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History of modern literature
The early modern period
16th century in literature | 17th century in literature
European literature in the 18th century
1700s | 1710s | 1720s | 1730s | 1740s | 1750s | 1760s | 1770s | 1780s | 1790s | 1800s
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Modern literature, 20th century
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See also: 20th century in poetry, 19th century in literature, other events of the 20th century, 21st century in literature, list of years in literature.

Literature of the 20th century refers to world literature produced during the 20th century. The range of years is, for the purpose of this article, literature written from (roughly) 1900 through the 1990s.

In terms of the Euro-American tradition, the main periods are captured in the bipartite division, Modernist literature and Postmodern literature, flowering from roughly 1900 to 1940 and 1960 to 1990[1] respectively, divided, as a rule of thumb, by World War II. The somewhat malleable term of contemporary literature is usually applied with a post-1960 cutoff point.

Although these terms (modern, contemporary and postmodern) are most applicable to Western literary history, the rise of globalization has allowed European literary ideas to spread into non-Western cultures fairly rapidly, so that Asian and African literatures can be included into these divisions with only minor qualifications. And in some ways, such as in Postcolonial literature, writers from non-Western cultures were on the forefront of literary development.

Technological advances during the 20th century allowed cheaper production of books, resulting in a significant rise in production of popular literature and trivial literature, comparable to the development in music. The division of "popular literature" and "high literature" in the 20th century is by no means absolute, and various genres such as detectives or science fiction fluctuate between the two. For the most part of the century mostly ignored by mainstream literary criticism, these genres develop their own establishments and critical awards, such as the Nebula Award (since 1965), the British Fantasy Award (since 1971) or the Mythopoeic Awards (since 1971).

Towards the end of the century, electronic literature develops as a genre due to the development of hypertext and later the world wide web.

The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded annually throughout the century (with the exception of 1914, 1918, 1935 and 1940–1943), the first laureate (1901) being Sully Prudhomme. The New York Times Best Seller list has been published since 1942.

The best-selling works of the 20th century are estimated to be Quotations from Chairman Mao (1966, 900 million copies), Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997, 120 million copies), And Then There Were None (1939, 115 million copies) and The Lord of the Rings (1954/55, 100 million copies). The Lord of the Rings was also voted "book of the century" in various surveys.[2][3][4][5] Perry Rhodan (1961 to present) boasts as being the best-selling book series, with an estimated total of 1 billion copies sold.

1900-1918Edit

Main article: 1900s literature

The Fin de siècle movement of the Belle Époque persisted into the 20th century, but was brutally cut short with the outbreak of World War I (an effect depicted e.g. in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, published 1924). The Dada movement of 1916-1920 was at least in part a protest against the bourgeois nationalist and colonialist interests which many Dadaists believed were the root cause of the war; the movement heralded the Surrealism movement of the 1920s.

1900

Genre fiction

1901

Genre fiction

1902

Genre fiction

Plays

1903

Genre fiction

1904

Genre fiction

Plays

1905

1906

Genre fiction

Plays

1907

Genre fiction

Plays

Poetry

1908

Genre fiction

Poetry

  • Personae by Ezra Pound (USA, England, Italy) - one of the first examples of 'modernist' poetry

1909

Poetry

Plays

1910

1911

1912

Genre fiction

Plays

1913

Genre fiction

Poetry

1914

Poetry

1915

Genre fiction

1916

Genre fiction

Plays

Poetry

1917

Poetry

1918

Poetry

Non-fiction

Interwar periodEdit

Main article: 1920s literature

The 1920s were a period of literary creativity, and works of several notable authors appeared during the period. D. H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover was a scandal at the time because of its explicit descriptions of sex.

