The Contemporary Era, from 1939 to the present, is an important time period overall. Much technological advancement came about in our society, and a lot of social reforms came along as well. Art, music, and literature also developed, in which many artists came about, and new interpretations in these areas developed. The Contemporary Era is an important time period in terms of literature, because many new authors came about, such as Maya Angelou, J. D. Salinger, and Sherman Alexie.
Along with these new authors, the new popularity of literature came about, with the power of their moving words. Angelou’s autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings introduced a new style of autobiographical work. Prior to the Contemporary Era, there were some minority authors, but not a lot (of them) were widely known. The Contemporary Era gave minorities a chance to express themselves, instead of the usual white author. Many other ethnic groups became common, rather than the usual African American and Jewish American authors.
The rise of these different ethnic groups came about with the Civil Rights movement, and the Ethnic Pride movement, which led to the creation of Ethnic Studies programs in most universities. Other than ethnic literature, many women’s literature, gay and lesbian literature, working-class literature, and others became much more fairly common due to these reform movements (the Civil Rights movement, etc. ). An outstanding event that happened in the Contemporary Era was the development of the World Wide Web, as well as the development of “e-text”. With these technological advancements, literature evolved along with it.
The development of e-text is an important development for all literature, because books are now readily available for people without leaving the comforts of their own home. Another outstanding thing in this time period is the abundance of social movements. Social movements such as the Civil Rights movement gave way to a new wave of authors, who were not previously acknowledged due to their race. Asian American authors, Arab authors, and Hispanic authors became much more appreciated and widely known by the American public after the Civil Rights movement.
Many important literary figures came about (and is still coming about) in the Contemporary Era. Authors like Maya Angelou, Sherman Alexie, and J. D. Salinger became famous (and still are) in this era. The three authors are from different ethnic groups, Angelou being African American (and a woman), Alexie being Native American, and Salinger being American. Being from different ethnic backgrounds, they certainly have different perceptions as to how the see the world, which leads to different experiences and different points of view about things.
We still learn about them and read their works today because it helps us view different perspectives on things, which in turn makes us more empathetic towards different people of different backgrounds. A specific example of this is the integration of Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Her bad experience with the rape led her to the writing of the book. Teachers all across the country use this autobiography in order to teach students about the underlying issue of racial inequality. Her feelings about the experience force whites to rethink their “privileged status”, and also explore their feelings about race.
Her style of writing gave readers a “surprise”, because when they usually read autobiographies, it is not as clear as Angelou’s works. In addition, just like Angelou, both Alexie and Salinger are also read in today’s classrooms, because of their powerful interpretations. While researching this particular time period, I found a lot of very interesting things. Firstly, I did not know that minority authors started gaining popularity after the Civil Rights movement, and that Ethnic Studies became an option to study in college after the movement as well.
Another thing in which I learned upon researching the Contemporary Era was the gaining popularity of the sci-fi and detective novels, I have always thought that they have been well known ever since, because there have been some novels written on the topic way before the Contemporary Era and they were very much perceived positively by the public.