Postmodernism in English literature

Topics: Novel, Fiction, Postmodernism Pages: 7 (2597 words) Published: April 29, 2015
Postmodernism in English literature.

1. Postmodernism in the English literature of the last decades of the 20th century. 2. John Fowles’s novels as an example of postmodern writing.

In the 1960s the cultural layers changed and grew confused; the emergence of the mass media and the technological revolution changed the nature of culture and publishing. Here started the era of postmodernism, manifesting the philosophical, cultural, and political instability of the contemporary world, and the difficulty of knowing it.

Postmodernism is hard to define. Is it a period term, a social diagnosis, a cultural dominant, an anti-aesthetic posture, a philosophical endgame, a sign of political defeat? Postmodernism is all of those. The all-embracing prefix is part of the problem. Ihab Hassan saw postmodernism as a vast unmaking of the western mind. Indeterminacy and doubt are the new signifiers of pluralistic and multicultural democracies.

Postmodernism was predetermined by cultural changes (the emergence of post-industrialization and sub-cultures, widening democracy and globalization, the boom in information technologies and the development of molecular biology and genetics) and changes in literary and artistic expression.

The only simple definition that can be given of post-modernism is that it is “after modernism”, which does not help much. Does (post)modernism, coming after modernism in the 1950s, extend or negate the earlier movement? Or does it paradoxically precede modernism conceptually, bearing witness to what modernism could not represent? These unsettled questions suggest that postmodernism is both an overdetermined heir of modernist influences and an open-ended set of practices and theories whose relationship to modernism remains vexed.

The inclusion of post in the name does suggest that is not only after-modernism but is in some way different from it:

1) It sees the complexities of life in different ways from earlier writers. 2) It is less narrowly ego-centred than much of the literature of modernism was. 3) Indeed it seems to demand a number of different centres of interest, often in different historical periods, countries or existences. 4) It likes playing intellectual games with inter-textuality, or patterns of different kinds of writing or texts woven together, providing different, sometimes contrary information. 5) Novels often have more than one ending, and almost never present one single truth because of the different truths that different people see. 6) Most works reveal, in a variety of ways, a self-conscious anxiety about the authority and the status of the authorial voice of the novelist.

7) hostile to the tradition of the social novel, they rejected it in favour of extreme linguistic and narrative innovation, metafictional devices. 8) They subverted cultural and literary ideologies by deconstructing and rewriting them. 9) Nothing can be taken for granted. That’s why postmodern fiction typically defamiliarizes, by means of parody, pastiche, fantasy, and magic realism, what we take for granted in social and literary convention. 10) It cultivates the unconscious, the irrational, and the absurd, for comedic purposes. 11) Most post-war novelists found it useful to reinstate traditional fictional modes and conventions, putting them to new (often ironical) uses. 12) The post-war novelists’ attitude towards tradition is also a result of their reconsideration of the usefulness of conventional moulds. 13) There is a manifest desire to work out a synthesis of suggestions and motifs coming from the literature of all ages. Intertextuality reigns supreme, even though through subtle allusion, rather than through direct reference or distorted quotation. It rereads and rewrites the past, concentrating on dominant narrative models by which accounts of history are constructed. Oscar Wilde’s remark, “The only duty we owe to history is to rewrite it”, can be taken as a motto. 14) Here we may find...
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