(Late)Postmodernism

A Semi-Vacation Week

Semi-annually in the summer and around the winter holiday break, I have to remind myself to take a break. But in some cases, I take a “semi-break” – aka, I work on the stuff I’ve been putting off because they are easier, things that are pretty much done but just need to be finalized, or I catch up on my reading. Yesterday, I took the entire day off because, well, there were 5 holiday socials/dinners I attended over three days. As an introvert, I needed some serious isolated recharging.

But I’m back in a semi-capacity in order to take on my syllabus for the next term, which starts on January 3rd, a really early start but ok. I’ll be teaching “The Superhero,” so I’m really looking forward to teaching an array of comics, a treasured pastime of mine.

I’m also researching and “leisurely reading” to address some comments on one of my diss chapters from a committee member. And by “leisurely reading,” I mean just reading for pleasure without any notes, without marking up the page, skimming. The texts could be related to the research, but I don’t fully go into “work mode” when reading these texts. I mean, yes, this is “research” but also I just really want to read these books?

The majority of the books I am reading are from the contemporary period, and could be possibly lumped in the post-postmodernism, new sincerity, meta-modernism, neo realism, etc. category – the “whatever comes after postmodernism” category. But in the second half of my dissertation, I prefer to call this period “Late Postmodernism.” The “late” sorta functions as it does in the Romantics period, in which the transition from Early to Late emphasizes social, cultural, and technological shifts/changes but the aesthetics and/or poetics of that generation are still similar. Many books that say that postmodernism is over only do so by noting a shift but not a fundamental departure or change. So I have taken that grey area to say, yeah, Postmodernism is still alive and well today, there’s just different technological, cultural, and social contexts. Sure, it’s not the same as early postmodernism, but there are similarities. And now it’s become an alt-right thing to wage personal crusades against postmodernism, but a conception of postmodernism that is rather suspect and misconstrued and just wrong. So there’s that, too. Sigh.

Postmodernism as an emerging culture may be over, but I’d like to think it’s now a dominant culture, to take a page out of Raymond Williams’ book. Moreover, the books that address this “post-postmodernism” period frustratingly only contain white male authors. One book contained a conclusion that mentioned three women, but they were white women, and two of which started writing in the 60s – Atwood being one of them. Listening to some podcasts that discuss this period, too, only mention white male authors. And it’s frustrating. Occasionally, Colson Whitehead or Zadie Smith will get mentioned, but, again, only as a footnote, a “by the way” kind of comment, as if to say “it’s not my problem to discuss these authors.” But, like, if you’re writing about a new literary movement, shouldn’t you be including a study of more than white male authors? I’d like to think so. It’s like a new movement was declared once white male authors’ work were described as being “sincere.” A shift happened, but that shift wasn’t just white male authors being sincere, sorrynotsorry.

So I’m reading more inclusively to articulate this period better. And I really hope that others who study Wallace and this period are doing the same – I’m tired of just hearing “Franzen, Foer, Eugenides, and Eggers.” I also want to hear Louise Eldrich, Sherman Alexie, Martha Southgate, Walter Mosley, Colson Whitehead, Lydia Davis, Jennifer Egan and much much more.  The comments on my diss didn’t ask me to do this, but in the way they did when the committee member wanted a better articulation of this period. Perhaps Foer, Eugenides, and Eggers may be mentioned, but they’ll be the footnotes, the afterthoughts.

Next week is the holidays, so I’ll be taking a break from this blog – yet, I’ll be returning the first week of the new year. Let’s hope that 2018 is better.

 

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