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A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction

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The criteria of self-consistency, inner coherence, scope, productiveness and interest, proposed by McHale, are carefully examined to prove their effectiveness as good, but not the absolute, standards of judgment for preferring one construction over the other. It argues that such systems are indeed attractive, perhaps even necessary; but this does not make them any the less illusory.

Postmodernism" is a word much used and misused in a variety of disciplines, including literature, visual arts, film, architecture, literary theory, history, and philosophy. This game of meta-narrative one-upmanship could go on and on, since arguably Jameson’s Marxism leaves him vulnerable too (see Chapter 12). Stanley Tigerman’s dialogue with history in his projects for family houses modelled on Raphael’s palatial Villa Madama is an ironic one: his miniaturization of the monumental forces a rethinking of the social function of architecture—both then and now (see Chapter 2). Postmodernism works to show that all repairs are human constructs, but that, from that very fact, they derive their value as well as their limitation.This form of theo-poetics “requires the interplay of three massive fields of knowledge: metaphysics, language, and Christology” [9]and is to be “sharply distinguished from the agnostic overtures of the ‘theo-poetics’ movement, whose lineage is not be found in the thought of Balthasar. In recent times there has been a revitalized interest with new work being done by two schools of thought in theopoetics. His publications include a study of modernism in poetry and essays on 19th- and 20th-century literature, as well as critical and cultural theory.

Similarly Michael Asher sandblasted a wall of the Toselli Gallery in Milan in 1973 to reveal the plaster beneath. Burton's 1885 translation of the tenth-century Persian epic, The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. The same applies to Habermas’s work, though it often appears somewhat less radical in its determined desire to work from within the system of “Enlightenment” rationality and yet manage to critique it at the same time.This interrogating (and even pushing) of limits has contributed to the “crisis in legitimation” that Lyotard and Habermas see (differently) as part of the postmodern condition. Theopoetics suggest that just as a poem can take on new meaning depending on the context in which the reader interprets it, texts and experiences of the Divine can and should take on new meaning depending on the changing situation of the individual. Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude has often been discussed in exactly the contradictory terms that I think define postmodernism. Thomas Pynchon allegorizes otherness in Gravity’s Rainbow through the single, if anarchic, “we-system” that exists as the counterforce of the totalizing “They-system” (though also implicated in it). It shows that rather than providing firm answers, Auden's poetry emphasises the absence of certainties.

Of all the terms bandied about in both current cultural theory and contemporary writing on the arts, postmodernism must be the most overand under-defined.The most influential books on literary postmodernism, such as Linda Hutcheon’s A Poetics of Postmodernism and Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction, are devoted to postmodern fiction. It analyses the experiments in Auden's writings for their engagement with crucial contemporary problems: that of the individual in relation to others, loved ones, community, society, but also transcendental truths. Its contradictions may well be those of late capitalist society, but whatever the cause, these contradictions are certainly manifest in the important postmodern concept of “the presence of the past. It belies the logical assertion of the principle of bivalence and stands in contrast to some rigid Biblical hermeneutics that suggest that each passage of scripture has only one, usually teleological, interpretation.

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