Aspects of Postmodernism in "Happy Endings" and "Videotape"

Topics: Fiction, David Foster Wallace, Short story Pages: 4 (1514 words) Published: December 8, 2006
Aspects of Postmodernism in "Happy Endings" and "Videotape"

According to Neil Bessner (Bessner), postmodernism is a "slippery term to define" (15). If we look at the literal meaning of the word in a regular dictionary, we may encounter something like "a style and movement in art […] in the late 20th century that reacts against modern styles, for example by mixing features form traditional and modern styles" . In fact, it has extended many of the fundamental techniques and assumptions of modern literature. A lot of aspects and characteristics of this relatively new current are well exposed in short stories such as "Happy Endings" by Margaret Atwood (Atwood) and "Videotape" by Don Delillo (Delillo). In this essay, we will first look at some basic elements of postmodernism and then we will closely examine the ways each of those two short stories exemplifies this type of fiction. Let us start with the examination of some features of postmodernism. To begin with, Bessner provides six characteristics of postmodern writings and he affirms that "self-reflexivity is the common denominator" (15). It can mean writing that explores its own condition and function as art, through language. It can also mean writing that opens itself to contingency of history. He adds that postmodern writing questions the authority of a centre, for example, rules concerning the form of a story, and goes as far as crossing traditional generic boundaries (prose poems-documentary novels). Always as he says, it can mean writing that experiments with, interrogates or merges modes like magical-realism . Finally, as the term itself suggests, "post" modern, that is following upon modernism . "The complexity and plurality of those meanings reflect well, indeed, what postmodernism is" (15-16). Postmodernism is also defined in Meyer Howard Abrams and Geoffrey Galt Harpham's "A Glossary of Literary Terms" and they suggest that postmodern writings undermine our basic beliefs and experiences and...

Cited: Abrams, Meyer Howard, Geoffrey Galt Harpham. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Toronto:
Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.
Atwood, Margaret. Murder in the Dark: Short Fictions and Prose Poems. Toronto: Coach House
Pres, 1983.
May, Charles E. Fiction 's Many Worlds. Toronto: D.C. Heat and Co., 1993.
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