The postmodernist fables and conundrums.

Conventions of the discontinuous writerly text: the playful choices and games which ingeniously sample and re-write the canon. Case-study 1: THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN – a Victorian critical encyclopaedia and a taunting romance; the Hardy-esque pastiche and the 20th c. parodical game as ingredients of the post-modern experiment. Time and the hour-glass shape of the intra-canonical relationship between the 19th and the 20th centuries. 1. A Theoretical Introduction Commonplaces about Post-Modernism. On Why and How “Post-“ is Appended to Modernism in Literature. The Connexion to Post-Structuralism. - Self-reflexive fiction foregrounding the constructedness of the text, not any subtle aesthetic intuitions – an ontology of form and creation (it amounts to being an encyclopedia, IZ) (Brian McHalle’s book on Postmodernist Fiction (published by Methuen, 1987) speaks extensively of modernism as being epistemological, i.e., interested in the cognition of life through the creation of fictional worlds, and of postmodernism as launching ontological questions among several possible worlds being meditative or reflexive about fiction-making; what our lectures said about modernism was, in addition, that there is in modernism stress on subjectivity as the last centre in a de-centred world. Post-modernism does away with the last centre of identification left to the reader: the subjective conscience - which was used in the 20th c novels in general and in the novels of adolescence (the English name for Bildungsroman) in particular to give universal shape to existence. The loss of centre1 causes the novels to become flat sheaves of paper whose binding-pattern rather than a meaningful sequence of collagepieces matters most. What has been retained from modernism is the uniqueness of the monad, but we deal with decentred monads, flat and proliferating in an arbitrary space. The reading task is a cold, intellectual one: to accomodate to the local pattern so as to interact with the local idea, which is, in principle a generality, an abstraction. The other thing retained from high modernist or anagogical fiction in post-modernism is the clinical lucidity contemplating sentiments from a distance, i.e., the shunning of emotivity. But in post-modernism there are no objective correlatives left, there is just objectivity for its own sake. The novel becomes in fact thematic literature, a romance of ideas, not a romance of art2, as contemplated by Oscar Wilde in his essays, for example “The Critic as Artist”. At the same time, the medium of expression for the new, dominant ideas of decentredness remains the literary one, with its own highly specialised conventions (as forged by the demiurgical creative logic of the high modernists). The resulting objects of

Here is what we read about the pair centre/decentre from the Canadian Encyclopedia of Literary Theory, edited by Irene Rima Makaryk, in 1993 : Each society tends to perceive reality in more or less coherent ways and maintains generally syhstematic and systemic values. These constitute its foundations or centres and are often viewed as thr firm structures which are part of a closed system. If the existence of a centre is assumed, other ways of seeing reality and other values must be ignored, repressed or marginalized. IN oher words, reality and values (‘presences’) are not universal but are conditional upon specific cultural, social, economic, and political perspectives”. These perspectives (prompted by the philosophical idea of perspectivism in Nietzsche’s unsystematic essays) have to be identified and observed at work in postmodernist fiction, so as to help the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and recognize the intellectual message of the decentered anti-novels of the age of post-modernism when they are read. 2 Acording to Benedetto Croce’s Aesthetics (published in 1902), art thrives on individual artist’s intuitions which turns it into the hub of cultural activities in history, art being the deputy of a general philosophy of the spirit. By contrast, intellectual enterprises based on reason and theory, tend towards representing


