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Is Postmodern Literature Dead, or Simply Out of Fashion?

Many considered the encyclopaedic novels of the late ’90s and early 2000’s such as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and most prominently, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest to be, variously, postmodernist, or post-postmodernist – ‘New Sincerity," being a label applied to the latter. In the case of DFW, the abandonment of irony in place of sincerity was defined as the source of the departure from the genre or movement, while Danielewski’s act of essentially drawing out postmodern literature and all its tropes and threads to their logical conclusions was, essentially, concluding it there and then.
I read House of Leaves in my first year of university, and some years later, it is now the subject of my doctoral thesis. As I studied my way through the university, and particularly in grad school, I found very few scholars wanting to discuss postmodern literature or philosophy. In classes I took on Modernism, postmodernism was included in a one-lecture session where it was deemed to have been subsumed into "New Modernist Studies," as essentially, a subgenre of modernism rather than (depending on who was writing it) an elaboration on or even ar reaction to Modernism.
While there were stragglers throughout the ’80s, ’90s and naughties, many consider the heyday of postmodern literature to have taken place during the late sixties and throughout the seventies. Even Raymond Federman who wrote extensively on the self-reflexivity that defined these novels concluded during the ’90s that this era of self-reflexive experimentation was essentially, over. It is worth noting that while these essays were collected, many were written at the time before the term "postmodernism," had even been applied to this kind of literature (a term that was first applied to architecture before carrying over into the other arts; many of the seminal writers like Vonnegut and DeLillo were often called black humorists in their present tense). While Federman perhaps made that call prematurely in 1992, given the popularity of the first two novels I mentioned for this topic, the fact remains that whether or not the movement is "dead," it has fallen terribly out of favour. A professor confessed to me once, that it was very trendy at a time before I’d been born, or perhaps even when I was very young and as a grad student in their 20’s in the ’10s I had missed out Is postmodernism dead because it’s out of fashion? Or will it return, much like the mullet?

  • A good topic, but it may be better to try to frame the topic in third-person because too much personal experience when discussing the topic may feel more like opinion than media analysis. – Emily Deibler 9 months ago
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  • Oh certainly Emily; but I'm not the one who's going to write it.Here's a couple of contextual articles for whoever does; I shouldn't have perhaps leaned on an anecdotal example when essentially, my professor was just echoing what a lot of people have now been saying for decades. Here's a couple of recent takes:https://sydneyreviewofbooks.com/theoretical-cool/https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/postmodernism-is-dead-va-exhibition-age-of-authenticismhttps://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/postmodernism-dead-comes-next/https://philosophynow.org/issues/58/The_Death_of_Postmodernism_And_Beyond (personally not a fan of this one; feel like it misses the point but it's valid to consider)https://areomagazine.com/2018/01/08/postmodernism-isnt-playing-around-anymore/https://areomagazine.com/2018/02/07/no-postmodernism-is-not-dead-and-other-misconceptions/ – benjamindmuir 9 months ago
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  • Ooooo boy, this is one tasty topic (personally). I mean this might come down to how post modernism is defined (good luck to whomever takes that on!) and, also, how you measure the deadness-to-passéness of post modernism; if it's by reader popularity then probably deadish, if it's by author output then it's arguably very alive (Zadie Smith, Jim Gauer, George Saunders, Haruki Murakami, Marlon James...). My main thought is: Is an either/or framing of this piece the best approach to reflect a topic that might benefit from a more exploratory flavour?. There are SO many options with this piece. I approve. – JM 9 months ago
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  • Ah! Thank you for the article lists. I think that'll be very helpful for whoever writes this. :) It's a good topic. – Emily Deibler 9 months ago
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  • I think the postmodern novel will eventually be "in fashion" again. It's strange to think of something as timeless as literature being subjected to trends but there is an ebb and flow. It would be interesting to consider the impact of how we've become accustomed to absorbing information in soundbites--tweets, Instagram and Snapchat stories in relation to lengthier post-modern texts from David Foster Wallace and Haruki Marukami. – Loie89 6 months ago
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