Roman Jacobson in order not to view the two as oppositions but to show the transitions between them. And what am I in it? And so on. What is to be done in it?

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Roman Jacobson in order not to view the two as oppositions but to show the transitions between them. And what am I in it? And so on. What is to be done in it? Which of my selves is to do it? What is a world? Beckett 13 - When a text can be looked at from two angles, at one time displaying a focus on epistemological issues, at another on ontological issues, McHale speaks of "limit-modernist", or "late-modernism".

Nabokov 19 - Pale Fire as "he paradigmatic limit-modernist novel" Coover 21 - "Here characters of different and incompatible ontological statuses - real-world historical figures, corporate trade-marks […] and national symbols […], purely fictional characters - have been gathered together in an impossible, heterotopian locus which is also, Pynchon 21 - "in a stylization, the dominant of the original the model being stylized is preserved, while in parody it is not" 25 - Based on a phrase by Annie Dillard, McHale concludes that postmodernist fiction "gives us a pretext for doing unlicensed ontology in a teacup".

Heterocosm 27 - the theme of otherness as one of the oldest of the classic ontological themes 28 - In his Defense, Sir Philip Sidney "launches the themes of the fictional world as heterocosm, a universe apart, upon its modern career. Thomas Pavel]. Spaces which real-world atlases or encyclopedias show as non-contiguous and unrelated, when juxtaposed in written texts constitute a zone.

It thus obeys the same underlying principles of ontological poetics as postmodernist fiction. Gothic enclosure 74 - "postmodernist fiction has close affinities with the genre of the fantastic" because it, too, "is governed by the ontological dominant" Hesitation 75 - "The postmodernist fantastic can be seen as a sort of jiu-jitsu that uses representation itself to overthrow representation. It needs to be read ontologically. As long as such resistance is present, the dialogue between the normal and the paranormal will continue […].

The other means is more direct: it involves dramatizing the confrontation, turning the resistance of normality against the paranormal into an agonistic struggle. Nevertheless, Todorov does have a point: the fantastic no longer seems to be the exclusive property of texts that are not formally fantastic at all.

Ultimately, its source is ontological: boundaries between worlds have been violated. There is an ontological scandal when a real-world figure is inserted in a fictional situation, where he interacts with purely fictional characters […]. There is also an ontological scandal when two real-world figures interact in a fictional context […].

Apocryphal history, creative anachronism, historical fantasy - these are the typical strategies of the postmodernist revisionist in two senses. First, it revises the content of the historical record, reinterpreting the historical record, often demystifying or debunking the orthodox version of the past. Secondly, it revises, indeed transforms, the conventions and norms of historical fiction itself.

But of course this is precisely the question postmodernist fiction is designed to raise: real, compared to what? Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses ] Something exists - "Narrated events, then, can be un-narrated, placed sous rature; and, in much the same way, projected existents - locales, objects, characters, and so on - can have their existence revoked.

The effect is most acute, of course, in the case of characters, since it is especially through projected people that the reader becomes involved in the fictional world. Or they may be subjected to various transgression of the logic of narrative levels, short-circuiting the recursive structure. Or, finally, a representation may be embedded within itself, transforming a recursive structure into a structure en abyme.

The consequence of all these disquieting puzzles and paradoxes is to foreground the ontological dimensions of the Chinese box of fiction. Such [] characters become victims of romantic irony, the disregarded evidence functioning as a form of sly wink to the reader, and consequently as a means of foregrounding the ontological boundary between reader and character. It also happens whenever our attention is distracted from the projected world and made to fix on its linguistic medium.

Postmodernist fiction, by heightening the polyphonic structure and sharpening the dialogue in various ways, foregrounds the ontological dimension of the confrontation among discourses, thus achieving a polyphony of worlds. Baxtin who "traced the polyphonic character of the novel back to its historical roots in popular carnival practices and the various verbal genres associated with carnival. Far from exploiting this interaction, however, fiction in the realist tradition has sought to suppress or neutralize it […].

