Everything But Nothing: Contemporary Literature

By: Rachel Lyle, March 3rd, 2017

So being an English Lit major one of the many Literature courses I had to take during my college career was Contemporary Literature. One of the many things we tackled in this class was the definition of the contemporary in the context of Literature. One of our assignments was to ask ourselves the question, “What is the contemporary?” and come up with a definition, our own answer to this question. This was my definition, my answer:

Everything But Nothing

    I believe contemporary literature is so many things rolled into one. It encompasses everything and at the same time nothing. It is not victorian literature, it is not postmodern literature, it is not classical literature, it is not the avant grade, it is not medieval literature but yet is all of these kinds of literature and many others. It encompasses all of these by the allusions and references it makes to them but at the same time it is not them.

     Contemporary literature is it’s own genre but at the same time it is many genres. It is a mixing of other genres to create a new set of genres. It is romance and magic, it is reality and fiction, it is sci-fi and fantasy, but at the same time it is none of these. It blurs the lines between genres to create things like magical realism, realistic fiction, cli-fi, or new weird.

     Contemporary Literature is encompasses all topics but at the same time no topics. It focuses on current events and historical events like 9/11, the holocaust, or other controversies yet at the same time it does not talk about these things. These events become background noise and white noise compared to the rest of the plots being told. These events are in the background of a plot while the main focus is usually put on a certain person or a certain character with their own struggles and hardships rather than the historical or current worldwide or country wide events that the person lived through.

     Contemporary literature is new ways and new things but at the same time old ways and old things that have been done before but new ways of presenting them. It takes cliche things like fairy tales and presents them as if they are new even though they are just new ways of writing and presenting the old. It takes historical events such as the holocaust writes about them in a way makes them seem like they are not historical but still happening today and making them seem like they are new event that just came to be or was only just discovered.

     Contemporary literature is everything but yet nothing, the new but yet the old, it is all literature but yet no literature in existence, it is every genre but yet no no genre. Contemporary literature is so many things.

So as can be seen I didn’t really have a definition of contemporary literature. I din’t really have a definite answer to the question, but then again no one does. No one really knows what exactly contemporary Lit is, no one can truly define it.

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