Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Shadow Lines , the narrator tries to define the silence against which In twentieth- century literature and in the aftermath of colonisation, the figure is the reluctant narrator, defined by Mark Leon Higdon as someone Higdon, David Leon.
Focusing on literary-cultural production emerging from or responding to the twentieth century, broadly construed, Twentieth-Century Literature TCL offers essays, grounded in a variety of approaches, that interrogate and enrich the ways we understand the literary cultures of the times. This includes work considering how those cultures are bound up with the crucial intellectual, social.
Costerus New Series Online - Brill. Literature of the 20th century refers to world literature produced during the 20th century to In terms of the Euro-American tradition, the main periods are captured in the bipartite division, Modernist literature and Postmodern literature, flowering from roughly to and to respectively, divided, as a rule of thumb, by World David Leon Higdon, a frequent contributor to MFS, is author of Time and English Fiction and of Shadows of the Past in Contemporary British Fiction in addition to scores of essays and articles.
Category: British Literature - 20th Century Department. What is contemporary fiction? Shadows of the past in contemporary British fiction: David. Capturing and creating the modern. Modernist writers broke new ground by experimenting with new forms and themes. From everyday life, perception and time to the kaleidoscopic and fractured nature of modern life, discover the ways in which these writers created and captured the modern.
Time and English Fiction has 2 available editions to buy at Alibris. Past thirty years are described in this addition to the DLB series, replete as usual with which he covers the work of thousands of twentieth-century creative writers grouped in 33 Higdon, David Leon.
Twentieth-century English literature - Wikipedia. Our department hosts a large group of scholars specializing in multiple areas of British, American, and Anglophone 20th- and 21st-century literature and culture. Students can expect to receive firm grounding in some of the traditional fields and subfields—modernism, postmodernism, postcolonialism—and undertake courses of study that extend. FacultyThe Department of English has a large group of faculty interested in.
The Department of English has a large group of faculty interested in Twentieth Century literature: modern, modernist, and contemporary language.
Shadows of the Past in Contemporary British Fiction | David Leon Higdon | Springer
Choose from different sets of quiz english literature century british flashcards on Quizlet. Literature of the 19th century refers to world literature produced during the 19th century. The range of years is, for the purpose of this article, literature written from roughly to Many of the developments in literature in this period parallel changes in the visual arts and other aspects of 19th-century culture. Twentieth-century English literature. British modernists include Joseph Conrad, E. In the mid-twentieth-century major writers started to appear in the various countries of the British Commonwealth, including several Nobel laureates.
Volume 2C, The Twentieth Century, of The Longman Anthology of British Literature includes major additions of important works by Carol Ann Duffy, a new contemporary play, and coverage of contemporary British fiction featuring short stories by the well known popular authors of today. New selections by already well represented authors are included, such as Thomas Hardy, T. Eliot, W. From The Waste Land to , 20th century British writers helped shape the modern and postmodern movements in art and literature. While they have been strong in number, the majority of great works came during the first half of the century.
Studies in Twentieth-Century British Literature. British Literature of the 20th Century. There are many great writers that first made a splash in British literature in the 20th century. This body of work tended to engage more with poststructuralist theories of language. Hlne Cixous, for example, argues that the.
This experiment with writing and language, labelled criture fminine, identies gender dierence in the very understanding of, and relationship between, words. This was not entirely new in a British context, as Virginia Woolf had speculated some years earlier on the way in which sentence structure could be gendered. In To Cambridge Women she identies what she calls a mans sentence as unsuited for a womans use, and implicitly advocates that women should try to develop a style of writing that distanced itself from the male tradition.
One of the problems associated with this line of thinking, however, is that the kinds of sentence that are designated as female tend to be loose, rambling, resist making a rm point and value expression over logic. This, of course, could be construed as reproducing the very characteristics that had traditionally been associated with femininity in a patriarchal discourse.
A dierent approach was the taking over by women of those characteristics normally associated with masculinity and a gure that we have already encountered looms large here. Margaret Thatcher has in many ways become an unlikely icon of this kind of feminism, unlikely because she openly disagreed with the main arguments put forward by feminists in the s and 80s.
