Date of Award

Spring 2004

Document Type

Legacy Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)




College of Humanities and Fine Arts

First Advisor

John Beard


This work combines the analysis of postmodern literary tenets with some theories of cultural development to produce new insights on the origins of postmodernist literature. It intends to show that even though postmodernism has only become prevalent as a trendy art form in the late 20th century, it has actually existed as a developing literary form at least since the Industrial Revolution. This work lists the characteristics that are most often shared by works that are considered postmodern and explores critical works about postmodernism by Derrida and Lyotard. It offers historical information about England's Industrial Revolution and associates the attitudes and practices that developed as a result of this event with early postmodern thought. The work also explores Raymond Williams's "dominant, residual, and emergent" and "selective tradition" cultural theories as a means of proving that postmodernism existed as a developing literary movement during and after the Industrial Revolution. The work then explores poetry from the 18th through 20th centuries to reveal the dominant as well as postmodern forms of literature that existed during these historical periods. Two poems from each century are presented. One represents the dominant form, and one represents the emergent postmodern form. Textual analysis is used to compare the works to one another and to reveal the postmodern characteristics that are present in the example selected. The work features poets like E. E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, and William Blake as potentially postmodern writers.