Reading: Revisiting Postmodernism

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Revisiting Postmodernism

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David Seed

University of Liverpool
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Abstract

Brian McHale's earlier Postmodernist Fiction (1987) had a clear thesis to argue: modernism was characterized by an epistemological preoccupation which in postmodernism shifted to questions of ontology, broadly a shift from the question "how do we know?" to "what do we know?" His new volume takes an altogether different purchase on his subject. Constructing Postmodernism is a collection of essays which mostly postdate the earlier study. There is a certain amount of repetition, especially in the references, but nowhere near as much as in David Lodge's recent collection After Bakhtin. McHale contextualizes and, in a number of important ways, revises his first study. The latter's central distinction derived from Dick Higgins's Dialectic of Centuries (1978) and is now reconsidered as only one of several possible "stories" of postmodernism. McHale here resists a naively linear narrative implicit in the term itself and now rejects the historical view of simple succession. Literary change does not occur in neat sequence, he now argues, but rather in quantum jumps and unpredictable shifts in direction. This is an important point to make because historical and theoretical analysis sheds a retrospective light over earlier literature. For example, some critics now suggest that Conrad's novels show early signs of postmodernism, and Lodge, Christine Brooke-Rose and others have even argued that indeterminacy–for McHale a central feature of postmodernism–lies at the heart of the discourse of realism.
How to Cite: Seed, D., (1992). Revisiting Postmodernism. Pynchon Notes. (30-31), pp.205–209. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/pn.248
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Published on 22 Sep 1992.
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