Pomo Laundry Lists

Often when people try to arrest the Avant-Garde with definitions, they invoke Postmodern and Neo-Postmodern ‘techniques’ (notice the death knell that word sounds for The New).  Here’s an assembly of structuralist dreams that try to identify the central rebellion of postmodernist writers/artists all of which we can think about when pretending to identify The New:”  

David Lodge gives us 5 "strategies" postmodernist writing uses to avoid modernism (from Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction, 1987):

·         contradiction

·         discontinuity

·         randomness

·         excess

·         short circuit

Ihab Hassan gives us 7 "rubrics" of modernism that postmodernism “modifies or extends” (from Postmodernist Fiction; but see his much larger list from the Norton Anthology):

·         urbanism

·         technologism (industrial/tech worship)

·         dehumanization

·         primitivism (anti-industrial anti-worship—notice how this contradicts the above)

·         eroticism

·         antinomianism (a rejection of socially established morality)

·         experimentalism (hmmm…isn’t this what anything not doing Realism is???)

Laura Doan gives us a list of 8 fictional techniques authors labeled as “postmodern” use (from her book the Lesbian Postmodern, 1994):

·         intertextuality (texts only exist by pointing to and away from other texts—in other words, there is no signified, no “reality” to which a text points outside language; texts borrow from each other as a matter-of-course)

·         parody (pastiche)

·         pastiche (parody; when the text satirically/sarcastically copies the style of another writer or auteur, or plagiaristically lifts whole sections of another text; often in the form of collage, lifting many other texts; i.e. The Simpsons)...but isn't everything pastiche?  Well, certainly Derrida would say everything is Bricolage (see intertextuality)

·         self-reflexivity (metafiction)

·         fragmentation

·         revisionist history

·         frame breaks

·         the questioning of:

o       grand narratives

o       closure

o       stability

o       coherence

o       identities (ethnic, sexual etc.)

In a way, the Avant-Garde as Postmodernism is very much all about Deconstruction theory—the “cutting edge”, in it’s Postmodern form, is going to try it’s damnedest to trouble all codes, all supposedly “natural” but “really” hierarchical binaries, and, when indulging in the deepest of excess, will present us with a vision of wonderful, playful, uncomfortable, blissful (think Roland Barthes/orgasm) chaos that I personally cannot live without.  Now lets look at how some avant-garde/postpostpostmodern Texts of perversion follow and violate these codes, and lets try to follow and violate to create a few texts of our own…