Spacing is the sign of verse; prose, the unmarked member of the pair, is identified by its spacelessness. Such headlines tend to corroborate what the spacing already implies, namely that each short segment constitutes an independent unit, a miniature text in its own right, thus in effect completing the physical disintegration of the text that spacing begins.

In many postmodernist texts, the absence of any apparent relation between the illustration and the verbal text turns these visual materials into pure demonstrations of the visuality, and therefore the three-dimensionality and materiality, of the book. But this is not the only form of simultaneity in postmodernist writing. The simplest of these, surprisingly, has been little used: namely, numbering the divisions of the text books, chapters out of order.

In this sense they are like model kits. The metafictional gesture of frame-breaking is, in other words, a form of superrealism. Paradoxically, the more they sought to efface themselves, the more they made their presence conspicuous. Postmodernist fiction has brought the author back to the surface. Foucault answers, by discarding the notion of author as entity, and beginning to think of the author as a function in texts and in the culture at large, a function that varies from period to period and from one social order to another.

From this perspective, the author appears as an institution, governed by the institutions which in a particular society regulate the circulation of discourses e. Fully aware that the author ahs been declared dead, the postmodernist text nevertheless insists on authorial presence, although not consistently. What fixes our attention on the ontological boundary is the appearance of a real-world proper name in a fictional context. Authority - "The analogy between the author and God is, as we already know, an old one.

In short, romantic irony has returned, and is once again a source of aesthetic interest and excitement. Logically, such a short-circuit is impossible; but in fact it happens all the time, or at least it appears to happen. It does so by denying external, objective reality. But that time has passed, and nowadays everything in our culture tends to deny reality and promote unreality, in the interests of maintaining high levels of consumption. It is no longer official reality which is coercive, but official unreality; and postmodernist fiction, instead of resisting this coercive unreality, acquiesces in it, or even celebrates it.

This means, ironically enough, that postmodernist fiction, for all its anti-realism, actually continues to be mimetic. What could be more traditional than love and death? If authors love their characters, and if texts seduce their readers, then these relations involve violations of ontological boundaries. The post-modernist second-person functions as an invitation to the reader to project himself or herself into the gap opened in the discourse by the presence of you.

Implicit in the postmodernist use of the second person, this analogy is actually made explicit in certain texts. I am not so much interested in its potential for representing love between fictional characters, or for investigating the theme of love […], as in its modeling of erotic relations through foregrounded violations of ontological boundaries […].

Love, then, is less an object of representation than a metaobject, less a theme than a metatheme. To put it differently, death often marks the limits of the representation. Here is one of the most serious functions of the fantastic in postmodernist writing, this attempt to imagine a posthumous discourse, a voice from beyond the grave. Indeed, insofar as postmodernist fiction foregrounds ontological themes and ontological structure, we might say that it is always about death.

Death is the one ontological boundary that we are all certain to experience, the only one we shall al inevitably have to cross. In as sense, every ontological boundary is an analogue or metaphor of death; so foregrounding ontological boundaries is a means of foregrounding death, of making death, the unthinkable, available to the imagination, if only in a displace way.

We have all but lost the ars moriendi; we no longer have anyone to teach us how to die well, or at leas no one we can trust or take seriously. Postmodernist writing may be one of our last resources for preparing ourselves, in imagination, for the single act which we must assuredly all perform unaided, with no hope of doing it over if we get it wrong the first time.


Postmodernist Fiction

Postmodernist Fiction. London: Routledge, McHale begins by giving us the opinions of a few other authors on how they feel towards postmodernism. Each of these views has its own values, but none have all the answers, and the ideal definition of postmodernism is one which does not attempt to answer every question. However, this definition cannot go the other direction and be too narrow either. It is the dominant which guarantees the integrity of the structure… a poetic work [is] a structured system, a regularly ordered hierarchical set of artistic devices.


Brian McHale



Postmodernist Fiction




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