remember. irony is the mode of intellectual existence in the ages that have renounced the healing. mannerists. But to finish on a less formal tone. (an excerpt from chapter 2. the mannerists of modernism. some further theoretical clues for the understanding of irony underlying ”the jocular spirit” of post-modernism are offered in what follows. historical essay... more adequate for the description of post-modernism which is ludicrous and playful. the 9th in Hayden White’s book.. is the leading academic of our University – the Rector or Chancellor. but. post-modernist novels represent the latest embodiments of our intellectual and playful fashions. beforehand... Johnny Panzaru. i..e.. for Vico) and are living in the age of men (not of gods or heroes). they are excerpts from a presentation of Hayden White’s 1986 book Tropics of Discourse: irony . This proves the tenet of Northrop Fyre’s Anatomy of Criticism in its first. As we can read below: 2 . about interpretation) According to the chapter dedicated to Giambattista Vico. one of whom. will be provided a collection of orientative labels for or kinds of postmodernist fiction. providential idea of identifying with prototypical perfection (the perfections of the spirit in inspired.. not objects of spiritual or emotional identification!) are impossible objects.literary interaction (please. of all the Ions turned into fashionable English Johnny among the academics of the University of Bucharest. as they are defined in the French school of literary criticism of the later 20th century. professional/expert authors of literary toys. In the last part of the lecture.. sacred texts. The authors of the post-modernist novels are tricksters who take themselves quite seriously. taken up by the studies of literary hallucination(s) by Ion (Johnny) Manolescu... which ushers in an age of decadence if irony is allowed to fend for itself only. which declares that contemporary fiction is written everywhere in the ironic mode.

In this respect. 3 Rather. as we learn dogmatically. however. as we learn explicitly from Linda Hutcheon’s Poetics. 3 . all too human interaction. Their main purpose is to interrupt what Vico had called. only. from Roland Barthes. in The Tempest. the ricorsi. not commended by any authority figure. they depend upon the rules of literary textuality. of Postmodernism) take pleasure in contradicting on purpose such cyclical interpretations about the dependence of man upon other than the man-made thoughts or constructions (and especially the fables of postmodernism are bent on demonstrating the lack of dependence of man on nature or the spirit or God3). Unlike in Nietzsche’s essays. The novels become polemic instruments refuting all the traditional expectations that have become entrenched as commonplaces of the literary great expectations. For they are songs of the enchanted island of literature. who proclaimed. in the 18th century. most of the postmodernist fables (metafictional texts. among other French post-structuralists “il n’y a pas de hors texte”. or law of repetition in the texture of tradition. as well as from her Politics. they are brilliant man-made objects cutting short identification and relegating it to merely human. the human interactions create intellectual and miniature toys of art that give delight and hurt not – like Ariel’s songs.Now.

the 20th c and the 19th c. for instance: What is a world?. The Perspective and the Pieces of the Artistic Puzzle in John Fowles’s bestseller and best-movie of the year “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” We can follow the way the ingredients of the new artistic platform emerge in Fowles’s book which is a distinctly self-reflexive novel. What happens when different kinds of world are placed in confrontation. with the Victorian male protagonist divided between a 4 . as in realistic fiction (in the Victorian age). 2. or when boundaries between worlds are violated?. how are they constituted. but as realistic and philosophical romances – and who surfaces in chapter 55. “postcognitive” questions : “Which world is this? What is to be done in it? Which of my selves is to do it?” specialised questions bearing either on the ontology of the literary text itself or on the ontology of the world which it projects.g. * the species of the novel – a historical novel. What is the mode of existence of a text. its values – an encyclopaedia of Britishness made up of two halves. witty articulation. still very much a novel crossing over personal and cultural identities. . its texs. * the narrative method – retrospection – a 20th retrospective view upon the Victorian age. in fact an ironic. a documentary text (a national identity romance. self-reflexive narrative hiding a dramatized narrator who had been present. intertextualities are different practices placed in relation. its ethos. What kinds of world are there. a romance proper.* The postmodern universe is a universe of intertextualities (according to Julia Kristeva. it is necessary to distinguish different practices from different identities placed in interpersonal conjunction in traditional fiction) * The postmodern universe refuses simple. How is a projected world structured? And so on”. as an enigma in detective stories which are not read as detective stories. in fictional form of intellectual and fictional conversation and conundrums (riddles). hidden in the hermeneutic dimension of the text. an anti-novel) * the characters’ reduplication (in the female and male protagonists ) and their spanning across centuries. and how do they differ?. linear statements by asking questions rather than by immersion in subjectivity (as in high modernism) – e. and what is the mode of existence of the world (or worlds) it projects?. only apparently an omniscient narrative.