She was, however, a visible example of the way in which women could achieve top positions of power in the s. To do so, however, often involved her taking on what many regarded as masculine characteristics. This fact in itself, though, suggested that gender signication was independent of biological sex. To cite Thatcher as a feminist icon is misleading in many ways, as the makeup of parliament in the s was overwhelmingly male, as was the demographic of the leading gures in British industry and public services. Nevertheless, a certain amount of the success of the.
The success that feminism achieved in the s and s in changing cultural perceptions of the accepted roles for men and women in society began to be more noticeable in the s, to the extent that some cultural commentators and theorists began to talk of a post-feminist situation.
The concept of post-feminism can be understood in two senses. Firstly, it can refer to the fact that most of the main aims of second wave feminism from the s to the s had been achieved and consequently were no longer relevant in the s.
Secondly, and in contradiction to this argument, postfeminism could refer to the sense that although successes had been achieved in equal rights, the most powerful and highly paid positions in Britain were still predominately occupied by men. This form of post-feminism recognized that the original objectives of the Womens Liberation Movement were still legitimate areas for political campaigning despite the successes that had already been achieved.
Associated with the idea of post-feminism, the s saw the rise of signicant popular cultural movements and trends.
Shadows of the Past: A Novel
One of these was the so-called ladette culture, a form of social behaviour that advocated the pleasures and codes of practice that had previously been the enclave of young men, such as heavy drinking, clubbing, and active pursuance of sexual partners. This popular movement was led by phenomena such as the success of the Spice Girls, who presented themselves as a kind of post-feminist gang, who used sexuality on their own terms.
The main spokesperson of the band, Geri Halliwell, a fan of Mrs Thatcher, advocated a culture where young women had the condence to tell you what they really, really want, and were able to get it. The successes of feminism also aected the way in which masculinity was re-assessed during the period. One of the original tenets of feminism was that men were as conditioned by prevailing gender codes as women; as Betty Friedan put it: Men werent really the enemy they were fellow victims suering from an outmoded masculine mystique.
Many male writers began to explore the new gender frameworks that were emerging due to the successes and visibility of feminism and how this had developed new denitions of masculinity. Writers such as Martin Amis and Julian Barnes in the s and Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons and John King were interested in what constituted masculinity in the s, and how that had changed since their fathers generation. The emergence of new genres of popular ction given the provocative titles of chick lit and lad lit reected this concern with the new parameters of femininity and masculinity and how individuals growing up in contemporary society are forced to negotiate these new constructs.
Chick lit novelists like Helen Fielding and Jane Green produce coming of age narratives in which female protagonists attempt to nd their place in the world, usually in heterosexual partnerships with men who appear to eortlessly combine the benets of both older and newer forms of masculinity: new men, who are not too new.
In many ways the Gay Liberation Movement that emerged in North America and Western Europe in the late s ran parallel with the Womens Liberation Movement, and their interests and agendas often overlapped.
House of Shadows
In a British context, the Sexual Oences Act of decriminalized homosexuality for consenting adults over the age of 21 in England and Wales. One of the major international events that had inuence in Britain was the riot at the Stonewall Inn, a lesbian and gay club in New York City, in May The riot was a response to the unjustied but repeated raids on the bar made by police during this period.
These events served to bring to popular attention the injustices carried out against the gay and lesbian community generally, and served to strengthen resistance against this kind of prejudice in both Britain and the States. Various pieces of legislation have been passed from the. In terms of the theoretical approaches to sexuality, queer theory developed amongst intellectuals in the late s and s and aimed to disrupt the way in which sexual and gender identities are constructed in society.
Like French feminism, it was highly inected with ideas from poststructuralist theory, and in particular the seminal work produced by Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Queer had previously been used as a term of abuse against homosexual men and women, but this body of theory reclaimed the word and gave it positive connotations.
Theorists such as Teresa de Lauretis, Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick produced important work in this eld in the s, the latter two in the area of literary studies. Recent British ction has been a rich source for the exploration of gay, lesbian and bisexual relationships, and as a cultural space in which to raise political and social issues around sexuality.
