Linda Hutcheon “Limiting the Postmodern” Essay Sample

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LIMITING THE POSTMODERN: THE PARADOXICAL AFTERMATH OF MODERNISM (HUTCHEON, LINDA: A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York: Routledge, 1988) In this chapter L. Hutcheon discusses the link between postmodernism and modernism. Moreover, she hardly tries to define postmodernism and challenges some critics like F. Jameson (“one of its most vociferous antagonists”, p.37) . Jameson believes that postmodernism is only a temporal “real” concept but with lacks and contradictions. In my presentation, I focus on points I and II of chapter three. Firstly, the chapter starts with a quotation by Jonathan D. Kramer which explains that state generalities about art and label it to create a unified movement it is simplistic. As I said, Hutcheon believes that exists a direct link with modernism and that postmodernism is not a simple label. In the case of Modernism and Postmodernism do not exist a solid definition but it is accepted that both exist. Some critics and theorists consider postmodernism as “an evaluative designation to be used in relation to modernism” (p.38). Then, Hutcheon wants to create a more stable meaning of the term “postmodern” based on S. Suleiman’s work.

A definition constructed by analyzing, classifying and doing some diagnostics. For this reason, Hutcheon goes throw “postmodern architecture” to restate that the term already exist. In “postmodern architecture”, past architecture takes relevance with the present. And this is exactly what happens with modernism and postmodernism. The past (modernism) influences the present (postmodernism). Finally, in this first point of this chapter, Hutcheon comments her interest on postmodernist novel because “it seems to be a preferential forum for discussion of the postmodern” (p.38). According to Hutchen, each age focuses on an specific genre and in the case of Postmodernism this genre is the novel. But it is advised that other arts have to be taken into account. Other mediums like video arts and poetry are potential materials to define and label postmodernism. This is also present in the quote from Rosaling Kraus who thinks that theory and art are part of the same work. What it means that to create a label of a movement have to exist theorists and critics. To continue, the second point of the chapter starts with a quote from David Antin.

In this quotation is presented the same idea: art related with social and natural sciences. According to Hutcheon, postmodernism has an interesting connection with the past. It is the same case, as previously we could see, of postmodern architecture. Some critics and theorists (like Peter Blake) think that postmodernism is only a recreation of modernism. Postmodernism works, but, use irony to recreate these previous works (modernist works). Some enemies of postmodernism believe that irony is considered not so serious to define postmodernism. But Hutcheon considers irony as a tool used to reconsider the past. Contrary, F. Jameson and T. Eagleton criticize this irony because they think that it is nostalgic. But she insists that irony is only used to see the past from a different point of view . The past and present are juxtaposed and present it in a different light, contrary to the search of a singular ideal of the past. Hutcheon sees the postmodern novel as an “historical metafictional” work.

An extension of modernist tendencies that “be reserved to describe the more paradoxical and historically complex form” (p.40). In this case, according to her, narrative is “self-reflexively, metafictional and parodic” (p.40). The reader is aware that it is a work of fiction, and does not reflects an objective reality but different subjective versions of it. These alternate realities are presented in postmodern fiction, bringing in aspects of history, sociology, theory, beauty, etc. into the conversation according to the work’s context. Postmodernism uses this different versions of reality to take into account the mass culture. Fiction is not anymore a thing for “literate ones” (like in modernism) but a mass culture useful to view the historical and social events with different points of view.

Finally, Hutcheon thinks that the mass voice (define it as “ex-centric” or “off-center” voice) “questions, but does not destroy (cf. Bertens 1986, 46-7)” (p.41). They are merely questioning popular culture in order to rethink our values, acknowledging the fact that we have desire to construct things, but realize that our creations are just that “human constructs”. In conclusion, in this first part of chapter three, Hutcheon presents the problem of define postmodern fiction. Exist an excessive enemies of the movement but she challenges their contradictions and states that postmodernism is, in fact, a real movement with its own aesthetic features and with a definite aim.

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