Sukenick. Federman celebrates the crazy products of Postmodern Fiction: works by such writers as Pynchon. The Ghost of Beckett and all his alter-identities (Malloy. Federman bears a large share of responsibility for the attack on the referential element in [literature]. considering that as both critic and innovator. its self-indulgence. Sarah)..Victorian and a 20th c. cf. a new shape than the corsi-ricorsi in Vico’s cycles. “Critifiction: Postmodern Essays” (1994) Federman focuses on themes that have obsessed him throughout his long career. hypotext * the ironical. Imagination As Pla{y}giarism. poetry. The Unnameable) fills these pages. its narcissism. was also the day Postmodernism died. feminine protagonists (the spoilt upper-middle class Ernestina and the tragic muse fit for 20th c. Malone. the day Beckett died.. It is a remarkable admission. the quote above) * the kinds of postmodern textuality to be found in Fowles’s encyclopaedic novel: the paratextual. Critifiction becomes digressive and Writing in 1988. the anti. its playfulness.a new shape than linearity. so as to let the sand course from the emptied cup into the cup about to be filled (THE HOURGLASS SHAPE . from the google search.(or late) Victorian Pre-Raphaelite thread and solution to the narrative * the hypotext – Thomas Hardy. including Surfiction (a kind of fiction that he himself forwarded in the seventies). in one way. American brands of postmodernism * Raymond Federman. progressive view of time prolonged in eternity for the firm believers. writers’ inspiration. The Return of the Native – versus the 20 th c. 3. Sorrentino. the Darwinian view of the world. Raymond Federman acknowledged self-reflexive fiction as a troublesome. Self-Reflexive Narrative Devices („Critifiction erases the line between genres. our Italics. framing quotes from Victorian fiction. Barth. As such. ”). misquotation. with the essential strain of epochal time recommending the reversibility of time-economies characteristic.. the pre-Raphaelite artistis’ community as a switch between two ages * the hour-glass shape of the novel. self-reflexive text * the manneristic meta-text Each of these texts motivates the different endings of the novel. 1989.. theory. Federman goes so far as to say that December 22. pla[y]giarism. or whatever is available to the writer. as well as the one writer who Federman has spent his entire adult life studying and trying to make sense of: Samuel Beckett.. as in the Christian. exasperating. A piece of critifictional writing brings together fragments of fiction. for the 19th century (as we can read in chapter 4) and characteristic in a quite diferent way for the 20th humanity (see the figure of the hourglass that can be turned upside down. poetry and documentation from/ about the Victorian age * the Victorian intertext – confronting and debating the presuppositions of realistic and domestic fiction. irritating form of narrative with its gimmicks. the entry from Amazon. Abish and many others. 5 . quotation. Gins.. criticism.

Rayuela by Julio Cortazar. A novel about a reader reading a novel (e.. A non-linear novel. Secret Window. Gass.g. or listening to (on a radio. which continue the story while commenting on it (e. Sophie's World. Adaptation. The Monkey Wrench Gang. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.g. Neverending Story. The Crying of Lot 49) A novel about a writer creating a story (e. or the second Collector 6 .g. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce). Important American examples from that time include: Barth's Lost in the Funhouse. Everything Is Illuminated.g. Donnie Darko. "The Laughing Man". The Post Card by Jacques Derrida). Barton Fink. Slaughterhouse Five. which can be read in any order other than from beginning to end (e. The Unfortunates by B. The Princess Bride). The People of Paper. Johnson. etc). If On a Winter's Night a Traveler). A story addressing the specific conventions of story.g. Secret Garden. Pale Fire. Narrative footnotes. Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. from The Simpsons. JPod. Some common metafictive devices include: • • • • • • • • • • • A work of fiction within a fiction (e. Reflections in a Prism by David Lempert). paragraphing or plots. At Swim-Two-Birds. Hamlet.The Dark Tower. A Series of Unfortunate Events. Atonement. whistling.g. Song of Susannah. Disney Channel's Life is Ruff) A movie or television show in which a character begins humming. In the 1950s. several French novelists published works whose styles were collectively dubbed "nouveau roman" ("new novel"). The French Lieutenant's Woman.Metafiction is primarily associated with Modernist and Postmodernist literature. Breakfast of Champions. The World According to Garp. with authors such as John Barth. A novel within the novel (e. These "new novels" were characterized by their bending of genre and style and often included elements of metafiction. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. the show or movie's theme song (e. Coover's The Babysitter and The Magic Poker.g. Lanark. A novel wherein the author (not merely the narrator) is a character (e. The Counterfeiters. the final scene of "Homer's Triple Bypass". The Princess Bride. and William H. but is found at least as early as the 9th century One Thousand and One Nights. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) A movie in which a character reads a fictional story (e.). Robert Coover. or when Sam Carter hums the theme from Stargate SG-1 during the episode "Chimera". (e. S. such as title.g. It became prominent in the 1960s. Kurt Vonnegut.g. Life of Pi. and Gass's Willie Master's Lonesome Wife.g. House of Leaves. Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth) A novel in which the book itself seeks interaction with the reader and asks the reader to stroke the pages of the book to see the book itself as a "living entity" (e.g. Cervantes' Don Quixote and Chaucer's 14th Century Canterbury Tales.