The increasing acceptance of gay and lesbian ction is in part a reection of the successes of the Gay Rights Movement of the s and 80s and there has been mainstream success for what a couple of decades ago would have been marginalized as gay ction, for example in the work of Julie Burchill, Hanif Kureishi, Alan Hollinghurst, Adam Mars-Jones, Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters.
On the 15 August the new sovereign nation of India was born as it gained independence from Britain. India was always the jewel in the crown of the British Empire and its loss represented a key moment in British history. Perhaps more importantly it signalled the beginning of the gradual dismantling of most of the Empire. The legacy of colonialism has been one of the most far reaching inuences both on the former colonies and also on Britain itself, both in terms of its position in the new world order after , and also in the changing nature of its home population.
The term postcolonialism has been coined to dene this new state of aairs and a series of theories and discourses has arisen in many elds to explain and assess the impact of this enormous shift in the political organization of the world. Britain has continued to maintain links with many of the former colonies through the establishment of the Commonwealth, which is an association of many of the countries that used to be ruled by Britain. This continued association has also aected the pattern of migration and has been a signicant feature of Britains population demographic in the years following the Second World War.
From the s onwards Britain has developed into a multicultural nation as groups of people moved from parts of the Caribbean, South East Asia and Africa as well as other parts of the world and settled in Britain, often in communities that gathered together in Britains urban areas.
This series of diasporas has changed the face of British society and culture in profound ways, but has not always been a smooth process. Many of the areas that the new arrivals settled in were often deprived, where the older populations were themselves suering social and economic adversity. There has always been resistance in certain quarters to the development of communities from other parts of the world, often exacerbated by successive governments playing the so-called race card rhetoric designed to create unnecessary fear amongst the established British population with images of being invaded and swamped by immigrants.
Enoch Powell, for example, in delivered his now infamous rivers of blood speech warning against the dangers of immigration. Political attitudes to immigration have vacillated over the period, and tend to shift from the idea that wholesale assimilation into a sense of Britishness is the preferred outcome, to a model of multiculturalism, whereby immigrant communities retain a sense of their original cultures whilst adapting to the cultural make-up of Britain.
Alongside this process there have been periods that have seen the increase in tensions between ethnic communities, most often seen in inner city areas, for example, in the riots that occurred in Brixton, Chapeltown, Toxteth, and Moss Side in the early s, and in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham in the early s. To blame these outbreaks of popular violence on issues of race alone is to overlook the range of complex factors related to class, social deprivation and community relations with gures of authority such as the police.
Nevertheless, the grievances of groups that coalesce around ethnic identities and the presence of right-wing political parties such as the National Front in the s and s and the British National Party over the last two decades have exacerbated underlying tensions within such communities. As discussed in Chapters 2 and 5 respectively , both Monica Alis Brick Lane and Hanif Kureishis The Buddha of Suburbia detail the kinds of racially motivated violence meted out to innocent members of ethnic minorities.
British literature has been a cultural space in which the experiences of immigrants and broader political issues associated with these experiences have been articulated. There has, necessarily, been a certain amount of negotiation of the tradition of the English novel involved here. One of the dilemmas of postcolonial ction is the attitude the colonized writing takes towards the literary paradigms and values of the colonizing nation. As Edward Said has shown, literature is far from a neutral form of discourse in the processes that were involved in the building and maintaining of Empire.
Saids model of orientalism shows how a range of discourses including literature served to dene a positional superiority of the West in relation to the peoples and cultures of the orient, and this theory can be applied to a range of colonized nations extending across the Empire. In the context of this book, this has found particular resonance in the development of what has come to be called Black British ction.
It needs to be stressed at the outset that there are obvious problems with lumping together a range of very dierent writers such as Monica Ali, Hanif. Nevertheless the novels they have produced have addressed, in dierent ways, issues associated with the multiethnic nature of contemporary Britain. One of the ways in which this has been achieved is through attention to language. For the postcolonial writer, as Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griths and Helen Tin have noted, English is in one sense the language of the oppressor and many of the writers mentioned above have been forced to negotiate this fact.
