Postmodern literature essay

The issue with grand narratives is that in their effort to generalize, they fail to account for experiences and beliefs that do not fit within their parameters or confines. Winkler identifies a blueprint that most epic tales share--thus developing a universalizing theory of the elements that shape heroism in fiction. While postmodernists do not deny the existence of universalizing theories, they are skeptical about them.

Postmodern literature essay

Literature is not exhaustible for the simple and sufficient reason that no single book is.

Introduction

A book is not an isolated entity: Borges, "A Note on Toward Bernard Shaw" Over the past two decades, as the high tide of modernism ebbed and its masters died off, the baring of literary artifice has come to be more and Postmodern literature essay a basic procedure—at times, almost an obsession—of serious fiction in the West.

The creators of self-conscious fiction in our time do not constitute a school or a movement, and the lines of influence among them, or to them from their common predecessors, often tend to waver and blur when closely examined.

Some of these writers have tried their hand at shorter fictional forms, which, after the Borgesian model, one now calls "fictions" rather than "short stories"; but most of them, perhaps inevitably, have turned back to, or stayed with, the novel, attracted by its large and various capacity to convey a whole imaginatively constituted world.

Scattered over three continents, they are an odd mixture of stubbornly private eccentrics, on the one hand, and promulgators of manifestoes, on the other; of powerfully evocative novelists or conductors of ingenious laboratory experiments in fiction; of exuberant comic artists and knowing guides to bleak dead ends of despair.

Postmodernism in Literature - New York Essays

The whole reflexive tendency in contemporary fiction has been reinforced by the prominence of selfconscious cinema since the early sixties in the work of directors like Fellini, Antonioni, Resnais, and Godard.

Film, because it is a collaborative artistic enterprise involving a complicated chain of technical procedures, almost invites attention to its constitutive processes; and there is a clear logic in the involvement in filmmaking of several of the French New Novelists, or in the repeated recourse to cinematic composition by montage in a writer like Robert Coover.

The close parallels between what is happening now in the two media suggest that the selfconsciousness of both may reflect a heightened new stage of modern culture's general commitment to knowing all that can be known about its own components and dynamics.

Our culture, a kind of Faust at the mirror of Narcissus, is more and more driven to uncover the roots of what it lives with most basically—language and its origins, human sexuality, the workings of the psyche, the inherited structures of the mind, the underlying patterns of social organization, the sources of value and belief, and, of course, the nature of art.

If this is the moment of the self-conscious novel, that is decidedly a mixed blessing, as the spectacular unevenness of innovative fiction today would indicate. The growing insistence of self-awareness in our culture at large has been both a liberating and a paralyzing force, and that is equally true of its recent developments in artistic expression.

In this regard, criticism must be especially wary. The kind of criticism that often has to be invoked in discussing a traditional realistic novel is in the indicative mode: Most self-conscious novels, on the other hand, lend themselves splendidly to analytic criticism because they operate by the constant redeployment of fiction's formal categories.

Is the critic interested in the narrative manipulation of time, the arbitrariness of narrative beginnings, the writer's awareness of literary conventions, the maneuvering of language to produce multiple meanings, the expressive possibilities of punctuation, paragraphing, typography?

It is all laid out for him across the printed pages of Tristram Shandy, ready to be analytically described, with no apparent need for recourse to a touchstone of "rightness" outside this and other literary texts.

For this reason an astute critic, impelled by his own professional concern with formal experiment, can easily make a piece of self-conscious fiction sound more profound, more finely resonant with implication, than it is in fact. None of Robbe-Grillet's novels really equals in fascination Roland Barthes' brilliant descriptions of them.

Queneau's Exercices de style is an intriguing and at times immensely amusing book, but it is just what its title implies, a set of exercises; and to suggest, as George Steiner has done, that it constitutes a major landmark in twentieth-century literature, is to mislead readers in the interest of promoting literary "future shock.

Queneau begins his book by reporting a banal anecdote of a young man with a long neck and a missing button on his coat who is jostled in a crowded bus.

He tells this anecdote ninety-nine times, constantly changing the narrative viewpoint, the style, the literary conventions; going as far as the use of mathematical notation and anagrammatic scrambling of letters in one direction, and the resort to heavy dialect and badly anglicized French in the other; even rendering the incident in alexandrines, in free verse, as a sonnet, as a playlet.