1919

Genre fiction

1920

Plays

1921

Plays

1922

Poetry

1923

Plays

Poetry

1924

Genre fiction

Plays

1925

Genre fiction

Poetry

Non-fiction

1926

Genre fiction

Poetry

Plays

Non-fiction

1927

Plays

1928

Plays

Non-fiction

1929

Non-fiction

Genre fiction

1930

Genre fiction

Poetry

Plays

Genre fiction

Non-fiction

1931

Genre fiction

Plays

Non-fiction

1932

Poetry

1933

Genre fiction

Non-fiction

1934

Genre fiction

Poetry

Non-fiction

1935

Genre fiction

Poetry

Plays

1936

Genre fiction

1937

Genre fiction

Non-fiction

1938

Genre fiction

Non-fiction

1939

Genre fiction

Poetry

Plays

World War IIEdit

1940

Genre fiction

Plays

Non-fiction

1941

Genre fiction

Non-fiction

1942

Plays

1943

Genre fiction

Poetry

Non-fiction

1944

Plays

1945

Genre fiction

1946

Poetry

Plays

Non-fiction

1947

Plays

Non-fiction

1948

Genre fiction

Plays

Non-fiction

1949

Genre fiction

Plays

Postwar periodEdit

Main article: 1950s literature

The intermediate postwar period separating "Modernism" from "Postmodernism" (1950s literature) is the floruit of the beat generation and the classical science fiction of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein.

1950

Genre fiction

Non-fiction

1951

Non-fiction

1952

Genre fiction

Plays

1953

Genre fiction

Plays

1954

Genre fiction

Plays

Non-fiction

1955

Genre fiction

Plays

Poetry

1956

Genre fiction

Plays

Poetry

Non-fiction

1957

Genre fiction

Plays

Non-fiction

1958

Genre fiction

Plays

Non-fiction

1959

Genre fiction

Plays

Cold War period 1960-1989Edit

Main article: 1960s literature

1960

Non-fiction and Quasi-fiction

1961

Genre fiction

1962

Genre fiction

Non-fiction

1963

Genre fiction

Non-fiction

1964

Genre fiction

Non-fiction

1965

Plays

Non-fiction and Quasi-fiction

1966

Genre fiction

Non-fiction and Quasi-fiction

1967

Non-fiction

1968

Non-fiction and Quasi-fiction

1969

Genre fiction

Non-fiction and Quasi-fiction

1970

Genre fiction

Non-fiction and Quasi-fiction

1971

Genre fiction

Non-fiction and Quasi-fiction

1972

Genre fiction

Poetry

1973

Genre fiction

1974

Genre fiction

Genre fiction

Non-fiction and Quasi-fiction

1975

Genre fiction

1976

Genre fiction

Non-fiction and Quasi-fiction

Drama

1977

1978

Genre fiction

1979

Non-fiction and Quasi-fiction

1980

1981

Genre fiction

1982

Genre fiction

1983

1984

Non-fiction

1985

Genre fiction

1986

Non-fiction

1987

Genre fiction

1988

Genre fiction

1989

1990sEdit

Main article: 1990s literature

1990

Genre fiction

See also Edit

List of years in literature (Table)
1940194119421943194419451946 •   
194719481949 1950 195119521953
   1954195519561957195819591960
Related time period or subjects
1947194819491950195119521953
1920s1930s1940s1950s1960s1970s1980s
19th century20th century21st century
Art Archaeology Architecture Literature Music Science more

ReferencesEdit

  1. Lewis, Barry. "Postmodernism and Literature." The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism NY: Routledge, 2002, p. 121.
  2. Seiler, Andy (December 16, 2003). "'Rings' comes full circle". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2003-12-12-lotr-main_x.htm. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  3. Diver, Krysia (October 5, 2004). "A lord for Germany". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/10/04/1096871805007.html?from=storyrhs. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  4. Cooper, Callista (December 5, 2005). "Epic trilogy tops favourite film poll". ABC News Online. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200512/s1523327.htm. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
  5. O'Hehir, Andrew (June 4, 2001). "The book of the century". Salon.com. http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2001/06/04/tolkien/. Retrieved 2006-03-12. 
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