realism

Topics: Postmodernism, Short story, Modernism Pages: 7 (739 words) Published: March 23, 2014
Lectures 11 & 12
American Short Stories: From
Postmodernism to Dirty
Realism

John Barth on the short story
‘Less really is More… there are narrative
ideas suitable only for a short story: quick
tales, epiphanies that even a novella
would attenuate…. You can hold a short
story in your hand, like a lyric poem; see it
whole; examine the function of individual
sentences, even individual words, as you
can’t readily do with Bleak House’.

Ihab Hassan: Modernism vs Postmodernism (from
The Dismemberment of Orpheus, 1971)

Modernism
Postmodernism
• Form (conjunctive, closed) Antiform (disjunctive,
open)
• Purpose
Play
• Design
Chance
• Hierarchy
Anarchy
• Art Object/Finished
Process/Performance/
Work
Happening

Hassan: Modernism vs
Postmodernism (2)
Modernism
Postmodernism
• Distance
Participation
• Presence
Absence
• Centring
Dispersal
• Metaphor
Metonymy
• Selection
Combination
• Narrative/Grande Anti-narrative/
Histoire
Petite Histoire

Hassan: Modernism vs
Postmodernism (3)






Modernism
Master Code
Origin/Cause
Metaphysics
Determinacy
Genre/Boundary

Postmodernism
Idiolect
Difference/Trace
Irony
Indeterminacy
Text/Intertext

Peter Hansen on poststructuralism
The French poststructuralists ‘showed human
interiority split apart, fragmented… into a
decentred, dispersed and fluid subject, not so
much speaking as being spoken by language.
Without a “genuine” or essential being,
individuals were seen as constructed by the
texts surrounding them’.

Fredric Jameson’s five key features of
postmodernism (1)
1. The effacement of the old distinction
between ‘high’ culture and ‘low’ or
popular cultures;
2. The importance to postmodern art of
new technologies linked to economic
systems;
3. An emphasis upon artefacts as a
simulacrum – or more precisely, a copy
of a copy for which no original exists;

Fredric Jameson’s five key features
of postmodernism (2)
4. The waning of affect – or
emotional response – in a
literature of human detachment
and alienation; and
5. A belief in ‘bricolage’ – the
intertextual quoting and
borrowing from earlier literary
styles or periods.

David Lodge on metafictional
techniques
They appeal to 20th-century writers
because they ‘disarm criticism by
anticipating it; they flatter the reader
by treating him or her as an intellectual
equal, sophisticated enough not to be
thrown by the admission that a work of
fiction is a verbal construction rather
than a slice of life’.

Tom Wolfe’s critique of
metafictional approaches
‘Another story about a writer
writing a story! Another
regressus ad infinitum! Who
doesn’t prefer art that at least
overtly imitates something other
than its own processes?’

Donald Barthelme (1931-1989)

Barthelme on writing fiction

‘The combinatorial agility of
words, the exponential
generation of meaning once
they’re allowed to go to bed
together’ leads to a ‘productive
quarrel with the world’.

Grace Paley (1922-2007)

Raymond Carver (1938-1988)

Raymond Carver on his choice of
material (1)

‘Most of the people in my stories
are poor and bewildered… I take
unemployment, money problems,
and marital problems as givens in
life… I write stories about a
submerged population, people
who don’t always have someone
to speak for them.

Carver on his choice of material
(2)
I’m sort of a witness, and,
besides, that’s the life I myself
lived for a long time. I don’t see
myself as a spokesman but as a
witness to these lives. I’m a
writer’.

Carver’s reaction to being labelled a
‘minimalist’ writer

‘[It] bothers me: it suggests the idea of
a narrow vision of life, low ambitions
and limited cultural horizons. And,
frankly, I don’t believe that’s my case.
Sure, my writing is lean and tends to
avoid any excess. There’s a saying of
Hemingway’s that I could take for my
motto: ‘Prose is architecture. And this
isn’t the Baroque...
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