In Salman Rushdies Shame for example, the narrator speaks of this Angrezi [English] in which I am forced to write whilst Zadie Smith has one of her characters note that only the immigrants speak Queens English these days. Scotland has its own parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own assemblies all with a certain amount of legislative power. The new sense of national identity that these political changes have wrought, did not, of course, begin in , and in some ways devolution was in response to the strong sense of separateness from England felt by many in those nations.
The issues raised by colonial and postcolonial identity could, therefore, be extended to include the nations within the United Kingdom. To a certain extent, writers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have found themselves to be in a similar postcolonial position in that distinct national literatures have sought to distinguish themselves from both English and the imposition of a homogenous British culture. In a Scottish context, writers such as James Kelman and Irvine Welsh have foregrounded the use of types of Scottish vernacular to distance the narrative from any collective sense of a British identity.
Take, for example, the following passage from James Kelmans How Late it Was, How Late : There wasnay much he could do, there wasnay really much he could do at all. No the now anyway. Nayn of it was down to him. Writing, in this way becomes political in its very syntax and word choice. This issue has also been dealt with in the context of some recent Welsh and Northern Irish writing. Niall Griths, for example, addresses the idea of contemporary Welshness in his novel Sheepshagger , the title of which aggressively reverses one of the ways in which the English in particular have prejudiced and mocked the Welsh.
Much contemporary ction, then, has been keen to engage with the shifting positions of national identity over the last thirty years and I will return to this issue in Chapter 5, especially in the discussion of the representation of Englishness in Julian Barness novel England, England The complexity of the internal make-up of the United Kingdom in addition to its engagement with a series of other national identities has made the issue of ethnicity extremely complex in contemporary Britain.
As Richard Bradford notes, It would seem that within these islands the permutations upon identity, separateness, conict and division are almost without limit. One of these is Homi Bhabhas concept of hybridity and what he calls the third space. Thereby, the power relationship assumed in typical hierarchies between the colonized and the colonizer are avoided. This can be taken at the level of racial identity, whereby children of mixed-race marriages could be described as hybrid, but more importantly in a cultural sense, whereby the idea of a third space identies a location of culture that rejects the binary oppositional framework in which race and the idea of ethnic origin has often operated.
The third space is a new hybrid, but also contains the sense of the dual heritages that have contributed to its formation. Hall identies two trends in the historical development of racial politics, the rst being when black became an important signier of cultural identity and allowed for a politics of resistance against racism in Britain. This involved challenging the use of black stereotypes in mainstream literature and culture, a process that gained ground from the s onwards.
It also championed the development of what became recognized as Black British art and literature.
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The second context developed from the rst and recognized that, in practice, there is a range of marginalized positions, a fact that complicates the idea of a unied black subject in opposition to a white subject. In New Ethnicities, Hall writes of the need to recognize that, black is essentially a politically and culturally constructed category, and that the immense diversity and dierentiation of the historical and cultural experience of black subjects [. In addition, the black subject is itself subject to a variety of dierent positions and particular histories. As Hall notes, it is no longer accurate or useful to talk of monolithic categories of race such as black and white when in practice much of Britains ethnicity is made up of a series of identities that negotiate each of these categories.
A number of writers who have immigrated to Britain from former colonies or are the children of such immigrants have been producing novels since the s that have articulated this experience, and have to diering degrees addressed some of the issues raised by Bhabha and Hall. One signicant theme in contemporary British ction is the representation of youth and the experience of growing up in Britain.
Formally, either through the use of rst-person or third-person narratives, the coming of age story allows for the workings of society to be described as if from a fresh perspective, and through the technique of defamiliarization, a cultural critique can be produced of some of the practices of contemporary society encountered for the rst time by the protagonist. In this book there are several novels that engage with the Bildungsroman form, although in some cases a parody of the nineteenth century model is often produced, for example, in the fantastic adventures experienced by the central character in Angela Carters The Passion of New Eve Within the genre of the Bildungsroman a more specic trend in ction has developed since the s that could be described as subcultural ction.
