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Sep 19, 2010

Post Modernism

Post Modernism emerged after the Second World War as a reaction against the “Modernist” and the “Anti-Modernist” tendencies. Historically, it can be traced back as far as the Deda Movement which began in Zurich in 1916, but as a significant force in Modern writing. “

Postmodernism” is s fairly recent phenomenon, and is more evident in America and France than in England, except in the field of Drama. Beckett, being settled in Paris (France) and being French as well as English writer, showed “Postmodernist” tendencies more than any other English writer. His plays as well as novella are typical examples of Post-Modernist writings. Among other Post-Modernist, prominent examples are works of John Fowles, Alain Robbe Grillet, Thomas Pnychon, John Barth, Kurt Vonnegut, Leonard Michaels, Brigid Brophy and Richard Brautigan. Post modernist writers break away from all the rules and seek alternative principles of composition conforming to their content of existentialist thought. They seek to capture human situation in is most concentrated form and rend to employ a form which can fully assimilate human existence, which is capable of accommodating the meaninglessness, purposelessness and absurdity of human existence. They have employed various devices such as Contradiction, Permulation, Discontinuity, Randomness, Excess, Short Circuit etc. which manifest chaotic condition of the world in equally chaotic technique and form. Two novelist of the postmodernism need special mention Irish Murdoch who considers the novel “essentially a comic form” is a contemporary philosopher-novelist, a woman writer. It is Murdoch who has produced 24 novels and is rightly recognized as a major modern British novelist. “We all”, says Murdoch, “synthesis fact, fiction and allegory”, and in her novels for once, wit, dream, realism, fantasy, allegory the mythic and mind probing are made to consort decorously together. Her narrative, indeed, works towards the imposition of form, with imagery suggested by the unconscious forces in our psyche. Her fiction may be defined as “a battle between real people and fantasy.” In her hands, indeed, “the novel of a social quest has been enlarged into a a novel of spiritual quest in which the protagonist undertakes a journey, whose purpose is to attain new spiritual knowledge.” Doris Lessing’s vision as, expressed in her works, is a continual process to self-scrutiny ending in a quest for spiritual wholeness.” She is “a novelist of cosmic concern and universal benevolence.” The interest if her fable lies in her attempt to dramatize all along an opposition between fable and reality.

Angry Young Man
One perhaps ought not to leave the twentieth century novel without referring to the literary phenomenon which journalists conceptualized for a mass public with the phrase ‘Angry Young Man,’ which are Kingsley Amis, John Braine, Alan Sillitoe, and John Wain. The anger of these writers was directed against the old establishment, the liberal human, largely upper middle class, and against Bloomsbury intelligenia (Virginia Woolf, Forster, and Lytton Strachey). Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger (performed in 1956, published 1957) supplied the tone and little for the movement.  Among these young “angries,” the Booker Prize winner for his novel The Old Devils (1986), Kignsley Amis (1922-95) is considered the leading novelist, whose Lucky Jim (1954) provides not only a catchy title but also an effective metaphor for the protesting young men. The next is Alan Sillitoe (1928), whose Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) describes the life of a dissatisfied young Nottingham factory worker, while the title story in The Loneliness of the Long Distant Runner (1959) portrays a rebellious Borstal boy. Another was John Braine (1922), who produced, Room at the Top (1957), a novel about Joe Lampton, a young man who leaves the woman he loves and marries another one who has more money. It was made into a film in 1958, and Braine later wrote a sequel (= a book continuing the original story), Life at the Top (1962), which expose the emptiness of the upper class life. However, the anger they displayed in their novels was not of a very serious order, it was not the kind of anger we associate with D.H. Lawrence. The anger or protest of these young men was rather of a lower order, closer to an ordinary disgruntlement, that is why, the anger was soon subsided, no wonder, the movement did not last beyond the decade of the 1950’s. Movement Poet If the Angry Young Men revolted in the English novel after the Second World War, similarly the poets of the forties brings a new trend in English poetry by revolting against the modernistic poetry of Eliot and Pound because they think that The Waste Land has corrupted the taste of English poetry for quite a long time and that time had come to say good bye to this technique (Philip Hobsbaun), and this revolt termed by Robert Conquest as Movement which was “empirical in its attitude to all the cosmos.” On one hand, it was a reaction against the mythical new classicism of the 1920’s, on the other, it was opposed to the neo-romanticism of the 1940’s. The movement poets shut their eyes to whatever lurked beyond the tangible present and the mundane multitude, as Calvin Bedient describes:    “The English poetic movement of the fifties did much to fix the image of the contemporary British poetry as deliberately,deficient, moderate with a will.” A New Phememenon appeared in the 1950s and the early 60s in the shape of a groupp who came to be called “Angry Young man” after the title of Obsborne’s Look back in Anger (1956). Besides the playwright, the novelists indentified as the “Angry Young Men” are John Wain (Hurry on Down, 1953) Kingsley Amis (Lucky Jim, 1954) Alan Sillitoe (Saturday Night Sunday Morning, 1958) and John Braine (Room at the Top, 1962). These writers express their revolt against “the establishment and he accepted values of society on the ground that their leders and their system have made a mess of the morld. This is only a sign of immaturity. Their have been disasters even before the two World Wars, but nobody ever though of blaming the world’s ill upon any particular section of society. The traditional values of society enshrine the wisdom of the ages, and an attemppt to root them out lock, stock, and barrel, is fraught with grave peril to very foundation of human order. Moreover, the angry young men’s protest is meaningless in as much as no alternative values are suggested to replace them. Mere denial is nihilism, not a remedy. Spephen Spender called it “a rebilltion of the lower middle brows” and observed that “there was an arome of inferiority about its protest”, attributable to the slef-conscious provincialism of the writers. The novels of Kinglsley Amis have greater comedy and less moral concern. The best known Lucky Jim shows the attempts of a young University teacher to break the rules of his social class and connect with the wrking class and unusual characters outside any social group, who experience a differnet sort of life from the one he knows and whom in his opinion, have stronger and deeper feelings than the people around him. John Wain’s novel Living in the Present which under the guise of a satrical and farcial melodrama, is a very grippin and uncomfortable study in pathology of rage. John Braine’s won fame with his first novel, Room at the Top (1962), hero, Joe lampton, was hailed as another of the provinvial “Angry young man” of 50s. Lampton, a ruthless opportunity working at the Town hall, seduces and marries the ealthy young Sussam Browne, despite his love for an unhappily married older woman.

