DEATH of the author? Postmodern writing seeks nothing less than the death of writing itself.

According to UST Graduate School professor Florentino Hornedo, postmodernism is an overturning of the conventions of writing.

In his book, Free Fall: Postmodernism, Hornedo calls the postmodern style as “free play,” where everything is permissible.

“Postmodern literature avoids structures, foundations, and big narratives,” Hornedo told the Varsitarian.

One of the major traits of postmodern writing is that it denies concepts that used to be the sole source of themes for literary pieces, such as universality, science, socialism, and even the existence of God.

“The one rule that it follows is to not follow any of the rules,” he said.

Many fictionists and poets today refuse to follow the rules of conventional writing, which they find suffocating to freedom of expression.

For award-winning fictionist Eros Atalia, postmodern literature is a protest of writing against itself. The writers need the liberty to express themselves regardless of traditional boundaries and conventions.

“There are rules such as avoiding moralizing or editorializing when writing a story. But what if I want to moralize or editorialize? Aasarin ko kayo,” Atalia said.

A popular example of postmodern literature are the Bob Ong books, like Stainless Longganisa and Macarthur, as well as Atalia’s collection of flash fiction, Taguan-Pung at Manwal ng mga Napapagal. Postmodernism also has a following in the children’s literature category with books like Tuesday, Zoom, and Good Night Gorilla, written by Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, a children’s book writer who has also held a seminar on postmodern picture books in 2003.

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In addition, postmodern literature is a revolt against the elitism of schools.

“It defies tradition or what is considered canon in the literary world,” Atalia said. “This cultural attitude sprung out of the excessive strictness of the academe, the gatekeepers of literature.”

Atalia added that people have become disappointed with the norms of writing and society, causing them to revolt against them.

“The books of yesterday may not be as relevant today as they were back then,” Atalia said. “Postmodern literature reaches a bigger audience because it is closer to the experience of the people of today.”

Atalia referred to poets Lourd de Veyra and Angelo Suarez, and fictionists Jun Cruz Reyes and himself as a few of the writers who are trying to step out of the shadows that define what writing is.

“It is a matter of the writer’s own gut-feel. For me, I just want to tell my stories,” he said.

Too much freedom?

Members of the academe, like Hornedo, often criticize postmodern literature for its lack of ethics and a definite form.

“It is self-centered and egoistic as it lacks boundaries,” Hornedo said. He further said in his book that authors often chat with characters of their own stories while plots usually do not unfold as expected.

“If you stretch postmodernism to its limits, you will end up with something negative,” Hornedo said.

Moreover, one of the major differences of postmodern literature from other types of writing is that it denies the author’s relevance upon the text’s completion. According to Hornedo, since the writers are products of culture, they are automatically disregarded as culture is denied in postmodernism. This has gained it the title “anti-person” since the text itself is the only one given importance, going as far as to say that the writer is dead.

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“What the writer thinks of his own work does not matter. In fact, the meaning of the written work is solely dependent on the reader’s own interpretation,” Hornedo said.

Atalia agrees that postmodernism can be a writer’s alibi for bad writing.

“You must first master all the rules before you can break any of them,” he said.

Despite its negative reputation among some scholars, postmodern literature has opened avenues for writers to express themselves through text in more ways than before. Whether this new-found freedom will be good or detrimental to the literary world, Atalia said, “Only time will tell.”

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