These are novels that set out to explore the inner world of certain youth cultures that have their own codes of practice, fashion and artistic styles and are usually identied by a particular style of music. This kind of ction can perhaps be traced to one novel produced in the late s, Colin MacInness Absolute Beginners , which set out to describe, through the eyes of its teenage hero, the emerging youth cultures of the later half of the s that included Teds, jazz fans both traditional and modern and the emergence of a group of sharp-dressed teenagers that later came to be known as Mods. These texts explored the world of alternative subcultural spaces such as illegal raves and gatherings and the use of drugs and other forms of criminality.
The writers in this genre that emerged during this period include Irvine Welsh and Nicholas Blincoe. The main characters in the novel, Renton, Sick-Boy and Begbie, represent a kind of subcultural manifestation of Thatchers Britain in that they are imbued with a selsh selfpreservation that is an inverted reection of the Yuppie culture of the period. This is made evident in Rentons decision to betray the rest of the group at the end of the novel. Within this narrative, Welsh is able to produce a critique of the society that has inuenced contemporary working-class life in Scotland especially for youth from deprived areas of Edinburgh.
The representation of youth subcultures in ction has fed o work done in cultural studies. The British New Left in the s became increasingly interested in the sociological and political factors behind the rise of youth culture, although tended on the whole to produce negative images of youth as followers of an Americanized shiny barbarism, a term coined by Richard Hoggart, one of the members associated with this group.
One of the key contexts in which contemporary ction is studied at university is in relation to what has been seen as the explosion of literary and cultural theory from the s onwards. For most of the early twentieth century and after the war, literary criticism was a mixture of author-centred criticism, which tended to determine the meaning of texts through reference to the authors life, and literary-historical criticism, which tried to place an authors text with respect to the literary period in which they were working.
In the mid-twentieth century, this was accompanied by a series of approaches that were gathered under the heading of formalism. This included Russian formalism, which generally adopted a linguistic approach to literature and was interested in what gave literature its literariness. This loose grouping includes such gures as Mikhail Bakhtin and Viktor Skhlovsky and introduced concepts such as heteroglossia and defamiliarization.
Brooks was interested in the way poetry worked by setting up linguistic oppositions and paradoxes, whilst Wimsatt and Beardsley rejected the authors intention as a useful source for trying to determine the meaning of a text, and encouraged an approach that concentrated on the organization of the words on the page and how meaning was produced independently from the author.
Richards and F. Richards encouraged a form of analysis that had. Leavis, on the other hand, wrote signicantly on the English novel. Leavis imbued literary criticism not only with an evaluative critical faculty, but also with a sense of morality. He made bold claims for the novel arguing that in the greatest examples of the form it produced a philosophical and ethical investigation into the human condition, and that criticism of such novels necessitated a corresponding seriousness from the critic.
For the study of contemporary British ction it is a great advantage to know a little of the following schools or loose groupings of literary and critical theory: Marxism, feminism and post-feminism , structuralism, poststructuralism including deconstruction , reader-response criticism, postmodernism, queer theory, postcolonialism, ecology and theories developed from cultural studies.
The following chapters will introduce some of the main points related to these theories as and when they are relevant to the particular novels under discussion. Byatt and Salman Rushdie, have a knowledge of the recent developments in literary and cultural theory and often refer to these ideas in their novels. There are a number of very good introductions and guides to literary theory and in the reading list at the end of this book there is a list of the most useful. Both contemporary and British are problematic categories that need to be addressed when discussing the ction produced over the last thirty years.
The break up of the Empire and the multicultural nature of contemporary Britain have provided a rich source of subject matter for ction. Much of contemporary British ction has been interested in the role of youth and subcultures as distinct forms of identity. Questions of class, gender, ethnicity and age often interrelate in contemporary British ction.
See, for example, James Acheson and Sarah C. Iain Sinclair is a British writer who would certainly be part of any emerging canon of contemporary British literature, however, perhaps because of the perceived diculty of his ction, he does not appear on many undergraduate courses. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, ed. Parshley London: Jonathan Cape,  Robert Hurley London: Penguin,  Salman Rushdie, Shame London: Picador,  , p.
