Monday, May 30, 2011

This Is What I Think of as "Postmodernism" in Literature

   The following is found in Aldous Huxley's Literature and Science (from Aldous Huxley: Complete Essays Volume VI 1956-1963, Ed. Robert S. Baker and James Sexton. Chicago:Ivan R, Dec, 2002) the description of "Dadaism" closely corresponds to the idea I have in my head of "Postmodernism" If any one has a clearer definition of postmodernism (i.e. where Modernism ends and Postmodernism begins), please e-mail it to me and/or link to it in the comments section. I am thinking of the worlds of James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, et al-writings which are virtually unreadable but are notable for their attempt to convey words in a whole new way . . . As for me, I believe it is perfectly fine to convey words in the "old way" as long as we understand and accept the limitations of language and reason (i.e. we do not "absolutize that which is relative"-Dr. Glenn Martin) There is still plenty to be said, in fiction and non-fiction, without abandoning logic and clarity.
   An ultimate and total verbal recklessness was advocated by the founding fathers of Dada. In an essay published in 1920, Andre Gide lucidly summarized the Dadaist philosophy "Every from has become a formula and distills an unspeakable boredom. Every common syntax is disgustingly insipid. The best attitude to the art of yesterday and in the face of accomplished masterpieces is not attempting to imitate them. The Perfect is what does not need re-doing . . . Already the edifice of our language is too undetermined for anyone to recommend that thought should continue to take refuge in it. And before rebuilding it is essential to cast down what still seems solid, what makes a show of still standing. The words that the artifice of logic still lumps together must be separated, isolated . . . Each vocable-island on the page must present steep contours. It will be placed here (or there, just as well) like a pure tune; and not far away will vibrate other pure tunes, but without any inter-relationships. So as to authorize no association of thoughts. Thus the world will be liberated from all its preceding meaning, at least, and from all evocations of the past" Needless to say it was psychologically and even physiologically impossible for the Dadists to practice consistently what they preached. Do what they might, some kind of sense, some logical, syntactical, associational form of coherence kept breaking in. By the mere fact of being animals biologically committed to survival, of being a human being living in a certain place at a particular moment in history, they were compelled to be more consistent in though and feeling, more grammatical and even more rational than, on their own principals, they ought to have been.

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