a blend of nonfiction and fiction. Some works of writing were only comprised of dialogue.


Stylistic Approach and Devices

1. Anecdote: “A short account of an event” (Prepare to Read 1041)

2. How are characters motivated? “They’re motivated by their values, wants, and needs.” (Prepare to Read 1055)

3. 1st Person Point of view: “The narrator is a character in the story and uses ‘I’.”(Prepare to Read1055)

4. What makes up a write’s style? “Style includes word choice, diction, tone, degree of formality, figurative language, rhythm, grammatical structure, sentence length and organization.”(Prepare to Read 1013)

5. Symbolism: “A literary movement during the nineteenth century that influenced poets.”(Glossary R15)

6. Rhythm: “The pattern of beats or stresses in language.”(Glossary R14)

7. Figurative Language: “A writing or speech not to be taken literally.”(Glossary R8)

8. Diction: “A writer’s or speaker’s word choice.”(Prepare to Read 1013)

9. Theme: “A central message or insight into life revealed by a literary work.” (Prepare to Read 1161)


Major Authors and Biographies

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)

First book, A Street in Bronzeville- published in 1945. Poems "focus on suffering urban blacks who feel uprooted and are unable to make a living" (Frederick Douglass 1178). Also the first African American writer to win Pulitzer Prize.

Joy Harjo

Writer whose Native American Creek and Cherokee heritage heavily influenced her writing style. Harjo has written published books of poetry and prose. She also "wrote film scripts and taught at state universities of California, New Mexico, and Montana" (Suspended 1040).

Alice Walker

Born in Eatonton, Georgia in 1944. An African American born as the eighth child to a family of sharecroppers. Wrote The Color Purple in 1982 and awarded with a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. Known to be involved with the Civil Rights Movement. She "delves into the lives of African American women throughout history and the modern world" (Everyday Use 1054).

Tim O'Brien

Born in 1946 in Austin, Minnesota. Although he opposed the war, O'Brien was sent to Vietnam. Later attended graduate school at Harvard. O'Brien's works focused on many of his experiences in Vietnam. His first published work was If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, a memoir to Vietnam.

Adrienne Rich

A poet and essayist who is known for examination of women in society. Her literary work was "neatly crafted traditional verse" (In A Classroom 1178). Her later poems are written in free verse and all of her writing was filled with deep emotion.

Theodore Roethke

Born in 1908 in Saginaw, Michigan. His family was known for owning large commercial greenhouses. His passion and observation of plants inspired ideas for his poetry later on.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

Born in Boston in 1932. Her literary work "expresses intense feelings of despair and deep inner pain" (Mirror 1178). According to Prentice Hall literature, Plath "wrote and received scholastic and literary works as a youth" as well as "graduate with highest honors from Smith College" (Mirror 1178). Her first and only book of verse that was published was The Colossus and Other Poems in 1960.

Overall Impact

Postmodernism is about discovering new techniques, styles and cultures. It's very clear that this way of thinking is still around now. When we look at a concept, we dig deeper. We want to know why and how.