Bradford, The Novel Now, p. Homi K. Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy, p. Bakhtin, ed. See, for example, F. Some of these writers see themselves as continuers of tradition, others as radical innovators, and some as a mixture of both. The formal characteristics of the British novel in the contemporary period have much to do with the debates around literary form that were established in the s and s, and which were themselves engaging with the debates of the s and s. The British literary environment in the s had been largely inuenced by what was perceived as a reaction to pre-war modernism.
Snow, David Storey and John Wain, were identied as representing a retrieval of an English realist tradition that had been diverted by modernist experimentation. This is a reductive view of the complexity of these writers, however, and many others continued to experiment with narrative form such as Samuel Beckett, Christine Brooke-Rose, William Golding, B. Johnson, Muriel Spark and Doris Lessing.
Postmodernism is a tricky concept, but many of the writers covered in this book have at some time or another used narrative and stylistic techniques associated with this mode. As we shall see, two of the novels discussed in this chapter, Martin Amiss London Fields and Alasdair Grays Poor Things , use a variety of techniques that can be identied as postmodern.
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Before looking in detail at these novels, then, it is worth taking some time investigating the term further. Postmodernism loves paradoxes, and the term itself is something of a paradox. If the term modern refers to current or of the present, then how can a form of contemporary writing be post present unless it is referring to the future? This paradox relates to the history of the term itself and how its sux and prex have developed from dierent sources.
The root of the word is clearly modern, and as we have suggested relates to the now and carries the connotations of the current and being up-to-date. It thus stands in opposition to the sense of the traditional, the established and in some senses the ordinary and the out of fashion. The kind of experimental writing many British authors were practicing in the s and s clearly saw itself as new and more attuned with contemporary concerns and ideas.
However, in literature modernism as a term had already found its denition as relating to the kind of writing that emerged amongst an inuential range of writers in the early part of the twentieth century such as Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Manseld, Dorothy Richardson and to some extent Henry James, D. Lawrence and E. The post of postmodernism, in literary terms, therefore, served to establish a link with this experimental attitude towards writing, whilst at the same time signalling that the experiment itself had shifted due to the changed historical situation in which writers of the late twentieth century found themselves.
Although modernism related to aesthetic and cultural practices roughly from the last decade of the nineteenth century to the early s, modernity has a very dierent historical etymology. Modernity in Western denitions of the term usually refers to that period after the middle ages in Europe and taking hold in Britain from the mid-fteenth century. The high point of modernity is often associated with the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and can be seen as establishing modernity in a range of social, political and philosophical contexts.
JeanFranois Lyotard has been an important theorist in this context of postmodernism. Lyotard suggests that modernity relates to any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse [that makes] an explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth. This scepticism towards grand narratives has provided a fruitful area for novelists who are keen to explore the nature of ctional narratives generally. The postmodern, then, operates at at least two distinct and interconnected levels in historical terms.
It signals a style of writing that supersedes, or at least marks itself as dierent from the modernist literature of the early twentieth century whilst at the same time employing a philosophical outlook that rejects many of the tenets of modernity as established during the Enlightenment. Philosophers that have been inuential to postmodern thinking such as Lyotard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari all tend to position their respective ideas as in some sense alternative to or critical of the enlightenment thinking of modernity.
The post is complex and can relate to dierent approaches for dierent practitioners of postmodern technique. The post can be understood simply as a periodizing term as we have been using it so far. Fredric Jameson, for example, sees postmodernism as a phase in cultural history associated with what he calls late capitalism. Or it can refer to a term of dierentiation from some of the tenets of modernism.
For example, postmodernism tends to reject modernisms suspicions of popular culture and mass art and often reworks it through a self-reexive celebration of the everyday and the kitsch as can be seen in the Pop Art works of Andy Warhol and Peter Blake. One caveat to add to this brief account of postmodernism, however, is that there are many dierent versions of the postmodern, and each writer studied in this book has their own understanding of how their work relates to, engages with, or rejects its positions.
