The essay "Originality in Modernism and Postmodernism" highlights the phenomenon of originality in modernism and postmodernism. Often, attempting to be original in these schools of literature just results in a sacrifice in meaning and coherence, and ultimately comes at the expense of the reader. In this essay I wish to argue that 'originality' is simply another literary convention which modern writers have now become fixated with. In attempts to produce the most unanticipated and rare piece of work, meaning and coherence become compromised. To show this I will look at T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse, and John Berger's G: A Novel. In the modernist poem The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot attempts to break every possible rule of poetic structure, by alternately mixing multiple types of structures and abandoning any type of structure at all. He adds in near-random quotes from various religious texts and literary sources and switches into German and a few other languages at certain points in the text. The five sections tell seemingly unrelated stories about characters who have nothing to do with one another. The reader is supposed to get the overall sense of futility in modern life. As Vicki Mahaffey puts it, it “takes place in a shared cultural nightmare” a devastated Europe in the wake of the First World War. If the point of the poem is simply to convey a feeling of futility and nihilism, it does that very well. However, any larger plot is lost on readers.
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