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Like it or not, the term ‘postmodernism’ seems to have lodged itself in our critical and theoretical discourses. We have a postmodern architecture, a postmodern dance, perhaps even a postmodern philosophy and a postmodern condition. But do we have a postmodern fiction? In this trenchant and lively study Brian McHale undertakes to construct a version of postmodernist fiction Like it or not, the term ‘postmodernism’ seems to have lodged itself in our critical and theoretical discourses. We have a postmodern architecture, a postmodern dance, perhaps even a postmodern philosophy and a postmodern condition. But do we have a postmodern fiction? In this trenchant and lively study Brian McHale undertakes to construct a version of postmodernist fiction which encompasses forms as wide-ranging as North American metafiction, Latin American magic realism, the French New New Novel, concrete prose and science fiction. Considering a variety of theoretical approaches including those of Ingarden, Eco, Doležel, Pavel, and Hrushovski, McHale shows that the common denominator is postmodernist fictin’s ability to thrust its own ontological status into the foreground and to raise questions about the world (or worlds) in which we live. Far from being, as unsympathetic critics have sometimes complained, about nothing but itself — or even about nothing at all — postmodernist fiction in McHale’s construction of it proves to be about (among other things) those handy literary perennials, Love and Death.


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Like it or not, the term ‘postmodernism’ seems to have lodged itself in our critical and theoretical discourses. We have a postmodern architecture, a postmodern dance, perhaps even a postmodern philosophy and a postmodern condition. But do we have a postmodern fiction? In this trenchant and lively study Brian McHale undertakes to construct a version of postmodernist fiction Like it or not, the term ‘postmodernism’ seems to have lodged itself in our critical and theoretical discourses. We have a postmodern architecture, a postmodern dance, perhaps even a postmodern philosophy and a postmodern condition. But do we have a postmodern fiction? In this trenchant and lively study Brian McHale undertakes to construct a version of postmodernist fiction which encompasses forms as wide-ranging as North American metafiction, Latin American magic realism, the French New New Novel, concrete prose and science fiction. Considering a variety of theoretical approaches including those of Ingarden, Eco, Doležel, Pavel, and Hrushovski, McHale shows that the common denominator is postmodernist fictin’s ability to thrust its own ontological status into the foreground and to raise questions about the world (or worlds) in which we live. Far from being, as unsympathetic critics have sometimes complained, about nothing but itself — or even about nothing at all — postmodernist fiction in McHale’s construction of it proves to be about (among other things) those handy literary perennials, Love and Death.

30 review for Postmodernist Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mattia Ravasi

    Featured in my Introduction to Postmodernist Literature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zT4L4... If not The Bible of PostmodernLit aficionados, at least their Luke's gospel. As clear as postmodernist fiction will ever get, full of brilliant examples, and most importantly - it reads like magic. Will make you want to read any title mentioned. McHale's the real OG. Featured in my Introduction to Postmodernist Literature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zT4L4... If not The Bible of PostmodernLit aficionados, at least their Luke's gospel. As clear as postmodernist fiction will ever get, full of brilliant examples, and most importantly - it reads like magic. Will make you want to read any title mentioned. McHale's the real OG.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sharare Ranjbar

    too many references, not the best organising job on chapter subjects!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sor3na

    Definitely worth a second and third read...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Genndy

    It is true that this book is much more readable than majority of books dealing with the subject of postmodernist theory. It's writer is eloquent, not repulsively ambitious in his analysis or theory, sometimes even original and amusing. His book covers the chosen subject very exhaustively, and his discourse is easily approachable by common reader about 70% of time. Hence came well earned 3 stars. But, there is a downhill also. Sometimes author forgets that he is supposed to write this book for the It is true that this book is much more readable than majority of books dealing with the subject of postmodernist theory. It's writer is eloquent, not repulsively ambitious in his analysis or theory, sometimes even original and amusing. His book covers the chosen subject very exhaustively, and his discourse is easily approachable by common reader about 70% of time. Hence came well earned 3 stars. But, there is a downhill also. Sometimes author forgets that he is supposed to write this book for the common folks and that his primary objective should be to stay accessible to other public than college professors. He starts using foreign expressions without any real need, like french or latin ones, and he doesn't give the translation. It is even worse that he chooses to do so on the places in his text where violently imposed foreign expressions are crucial to the understanding of the chapter. Luckily, that happens rarely, but it is still present and a flaw. Bigger and more problematic flaw of this book is it's constant delivery of theory in form of examples, in form of talking about concrete works of postmodernism. Normally, that wouldn't be flaw at all, but here, reader is challenged with hundreds of names and novels, based on which many of theoretical matter is explained. But, author deliberately chooses less known works of relatively known authors, and constantly shifts among dozens of them, until reader is at times completely lost. I am assured none of the readers of this work have never had the chance of reading at least half of novels mentioned in it in it's crucial explanation spots. True, in most cases author provides a small example of text from text he is talking about, but overall impression is still that in about 60% of this book reader is utterly abandoned in a jungle of names and titles. And that is it's major flaw, and makes it so difficult to read, even though author's discourse is atypically approachable.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marika Salvatori