In keeping with its embrace of multiplicity it is more accurate to talk in terms of postmodernisms rather than a clearly dened theoretical discourse. It is important to note therefore that the term postmodernism does not relate to a xed set of characteristics or criteria, but is a rather uid term that takes on dierent aspects when used by dierent critics and dierent social commentators. An area of critical thought that has been inuential to the development of postmodern techniques in ction is poststructuralism. This tends to argue that language, far from being a transparent tool that allows people to describe the world in an accurate way, is in fact more like a gauze or lter through which the world is textually reconstructed.
This emphasis on the constructedness of language has challenged the assumption in much realist ction that the way in which an author used language was as an aid to expressing emotions faithfully or describing aspects of the real world accurately. Poststructuralism, on the contrary, argues that the attempt to record realistic experience through the medium of language is fraught with problems and that when someone attempts to write about some aspect of the world, they are not simply describing what is already there, but constructing it anew, and creating it in a textual form.
The traditional understanding of formal realism is based on its ability to represent some aspect of the world accurately in a narrative form. Ian Watt, for example, describes formal realism with a series of characteristics including the use of identiable locations and periods of history, characters that are representative of people you might meet in real life, a plot structure based on cause and eect, and an assumption that language is referential and denotational. Roland Barthes, for example, sees realism, not as a reection of reality, but as a textual convention that employs a series of narrative codes that attempt to construct the idea of vraisemblable, or trueseemingness.
According to Barthes, what we understand as realism is thus a series of narrative techniques that produce the lie that what we are reading relates directly to reality. Realist ction, then, is really just a structural arrangement of language and: Claims concerning the realism of a text are therefore to be discounted [. As she explains: Realism is plausible not because it reects the world, but because it is constructed out of what is discursively familiar.
Much postmodernist ction is interested in interrogating this claim of realist ction and many of the narrative techniques associated with postmodernism function to pursue this aim. These techniques include metaction; the disruption of the linear ow of narratives and the relationship between cause and eect; challenging the authority of the author; the use of events and characters drawn from fantasy; selfreexively drawing attention to the language that is being used to construct the ction; the use of parody and pastiche, and more generally a scepticism towards xed ideologies and philosophies.
Zadie Smiths White Teeth , on the other hand, although it includes some postmodern techniques, tends, on the whole, to use a realist mode. London Fields is, in many ways, a novel about writing novels and about playing around with ctions relationship to reality. It is also about the way in which ction, in its broadest sense, aects the formation of identity: how people create narratives in order to understand their place in the world.
In doing so, it seeks to undermine some of the grand narratives by which we have come to understand and interpret the late-twentieth and early twenty-rst-century world. The playful approach to ction is introduced to us on the rst page of the novel, which opens with an unknown voice, later revealed to be a novelist called Samson Young, who is commenting upon the real life situation in which he nds himself providing the ideal material for a novel: This is a true story but I cant believe it is happening.
Its a murder story, too. I cant believe my luck. And a love story I think , of all strange things, so late in the century, so late in the goddamned day. This is the story of a murder. It hasnt happened yet. But it will. It had better. I know the murderer, I know the murderee. I know the time, I know the place. I know the motive her motive and I know the means.
I know who will be the foil, the fool, the poor foal, also utterly destroyed. And I couldnt stop them, I dont think, even if I wanted to. The girl will die. Its what shes always wanted. You cant stop people, once they start creating. What a gift. This page is briey stained by my tears of gratitude. Novelists dont usually have it so good, do they, when. This paradox is taken further in the suggestion that real life is being represented as part of an established literary genre: the murder story or love story. There is also a reference to the idea that real life might be following a pre-arranged plot It hasnt happened yet but it will , and to the imposing of character types the murderer, the murderee, the foil on individual people.
Amis is also keen to explore the power relationships suggested in this combination of characters. This is extended by the fact that the characters are outside the control of the author: you cant stop people, once they start creating. To explore and evaluate answers given to these questions by theorists and dreams through the ages, we will study a range of drams from the oldest recorded dream from Sumer to dreams we individually experience. The study will sweep us through five thousand years, six disciplines, and both Western and Eastern cultures.
Norton, The Undiscovered Self. A very active dreamer since childhood, he has studied ancient, classical, medieval, Enlightenment, and modern dreams and theories. Currently he is working on a study of the circadian novel, many of which involve dreaming.