All this is extremely ingenious, and, I would admit, more than ingenious, because as one reads the same simple episode over and over through all these acrobatic variations, one is forced to recognize both the stunning arbitrariness of any decision to tell a story in a particular way and the endless possibilities for creating fictional "facts" by telling a story differently.

The controlling perception, however, of Exercices is one that goes back to the generic beginnings of the novel; and to see how much more richly that insight can be extended into fictional space, one has only to think of Sterne, where a "Queneauesque" passage like the deliberately schematic "Tale of Two Lovers" is woven into a thick texture of amorous anecdotes that critically juxtapose literary convention with a sense of the erotic as a cogent fact of human experience.

Precisely what is missing from Exercices de style is any sense—and playfulness need not exclude seriousness—of human experience, which is largely kept out of the book in order to preserve the technical purity of the experiment.

I don't mean to take Queneau to task for what he clearly did not intend; I mean only to emphasize that criticism need not make excessive claims for this kind of writing. Queneau, of course, has written full-scale novels of flaunted artifice, both before and after Exercices de style, that do involve a more complex sense of experience.

One of the great temptations of the self-conscious novelist, however, is to content himself with technical experiment, trusting that in these difficult times but then the times are always difficult the only honesty, perhaps the only real profundity, lies in technical experiment.

In both, one can admire the virtuosity with which narrative materials are ingeniously shuffled and reshuffled yet feel a certain aridness; for the partial magic of the novelist's art, however self-conscious, is considerably more than a set of card tricks.

The other, complementary fault of the self-conscious novel, also much in evidence among its contemporary practitioners, is to give free rein to every impulse of invention or fictional contrivance without distinguishing what may serve some artistic function in the novel and what is merely silly or self-indulgent.

After all, if in an old-fashioned novel you have to describe a petulant, spoiled young woman like Rosamund Vincy, you are obliged to make her as close a likeness as you can to observed examples of the type, and so some commonly perceived human reality provides a constant check on your inventiveness.

Postmodern literature essay

If, on the other hand, you are writing a novel about a novelist who invents still another novelist who is the author of bizarrely farfetched books, there is scarcely any piece of fabrication, however foolish or improbable, that you couldn't put into your novel if you set your mind to it.

The second-remove novelist invented by the first-person narrator-novelist gives birth to a full-grown man that is, a new character ; but while this writer, fatigued with parturition, is asleep, his characters rebel against him, resenting the roles he has assigned them.

In the end, they subject him to the most hideous torture and maiming, recounted in detail page after page—by writing chapters of a novel within the novel-within-the-novel in which he suffers these horrors.

This scheme of recessed narratives also involves an amalgam of different kinds of fiction, starting with domestic realism in the frame story and running through the gunslinging western and the novel of erotic sensationalism to fairy tales and Irish myth.

If one thinks of the history of the self-conscious novel from its early masters down to Gide, to the parodistic or overtly contrived sections in Joyce and the Nabokov of Lolita and Pale Fire, "sham" becomes far too crude and demeaning as a synonym for artifice or imaginative contrivance.

The artifice, moreover, should not be flatly "self-evident" but cunningly revealed, a hide-and-seek presence in the novel, a stubbornly ambiguous substratum of the whole fictional world.The term Postmodern literature is used to describe certain tendencies in post-World War II literature.

It is both a continuation of the experimentation championed by writers of the modernist period (relying heavily, for example, on fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc.) and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist .

- Postmodern novel as a genre is mainly intertextual because it often goes beyond the paradigm of literature and borrows its material from different fields of study like science, geography, history, astronomy and so on to make a collage of different theories .

Apr 19,  · One hallmark of postmodern literature is a willingness to mingle high and low registers, and to subvert popular and recognizable genres of literature with material that might seem foreign or that frustrates customary expectations.

Postmodern literature is literature characterized by reliance on narrative techniques such as fragmentation, paradox, and the unreliable narrator; and is often (though not exclusively) defined as a style or a trend which emerged in the post–World War II era. Vaguely, postmodern fiction is a literary movement after World War II against modernist literature.

It stands to question the reality, hierarchy, and organization of the principles of our society through literature. Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a whole, is difficult to define and there is little agreement on the exact characteristics, scope, and importance of postmodern literature.

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