    La mia riflessione qui: https://youtu.be/quOqZdqmb4k La mia riflessione qui: https://youtu.be/quOqZdqmb4k

  6. 5 out of 5

    Monique

    McHale presents a curiously confusingly postmodern take on postmodernist fiction, jam-packed with conceptual loops and twists and experimental visual displays of language. His main focus is on distinguishing the primarily epistemological concerns of modernist fiction from the primarily ontological concerns of postmodernist fiction. He argues that postmodernist fiction is fraught with uncertainty over the nature of reality and being. Ultimately however, he argues that postmodernist fiction, as an McHale presents a curiously confusingly postmodern take on postmodernist fiction, jam-packed with conceptual loops and twists and experimental visual displays of language. His main focus is on distinguishing the primarily epistemological concerns of modernist fiction from the primarily ontological concerns of postmodernist fiction. He argues that postmodernist fiction is fraught with uncertainty over the nature of reality and being. Ultimately however, he argues that postmodernist fiction, as an incoherent and semi-intangible whole, has successfully found a way to represent/reflect/mirror the postmodernist realities of advanced industrial societies through its resolutions of form. He writes, "Postmodernist fiction turns out to be mimetic after all; but this imitation of reality is accomplished not so much at the level of content, which is often manifestly un- or anti-realistic, as at the level of form... What postmodernist fiction imitates, the object of its mimesis, is the pluralistic and anarchistic ontological landscape of advanced industrial cultures... permeat[ed] by secondary realities, especially mass-media fictions" (p. 38).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    Read this one a few times but recently reread it again. It is notable for McHale's primary thesis, that modernism's poetics were concerned with epistemological questions and postmodernism in all its myriad forms is concerned with ontological questions. Part one discusses this shift from epistemological to ontological concerns with an emphasis on hybrid texts and then sets the context for the rest of the book with its analysis of the ontologies of fiction. Context established, McHale proceeds wit Read this one a few times but recently reread it again. It is notable for McHale's primary thesis, that modernism's poetics were concerned with epistemological questions and postmodernism in all its myriad forms is concerned with ontological questions. Part one discusses this shift from epistemological to ontological concerns with an emphasis on hybrid texts and then sets the context for the rest of the book with its analysis of the ontologies of fiction. Context established, McHale proceeds with a detailed analysis of the entire breadth of techniques used in postmodernist fiction. If you are wanting to understand what is going on in postmodernist texts--why'd they do that?--then McHale's study is indispensable.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Derek Frasure

    McHale's central thesis that postmodernist literature is ontological in contrast to modernist literature, which is epistemological, seemed facile to me at first and quickly won me over. McHale gets a lot of mileage out of this analytic. The true strength of this book is in its clear-eyed explanation of the characteristic techniques post-45 fiction employs with increasing frequency. This book is out of date, missing much of the end of what is typically dated as postmodernity. McHale is easier to McHale's central thesis that postmodernist literature is ontological in contrast to modernist literature, which is epistemological, seemed facile to me at first and quickly won me over. McHale gets a lot of mileage out of this analytic. The true strength of this book is in its clear-eyed explanation of the characteristic techniques post-45 fiction employs with increasing frequency. This book is out of date, missing much of the end of what is typically dated as postmodernity. McHale is easier to understand than Jameson or Hutcheon, but also lacks the depth of the other two, especially the former. This is a great treasure-trove of books and authors that don't get read much any more, in addition to some of the big names like Pynchon and Reed. The book has almost nothing to say about women's postmodern fiction, and little to say about non-American (excluding Latin American magical realism, which he folds into this topic), & European and non-white postmodernisms. Some rubrics like the forking paths metaphor from Borges or metalepsis from Genet, I found to be quite pervasive for the little insight that they gave me. In particular, McHale's borrowings from Russian formalism and French semiotics are more often an attempt to apply some technical language to the processes he's describing than they are useful apparati. The main exception is his use of the dominant, which very helpfully explains shifts in periodization and leads to his useful formulation of limit-modernism (which is a characterization of novels that is akin to the periodizing late-modernism).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Маx Nestelieiev

    one of the best texts on the subject. rich and insightful study with a bunch of now-forgotten names. McHale does know his postmodernism and can tell you a lot about it. just open this f(...abulous) book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Drew Lackovic

    This is a must have book for anyone interested in postmodern theory. McHale does an excellent job of breaking down the various terms and arguments that [could] constitute the definition of postmodernism [if indeed postmodernism exists]. The language in the book is very accessible and McHale uses a large number of excellent examples to illustrate his points.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Apoorva

    Quite comprehensive & easy-to-follow (which a lot of writing around postmodernism isn't). Quite comprehensive & easy-to-follow (which a lot of writing around postmodernism isn't).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mark Cugini

    I will ALWAYS be reading this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    E. C. Koch

