Monthly Archives: November 2011

I KNEW It Would Pay Off…


A Trip Down the Post-Modernist Rabbit Hole

Hello darling logophiles! I am currently slogging through what will hopefully become my honors thesis, which involves a heavy application of Post-Modernist theory. And when I say heavy application, I mean I’m slathering Post-Modernism all over that baby like basting on a turkey.

So! In order to feel better about all of the work I’m doing and all of the results I have (yet) to produce, I’m going to lead ya’ll briefly down the rabbit hole that is Post-Modernism.

Goodbye, sanity!

To begin: Post-Modernism refers to a genre of post-WWII literature and art. It is a reaction to the Modernist movement; however, instead of the Modernist quest for meaning in a chaotic world, the Post-Modern author avoids (playfully, at times) the possibility of meaning.  Rather than attempting to fill the void created in life by theorists and philosophers who declared, “God is dead, and even science cannot answer all of life’s great questions!” by relying on the self, as the Modernists attempted to do, Post-Modernism parodies the quest for meaning and emphasizes chance over skill. Post-Modernists play with irony and dark humor, and juxtapose playfulness with serious situations (for an amazing example, look to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams).

Still with me?

Then we have meta-fiction, which is a literary device often used by Post-Modernists that self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction, and thus exposing the fictional illusion.  It draws attention to the fact that the piece is a work of art, while still exposing the “truth” or “reality” of what it attempts to reproduce.  Exposing the “truth” does not require facts and actual events in order to reveal the truth of pain and impact that a situation may have caused. Truth is the experience and concluded perceptions of an event or story, not the event itself (look to Tim O’brien’s The Things They Carried).

For example: A story about a writer creating a story, a book in which the book itself seeks interaction with the reader, or an autobiographical fiction in which the main character, by the last parts of the book, has written the first parts and is reading some form of it to an audience.

Post-Modernism rejects the idea of a “grand narrative”-that is, a narrative which attempts to encompass an entire community’s experience through one story (like the American Dream).  Rather, Jean-Francois Lyotard, a forerunner in Post-Modernist theory, asserted that the only narrative that one should employ is a local one, a personalized one. Only then could we see a certain kind of truth- not the “Truth,” but a truth nonetheless.

In short: There is no Truth. There is no meaning. Life is a series of random events, and any sort of journey to discover the Ultimate Knowledge is fruitless. But don’t let that bum you out- because there is no meaning, we can have a little fun trying to make meaning out of no meaning.

So, there you have it. Post-Modernism condensed down like concentrated orange juice, represented in the least amount of words possible to the best of my ability.


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