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A History of European LiteratureThe West and the World from Antiquity to the Present$
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Walter Cohen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732679

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732679.001.0001

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World Literature and Contemporary Fiction

World Literature and Contemporary Fiction

Chapter:
(p.443) 15 World Literature and Contemporary Fiction
Source:
A History of European Literature
Author(s):

Walter Cohen

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732679.003.0015

The period since World War II has seen the global emergence of world literature in the strong sense. This phenomenon can best be investigated through focus on the novel, the distinctive genre of modernity and the one where Western influence is strongest. Though distinguished realist and modernist fiction continues to be written, the central development of postwar fiction is postmodernism, understood as the recombination of the realist and modernist legacies. The postmodern novel synthesizes nineteenth-century plotted narratives with the modernist challenge to the meaningfulness of such narratives. It draws on a characteristic set of formal strategies—complex use of point of view; emphasis on the text as written document; undermining of the causal logic of the plot; and distancing of the present through recourse to the supernatural or to history. This is the fiction of the American century, but in an increasingly polycentric world.

Keywords:   world literature, postmodern novel, postwar fiction, Nabokov, Pale Fire, American century

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