    None of the critical literature (theory) about postmodernism is easy to read, though some texts are easier than others and this might be the easiest. Such ease of reading has here to do with McHale’s methodology, through which, rather than build up abstractions upon an abstract foundation, he sees clearly what he understands postmodernism to be and goes about explaining this in a commendably matter-of-fact style. But, of course, easy reading does not mean simple thinking, although McHale’s thesi None of the critical literature (theory) about postmodernism is easy to read, though some texts are easier than others and this might be the easiest. Such ease of reading has here to do with McHale’s methodology, through which, rather than build up abstractions upon an abstract foundation, he sees clearly what he understands postmodernism to be and goes about explaining this in a commendably matter-of-fact style. But, of course, easy reading does not mean simple thinking, although McHale’s thesis is deceptively simple: Postmodernist fiction is that which foregrounds ontological questions. This ontology, though, is a tricky business. Contrasted to epistemology, the philosophy of knowing (the foregrounding of epistemological questions, by the by, is what marks out Modernist lit.), ontology is the philosophy of being. In theory, ontological studies orbit notions of existence and seek to determine how we know whether reality is real. In practice, ontological studies perform a sort of grand scale classification, which is what McHale does here. Moving out from his definition, McHale indexes what he considers to be postmodern fiction’s defining traits (e.g., intertextuality, self-reflexiveness, allegory, metalepsis) then circles back to state how such traits foreground ontological questions. By way of bolstering his argument he draws from a LOT of textual examples (like, a whole lot (this might be the most impressive part of the book)), a method of argumentation that I, for one, find helpful. The thing that appears to me to be missing from this argument, however, is the thing that shifts literature’s focus from the epistemological to the ontological, the things that brings about postmodernism. For my part, this is brought about through lit.’s relationship with poststructuralism (a subject I wish McHale spent more time on) which influences literature, as Mark McGurl argues, when lit. enters the academy. This influence is significant inasmuch as poststructuralism suspends reality, demanding ontological confrontations all over the place. This gap notwithstanding, McHale’s book is a welcome clarifying presence in a field replete with abstraction, overcomplication, and Jameson-imitation.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Delaney

    Well, the last thing this book needs is another summation. Let's just wrap things up by saying that the ontological dominant took the literary baton from epistemology, and the rest is history. Forward march. Here are some thoughts I had while wrestling with this book: "Of course it happened. Of course it didn't happen." Where's my dictionary? This is brilliant / this is bollocks. What? "Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again." Why didn't I take French in high school? So, the sword of Damocles is repl Well, the last thing this book needs is another summation. Let's just wrap things up by saying that the ontological dominant took the literary baton from epistemology, and the rest is history. Forward march. Here are some thoughts I had while wrestling with this book: "Of course it happened. Of course it didn't happen." Where's my dictionary? This is brilliant / this is bollocks. What? "Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again." Why didn't I take French in high school? So, the sword of Damocles is replaced by the nuclear bomb over the movie theatre, right? Where is Hunter Thompson when I need him? Now that I've read this, can I please, please, please return to reading novels? This is why academics a.k.a. dramaturgs should never direct Shakespeare plays. Professor McHale, if he hasn't already done so, might want to partake in a stiff whiskey or two...or twelve. "Dying is easy, comedy is hard."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    Cannot recommend this enough. If you like postmodernist lit, you will find a friend in McHale (a Virgil?); a guide, too for those who are intimidated by it, find it useless, or just dismiss it. The final chapter, where McHale gives his real defense of postmodernist literature, is well-earned & beautifully argued/articulated. Also, bare bones, this is a delightfully easy read without becoming reductive/vacuous/superficial.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dinu Guţu

    frate, nu e rea cartea, dar se pierde omu in neologisme si-n placearea de-a le folosi, zicand de altfel lucruri simple.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    d

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alex Christie

    It's not simply that this work is unwilling to engage fully in/with the heterachical ontology both our world and textual worlds are part of, it's the unwillingness to allow an alternative epistemology that would render our own inferior. The continual emphasis on the inferior/superior ontology (and, surprise, our's is never inferior) inhibit's the text's inability to make the radical break with reality some of the ideas gesture towards (hesitation, the excluded middle, Hofstadter's Strange Loops) It's not simply that this work is unwilling to engage fully in/with the heterachical ontology both our world and textual worlds are part of, it's the unwillingness to allow an alternative epistemology that would render our own inferior. The continual emphasis on the inferior/superior ontology (and, surprise, our's is never inferior) inhibit's the text's inability to make the radical break with reality some of the ideas gesture towards (hesitation, the excluded middle, Hofstadter's Strange Loops).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    excellent study of pomo except: too much pynchon not enough acker. no acker at all, in fact! but, to his credit, discusses in detail cortazar and angela carter, neither of whom get enough cred amid the coover and the pynchon.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ebrahim Barzegar

    کتابی عالی برای فهم و درک تکنیک ها و عناصر داستان های پست مدرنیستی

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eärcaraxë

  22. 5 out of 5

    Royce Sciortino

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amin7932

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rüdiger

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ola

  27. 4 out of 5

    Santiago Romero

  28. 5 out of 5

    Saudade

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kellan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

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