20th Century In Literature
See also: 20th century in poetry, 19th century in literature, 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 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 20th 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. Perry Rhodan (1961 to present) boasts as being the best-selling book series, with an estimated total of 1 billion copies sold.
Famous quotes containing the words literature and/or century:
“A peoples literature is the great textbook for real knowledge of them. The writings of the day show the quality of the people as no historical reconstruction can.”
—Edith Hamilton (18671963)
“And haughtier-headed Burke that proved the State a tree,
That this unconquerable labyrinth of the birds, century after century,
Cast but dead leaves to mathematical equality....”
—William Butler Yeats (18651939)