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An Introduction to Postmodernism Prepared by Logan Metcalf-Kelly
A Distinction • Postmodernity (modernity) – a historical condition w/ social, economic and political qualities • Postmodernism (modernism) – an intentional movement or project in the arts, culture and politics ✔ Postmodernism
Jameson: Postmodernism and Late-Capitalism • Fredric Jameson - economic and cultural phenomena going hand in hand 1. Market Capitalism (18th-19th Cent.) steam locomotive Realism 2. Monopoly Capitalism (Late 19th Cent. – WWII) electricity and automobile Modernism 3. Multinational/consumer Capitalism nuclear and electronics Postmodernism
Characteristics of Modernism • Loss of faith in traditional authorities ( Time is relative, “God is dead,” “The center cannot hold.”) • Impressionism, surrealism, subjectivity • Exploration of true psychological “self” • Non-linearity, fragmented narrative • Self-consciousness, reflexivity, irony • Experimentation with language and form James Joyce, Franz Kafka, William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, TS Eliot, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound
Characteristics of Postmodernism • Playful toward loss of religion, identity, history (metanarratives) • Rejection of all formal boundaries; infinite freedom of form, content • Blending of high and low culture • Intrusive, self-reflexive narration • Ironic detachment • Paranoia, conspiracy • Linguistic invention
Techniques of Postmodernism • Metafiction– fiction about fiction, often involving self-conscious narration which calls attention to artifice • Pastiche – a work that imitates the style of another work, artist or period; mimics style • Parody – a work that mimics another work or artist for comic effect (Scary Movie) • Intertexuality – the interaction between texts • Black (dark, morbid) Humor – treats taboo material humorously while maintaining seriousness
New York City v. Las Vegas MODERNISM POSTMODERNISM
McHale: Modernism v. Postmodernism • MODERNISM – questions of epistemology • Epistemologyis the study of knowledge and justified belief. What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? • POSTMODERNISM – questions of ontology • Ontology is a branch of metaphysics relating to the nature and relations of being.
Postmodernist Philosophy • Jean-Francois Lyotard– The Postmodern Condition (1979) – defined by incredulity toward metanarratives, or the large-scale philosophies of the world such as the progress of history, the knowability of everything by science, and the possibility of absolute freedom • Jacques Derrida – Deconstructionism – a book is composed of sets of contradictory meanings, which are linked inextricably in the text, thus analysis can only go so far. • Jean Baudrillard– Simulacra and Simulation – the postmodern world is composed of references with no referents (television, mass media), and thus that reality has been replaced by a hyperreality. The film The Matrix takes many of its concepts of simulation from Baudrillard. • John Barth – “The Literature of Exhaustion” – possibilities of realism are exhausted, originality is no longer possible. The novel now must imitate the form of the Novel and the author imitate the Author, just as epistolary novels imitate the form of the Letter. Metafiction, Barth proposes, is the only way to replenish literature—writing stories about stories.
Transition Authors • Samuel Beckett – Waiting for Godot (1953) – experimental Irish playwright and novelist, minimalist. Student and friend of James Joyce, the modernist master. Considered a bridge between Joyce’s high modernism and postmodernism. • Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita (1955), Pale Fire (1962) – Russian-born American novelist, hugely innovative with language and form. Pale Fire told primarily in footnotes. • Jorge Luis Borges – Ficciones(1944) – Argentine author, primarily know for his magical, labyrinthine short stories, often pokes fun at intellectual styles.
High Postmodernist Authors • Thomas Pynchon – Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) – master stylist, known for blurring boundaries between high and low culture, incorporated mathematics and science • Joseph Heller – Catch-22 (1961) – early postmodernist, known for masterpiece WWII satire Catch-22 • John Barth - Lost in the Funhouse (1968) – pushed the limits of metafiction, famous for embedding a quote seven times • Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) – known for his playful, hilarious satire, most famous for his WWII meta-science-fiction anti-war novel, Slaughterhouse-Five • Don Delillo – White Noise (1985) – considered one of the last great postmodernist novels, incisive cultural critic • Donald Barthelme – 60 Stories (1981) – famous for his bizarre and hilarious style, created his own brand of absurdist flash fiction(short stories that are way short) • David Foster Wallace – Infinite Jest (1996) – post-postmodernism?