Spaceballs: the Movie. but is told from a different perspective (e. Stranger than Fiction. when he himself sings songs that reference The Simpsons. Grendel by John Gardner. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard.• • • • • • • • • from Demon Knight or when Mr. Illuminatus!. Betty Boop. Gentleman. "a novel about a person reading a novel" as above. e. A parallel novel which has the same setting and time period as a previous work. Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card). Coetzee. Characters who express awareness that they are in a work of fiction (e. Scream.) A story that anticipates the reader's reaction to the story. Metahumor is a device in which the author or creator uses metafiction as a starting point to deliberately and comedically break suspension of disbelief. as when "Roger" makes a brief appearance in Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.g. but interacts with the characters. Deadpool. who enters the dialogue he is writing as a character created by him. the entire plot centers around the King of All Cosmos 7 . Metafiction may figure for only a moment in a story. (e. Uso Justo.M.Till We Have Faces by C. can be seen as exercises in metafiction. Lewis. being used within a new piece of fiction Y. "The Great Good Thing". Bach) Contemporary author Paul Auster has made metafiction the central focus of his writing and is probably the best known active novelist specialising in the genre. Foe by J. and many of the same characters. metafiction is frequent feature of post-modernist literature. (Gödel. As a literary device. while actors from the former star as "themselves". For example. Examples such as If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino. A Nightmare on Elm Street is referenced extensively in Wes Craven's New Nightmare. S. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). (e. Puckoon. iz. a pastiche novel A work of fiction directly referencing another work that internally references the first work. Merging characters or elements from diverse works of fiction into a new fictional scenario (e. Animal Man.g. Daffy Duck in Duck Amuck. Wicked (novel) by Gregory Maguire. to lend an air of verisimilitude to fiction Y. Who Framed Roger Rabbit . or it may be central to the work. The Last Unicorn). Characters who do things because those actions are what they would expect from characters in a story. (e. 1/0. "Bob and George") A real pre-existing piece of fiction X. in the videogame We Love Katamari.g. The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall.g. She-Hulk. Breakfast of Champions) A dialogue between two characters who interact within the dialogue with the author himself.g. Escher. Incredible whistles theme music from The Incredibles).g. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. A story where the author is not a character. Weird Al Yankovic appearing on The Simpsons.g. as in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy.

commenting on the "truth" behind the story.[1] It can be used in multiple ways within one work. in the story chapter How to Tell a True War Story. a Vietnam War veteran. novelist Tim O'Brien. writes in his short story collection The Things They Carried about a character named "Tim O'Brien" and his war experiences in Vietnam. as the narrator. O'Brien comments on the difficulty of capturing the truth while telling a war story. Likewise. comments on the fictionality of some of the war stories. 8 . though all of it is fiction. Tim O'Brien. and subsequently wanted to see more of it.sending the Prince to roll more katamari to appease fans who enjoyed the first game. For example. Katamari Damacy.

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