Contemporary literature

Ideal Current Reading & Stories

What Is Contemporary Literature? With Pictures

This four-volume reference work surveys American literature from the early 20th century to the present day, featuring a diverse range of American works and authors and an expansive selection of primary source materials. Literature shows people struggling to find meaning in a world that doesn’t offer us the old assurances , as it breaks down our faith in the supremacy of the rational, scientific human being (e.g. comparisons between animals and humans and machines). In our contemporary world, meaning is not stable or absolute; values and identity are relative to culture, religion, and geography. Everything exists in a context, a framework of circumstances and relationships. The more historical contexts we learn to recognize, the less likely we are to evaluate everything in terms of today. In reading books or watching movies from the past, the critical thinker knows better than to judge them in terms of the present.

Analyzing the represented cultural traditions can lead to a greater understanding of that culture. Studying the history of that culture (including an historical time line of the civil rights movement, voting rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and immigration in 20th America) will create a more enlightening appreciation of cultural attitudes, motivations, and actions. During the semester, we will study and analyze selected works of fiction, poetry, and drama dating from the end of World War II to the present.

In this horrifyingly prescient, distinctly Orwellian novel, a Syrian writer is silenced for refusing to contribute to a system of propaganda in service to the unnamed dictator of an unnamed country—but he can’t be silenced entirely. In some ways I wonder whether the rise of other forms of media were the most important aspect of this change though. Even what we would call literature had to move with the times or it wouldn’t survive. Single articles may be purchased online at or through the JSTOR archive.

It includes literature written after World War Two through the present and includes several unique identifying characteristics. Although difficult to comprehensively define, some of the most obvious characteristics include multiple narrators, literature that comments upon itself, a mixture or pastiche of subjects and genres, and experimentation with form and structure. Bringing together postwar German, Israeli, and Anglo-American literature, Eshel traces a shared trajectory of futurity in world literature. He begins by examining German works of fiction and the debates they spurred over the future character of Germany’s public sphere.

The narrowing scope of naturalism presages the balkanization of contemporary literature, its subdivision into categories such as Jewish, black, women’s, or gay fiction— most of which provide chapter topics for the Harvard Guide. Mark Flanagan is a book reviewer and writer with over 15 years of experience. He’s also the founder of Run Spot Run, a website dedicated to reviewing contemporary literature. Twentieth-Century and Contemporary American Literature in Context provides wide coverage of authors, works, genres, and movements that are emblematic of the diversity of modern America.

Settings usually keep to the current or modern era, so futuristic and science fiction novels are rarely included in this category. Well-defined, realistic, and highly developed characters are important in classifying a written work as contemporary, and most writing in this category features stories that are more character driven than plot driven. Nathan Scott contributes a fine essay on black literature, discussing a number of new, little-known black writers who deserve to be known better. Scott deeply regrets black writing should be treated as a literature unto itself, but he acknowledges the separatist Black Arts Movement of the sixties determined it must be by dictating what black literature should be about and banning white criticism. Thus black literature has become forbidden territory to whites and many a promising black writer condemned to obscurity. Scott is saddened by this evidence of “a profound collapse of faith in the indivisibility of the human family and in the unity of culture.” It is, as he says, a distinguishing feature of the period.

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