Textualism was a term used to describe a style that emerged in the second half of the 1970's and was in the spotlight in the 1980's. The extensive use of the generic term postmodernism eclipsed the term textualism per se, now used strictly for the most typical and consistent writers. Their texts are self-referential and contain an extremely high amount of metadiscourse (often crossing the borders between mere poetry or prose and theoretical essay). Although some of the poetic mecanisms (such as intertextuality) are common with that of most postmodernists, the most radical textualists have in common the belief that a text thrives only to the degree it "swallows" its own creator. There is also a set of "textualizing" images frequently employed by them: that of the penetrating pen or of the "blind eye" (George Vulturescu). One of the apparant influences is that of Tel Quel theories (see also the article Noii).
According to Marin Mincu's theory in the book Ion Barbu - eseu despre textualizarea poetică (1981), Ion Barbu should be considered the quintessential textualist avant la lettre and the ancestor, if not assumed model, of "today's poets". In Eseu despre textul poetic II (1986), Mincu explicitly talks about a "textualist generation". In his later anthologies, Mincu marks the birth point of the textualist trend 1977, with the release of Petru Romoșan's debut volume Ochii lui Homer ("Homer's Eyes"). The 1986 book received a rather lukewarm reception, as some critics and even a few of the poets that were tagged then as "textualist" (including Mircea Cărtărescu, who tends to link the idea of text with "late modernism", and Ion Mureșan) expressed their doubts if not rejected altogether the textualist theory. In a 1986 debate on postmodernism, critics such as Nicolae Manolescu, Ovid S. Crohmălniceanu and even Livius Ciocârlie have tried to define postmodernism in opposition with textualism and, in general, modernist formalism. As a reaction, Mincu rejects postmodernism as a concept that is "too vague to be functional" and points out again that the young writers "don't write anymore about (and with) emotions, but about (and with) writing". Manolescu considers that a trademark of the postmodernist generation is "prosaic realism", but Mincu argues that "it is childish to consider that poets such as Petru Romoșan, Mariana Marin, Matei Vișniec, Ion Mureșan, Călin Vlasie etc. have a simple speech or that their reality is the immediate, prosaic one". Mincu (re)proposes the concept of experimentalism instead of that of postmodernism.
Examples of textualist books include the volumes of poetry by Bogdan Ghiu - Manualul autorului (Author's Manual, 1989), Poemul cu latura de un metru (The Poem With One Meter Side, 1996) etc.-, Acte originale/copii legalizate (Original Papers/Legalised Copies, 1982) and Frumoasa fără corp (The Disembodied Beauty, 1994) by the novelist Gheorghe Crăciun, texteiova by Gheorghe Iova, Marin Mincu's cycle of novels Intermezzo and volumes of poetry (Proba de gimnastică), some of Mircea Nedelciu's novels - especially Efectul de ecou controlat (Controlled Echo Effect, 1981) and Tratament fabulatoriu (Fabulatory Treatment, 1986) -, Comedia literaturii (The Comedy of Literature, 1980) by Petru Romoșan, Poemul care nu poate fi înțeles (The Poem Which Cannot Be Understood, 1993) by Ion Mureșan, Texte de dincoace (Texts From This Side, 2007) by Gheorghe Ene a.s.o.
Frequently cited as forerunners of textualism are the oneirist prose writer Dumitru Țepeneag (with the text "Înscenare" from Frig, 1966 and several of his books published in Romanian after 1989) and the poets Șerban Foarță (with the text Istoriile unui matroz întors de pe Planeta Roz, published in the 1978 volume Simpleroze and reissued in an illustrated and extended version in 2007; volumes such as Copyright and Șalul, eșarpele Isadorei/Șalul e șarpele Isadorei should also be retained), Mircea Ivănescu, Mihai Ursachi, Gheorghe Grigurcu, Dinu Flămând and Ion Drăgănoiu.
Textualism has partially faded after 1989, as the mainstream literary life sought to recover the literature of the exiled writers and the "drawer literature" of writers who remained in Romania, but could not publish their uncompromising writings. The "harvest" was later deemed to be rather poor compared to the expectations, but, in any case, it was the symptom of a sea change. The emergence of popular, uncensored paraliterature and the success of (auto)biographies and diaries constituted a different focus for the readers.
The often formalist poets of previous years have been partially eclipsed by the "sound and fury" of younger sexualists, who took advantage of the freedom acquired after the "Revolution". Some of the front-row postmodernists, like Mircea Cărtărescu, remain popular until today, but the underground also drawn inspiration from a newer poetic.
The generation of Cristian Popescu, especially to the promoters of postmodernism, seemed to follow their footsteps, but others, especially Marin Mincu, argued that they represent a new sensibility. Mincu talks about post-textualism, a generic term that describes a reaction to the actional and formalist nature of textualism - poets seeked a "clinical" approach, insisting on the link with psychological reality, while still retaining some textualist influences.
This linear narrative, in which the techniques and mecanisms of textualism leave space for authenticism, may not prove entirely valid though. The use of intertextuality and metadiscourse was felt by many poets of the core of the 2000's generation as "obsolete", but since the late 2000's there have been subtle hints of a "comeback". More recently, there has been a discussion on conceptual poetry emerging as a distinct trend. The late writings of Bogdan Ghiu, for example, could be now tagged as "conceptual".