Contemporary Period (Background Info, Novelists, and Poetry)

Post-Modernism and Contemporary
A number of small literary movements have developed since World War II. These movements are often referred to as

Others have tried blending REALISM and F ANT ASY in their works, and still others have experimented with radically different forms and techniques.

Free Verse
has become a dominant poetic form and poets have continued to focus on creating striking images in their poems.

Many contemporary writers have moved from resolution of a conflict

a moment when a character has a flash of insight about himself, another character, a situation, or life in general

A major focus of this time period is the values of our society and individuals in our society

Often the picture that these writers paint is not a pretty one, as seen in some of the works you’ve read.



seemed determined to retreat from society and succeeded in obscuring most of the details of his private life. Alienation from society also serves as a major theme in much of his writing, including his only novel, The Catcher in the Rve.

Catcher in the Rye
It is perhaps the best book in the twentieth century to study teen life—the schools, family relationships, peer influences, personal values, societal values—and help today’s teens judge their own values and opinions.

Arthur Miller
is considered among the finest American playwrights of the contemporary era. In his dramas, he has chronicled the dilemma of common people pitted against powerful and unyielding social forces.

Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
the story of a deluded and tragic protagonist whose obsessive and futile quest for material success evoked an ambivalent reaction from Miller’s audience and won Miller himself a Pulitzer Prize

The Crucible, Arthur Miller
a play about the hysteria surrounding the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 inspired by Miller’s belief that this event in history closely paralleled the contemporary political climate of MCCARTHYISM–Senator Joseph McCarthy’s obsessive quest to uncover communist infiltration of American institutions.

Tennessee Williams
One of America’s greatest playwrights, and certainly the greatest ever from the South, he wrote fiction and motion picture screenplays, but he is acclaimed primarily for his plays–nearly all of which are set in the South, but which at their best rise above regionalism to approach universal themes. Among the major themes of his plays are racism, sexism, homophobia, classism–coupled with primitive violence and realistic settings filled with angst, loneliness, and pain

A Street Car Named Desire, Tennessee Williams
is a tormented soul easily destroyed by those who have more physical and emotional power, a lonely woman succumbing to alcohol, illusions, lies about her past, sexual aberration, and finally madness—driven there by the rape and ridicule of Stanley and her own internal tragic flaws. Major symbols/images/themes: light/shadows/shades; music; water (cleansing); alcohol and excess; sexuality; madness; the decline of the South; and betrayal

The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams
another play dealing with image and illusion versus stark reality.

A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
a radically new representation of black life, unflinching in its vision of what happens to people whose dreams are constantly deferred. It anticipated issues ranging from generational clashes to civil rights and women’s movements. This drama won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
a contemporary classic about bigotry and racism in the modern South as related through the eyes of a young narrator, Scout Finch.

Ernest Gaines
much-acclaimed novels are set in the fictional community of Bayonne, Louisiana, based on his boyhood community, New Roads. His most recent success is the deeply moving A Lesson before Dying. Gaines holds a visiting professorship in creative writing at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Snow Falling on Cedars, David Gutersen
examines prejudice, human limitation, and human will and conscience in a poetic and compelling courtroom drama.

Beat Movement
refers to the men and women poets, thinkers, writers, and philosophers who emerged on the hip scene in the 1940s and ballooned into the San Francisco Renaissance and beyond during the 1950s.

Beat Movement
A few writers, tied together by the time in which they lived, went against the mainstream, traditional writing, attempting to develop a new way of writing and of living. Many believe they changed culture, literature, and history with their counter-culture movement. They embraced freedom of thought, unconventional romance, spirituality, and creativity.

Beat Movement
became a powerful group of innovators who succeeded in raising awareness not only for their poetry but for their emphasis on freedom of expression for all Americans

Beat Movement
Jack Kerouac

Beat Movement
Allen Ginsberg

Confessional Poetry
is verse that speaks of personal matters, often with great frankness, or candor

Confessional Poet
Robert Lowell

Confessional Poet
Sylvia Plath

Confessional Poet
Anne Sexton