2007-08 BM1: Session 7
First half of 20c:
- aesthetic modernism, breaking with the general public and with representation; representing the fragmentation of modernity
- modernism of contents: aesthetically conservative, but highly transgressive contents (especially sexuality)
Second half of 20c
- Postmodernism: a playful and self-conscious use of aesthetic techniques, and attempt to “bridge the gap between high and popular culture by mixing elements of both”
- Radical postmodernism in the US (Pynchon, Barth, ), moderate postmodernism in Britain
- The emergence of Postcolonial fiction (Commonwealth literature, third-world literature), new questions, new perspective, new options.
- In contrast to the continent, the British market for fiction unites a potential wide popular appeal and the potential for high artistic achievement
- Linda Hutcheon, Brian McHale, Postmodern Fiction (schaubild)
Linguistic turn: Undercutting of originality, language speaks us.
- Can modernism and postmodernism really be distinguished?
- Progress of contents vs. progress of technique
This creates a set of convenient problems with a predictable set of topics for discussion and a predictable spectrum of possible positions. (examples…)
On the other hand, it leaves a great many factors out of consideration:
- It does not reflect its own role (the role of the critical and scholarly discussion of literature) in relation to the production of fiction.
- In the 20c, the school syllabus makes English fiction into a central element of the secondary education system.
- Universities begin to train the teachers required for this education system.
- National and international prizes that channel public attention.
- Transmedial presence of fictional works (adaptations)
- Fiction becomes the core of literary production, the contemporary version of relevant production in world literature. Fiction is turned into an object of higher education, of higher culture.
- (expansion of the anglosphere; English as global medium of communication, as the language of the internet)
- The discussion enabled by the received notions occurs in a homogeneous setting which its controversial issues gloss over and do not take into account.
A more comprehensive view of fiction in the 20c
- would emphasise the homogeneity of the field, its continuity with 19c patterns. (e.g. signs of fictionality in Satanic Verses comp. to Middlemarch)
- The links between the scholarly, the educational, the general critical, approaches and exchanges.
- Openness towards all sorts of texts, intertextuality, interdiscursivity.
- Corresponding generalization of interpretive activity (poetics of culture).
What do we do with a 20c novel?
- How does it exhibit its poetics? (narrative techniques etc.)
- Integration into wider cultural exchanges:
- by what topics or techniques does it aim at a “parallel discussion”, a wider contemporary debate, which it invites a chosen set of participants to engage in under special conditions. (Contrast Middlemarch und SV).
- how is the discussion of this work positioned (what sustains it, who participates in it), how is this addressed.
How does it take a position towards a literary tradition, towards other traditions? (intextuality)
Conclusions reaching beyond the scope of this lecture
- The retrospective homogeneity (anti-retrospective textualisation),
- Different games, different constructions.
- Are we (still) postmodern?
- We accept the constructedness.
- We reject the arbitrariness, “anything goes” (In this, we go along with the cultural turn...)