Theory of Absurd
“Theatre of the Absurd drama portraying the futility and anguish of human struggle in a senseless and inexplicable world.” Oxford Dictionary. The term emerged in France with Nobel Prize winner (1957) Camus’ essay The Myth of Sisyphus (1942), which is applied to a group of dramatists in 1950’s who did not regard themselves as a school but share certain attitudes towards the predicament of the man in the universe, as The Myth Of Sisyphus notes:    “a world which can be explained even through bad reasoning is a familiar one. On the other hand, in a universe that is suddenly  deprived of illusions and of light, man feels like a stranger. He  is an irremediable exile….this divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, truly consists the feeling of absurdity.” This then is the condition of man that we of the twentieth century call “absurd.”  It is the same state of being that Aristotle labelled as ‘ignorance,” thus, the individual is, “cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots (Eugene Ionesco).” Nobel Prize winner in 1969, Samuel Beckett was the most eminent writers of this mode, both in drama and in prose fiction. In drama Beckett’s masterpiece is Waiting for Godot (1953) a tragic farce about two tramps—Estragon and Vladimir—forever waiting the arrival of the mysterious Godot, as Vladimir says “Godot will come and we will be saved. If we drop him he will punish us,” but “nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful.” The play is absurd in double sense that it is grotesquely comic and also irrational and nonconsequential. Eugene Ionesco, a leading exponent of the Theatre of the Absurd, achieved fame with his first play The Bald Prima Donna (1950), which blended a dialogue of platitudes with absurd logic and surrealist effects. Edward Albee (b.1928) was also associated with the Theatre of the Absurd; whose Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1962) marked a more naturalistic departure and showed an interest in closely observed human relationships.The other writers were Arthur Adamov, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter. All the playwrights want a drama that proclaim “this is not life! It is my work of art about life!” or even, “this is life itself that I’ve created man made life…ersatz life.” These artists in particular seem concerned with creating works that proclaims their independence from the traditional neo-Aristotelian strictures of imitation or representation. The future of the absurd drama is not bright. The plays of the theatre of the absurd are no longer thought of as the drama of the future. Absurdist drama is, in fact, dated, “Indeed, by (1962) the movement seems to have spent its force, though as a liberating influence on conventional theatre its effects continue to be felt.” If during the First World War, poetry had been among the earliest volunteers, during the sceonf it did not come forward so eagerly with its patriotic rallying cry. The poet soldiers of the Second World War went into combat knowing full well that while war itself was a colossal waste of himan life and resources, the unmitigated evil of Nazi tyrrany had to be opposed whatever the cost. The poetry of Iind World War therefoe lacks the forciful evocation of sufferieng and pain, schock and grief that characterises literary response to the first. Nevertheless the poets are aware of the question in the popular press “Where are all the war poets.” Sidney Keyes (1922-43- in a poem entitled “War Poet” says “I an the man who groped for the words and found an arrow in any hand.” Keyes sees the war as reflecting the inner conflict of the individual thereby extending he reflection on such an event by soldier poets of the past. Alus Lewis (1915-44), a Welsh graduate, like Keyes was killed in action. His reflection in the war experience; the drabness and boredom of serviceman’s lives the threat of death that is as imminent for the civilian as for the soldier. Death is a very real presence his poems—“living Mr. Death: and “Doppelganger”, “The  Soldier.” Yet the another caulity of the war was Keith Douglas (1920-44) who served in tha tank corps in North America. His poetic style is somewhat theatrical but always lolished in poms like “A Battle”, Time eating,” “simplify me when I am dead.” The Sardonic attitude to war that characteristics much of the poetry of this period arises partly from the visible aervitude of millions to machinery. Henry reed;s satrical poem “The Naming of Parts” is one of thebest known commentories on this aspect of the world war. Another poet who exposed this aspect of the seviceman’s life was ray Fuller. His “spring 1942” and “Autumn 1942” are clear sighted. His poems are detached investigation of his own response to life. The realistic approach is also the hallmark of American Poetry on the war. Randell Jarrel, James Dickey and Karl Shaparo record their experience of comabt on the ground and in the air. The poetry of II world war has not had the same publicity as that of the its world war. It focuses more on the boredom of the events rather than it historical impect. Its importance lies primarily in the fact that it is a liatus between the 30s writing and the Movement poets who consciously rejected the Audensque values of that decade. The Movement poets in their turn were oppses bby the poets of the New Apocalypse of who Dylon Thomas and George Barker were the leading lights. The Pologypse poets rejects social realism and believed in primary of individual and the power of myth to determine it. Their poetry aimed to be organic rather than public. In retriving the eomotional force that characterises much of romantic poetry. They discarded the communal social tents that had guided the writings of the 30s poets. The resonses to socail and cultural conditions after the war was thus both varied and unexpected.


  1. Samuel Beckett is not English, he is Irish.

  2. Yes, he is Irish but author of English literature.

  3. Is te Angry Young Man still holding strong for our days???

  4. please could help choose a theme for my desertation in british literature on post modernist writers


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