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02.10.

2014
BRITISH LITERATURE OF THE 20TH CENTURY
3RD YEAR ENGLISH MINORS
TUTOR: DR. PETRONIA PETRAR
FALL TERM, 20014

TERMINOLOGY: language-dependent objects

Overview: modernity and literature

Modern, modernity, modernism, postmodernism


Modernity ---- tradition
Modernity ---- realism
Modernity ---- modernism
Modernity ---- postmodernism
Beyond postmodernism in the age of information
The position of the subject
The position of fiction

MODERNITY
MODERN
Lat. modernus < modo [just now,
recently] < modus [mode,
fashion]
Modernity as the consciousness of the present

MODERNITY AND TRADITION

A. Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity, 1990

A. Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity, 1990

TRADITION functions to perpetuate itself


In traditional cultures, the past is honoured and symbols are valued
because they contain and perpetuate the
experience of
generations. Tradition [] is a means of handling time and space,
which inserts any particular activity or experience within the
continuity of past, present, and future, these in turn being
structured by recurrent social practices.
MODERNITY (self-)critical and pursuing the new
The reflexivity of modern social life consists in the fact that social
practices are constantly examined and reformed in the light of
incoming information about those very practices, thus constitutively
altering their character.

Probably we are only now, in the late twentieth century, beginning


to realise in a full sense how deeply unsettling this outlook is. For
when the claims of reason replaced those of tradition, they
appeared to offer a sense of certitude greater than that provided by
preexisting dogma. But this idea only appears persuasive so long as
we do not see that the reflexivity of modernity actually subverts
reason, at any rate where reason is understood as the gaining of
certain knowledge. Modernity is constituted in and through
reflexively applied knowledge, but the equation of knowledge with
certitude has turned out to be misconceived. We are abroad in a
world which is thoroughly constituted through reflexively applied
knowledge, but where at the same time we can never be sure that
any given element of that knowledge will not be revised. (37-39)
=> MODERNITY AGAINST ITSELF

*R+ealist novels never give us life or a slice of


life nor do they reflect reality.

MODERNITY AND REALISM


Realism
philosophical stance (as opposed to idealism)
general attitude to the world
general dimension of Western art
historically located aesthetic trend (19th century
Europe and America)
set of artistic conventions and practices

Realism: a genre based upon an implicit


communicative contract with the reader that there
exists an independent, extra-textual real-world and
that knowledge of this real-world can be produced
and shared(132)
Pam Morris, Realism, 2003

under heavy attack in the 20th century


Lyotard: task of R = to preserve consciousnesses from doubt
by presenting an intelligible, unitary and stable world

an invitation to experience the knowability of the


world
D. Attridge, The Singularity of Literature, 2004

02.10.2014

MODERNITY AND MODERNISM

Features of realism:
emphasis on the particular
formal experimentation- perspective & linguistic
inventiveness
social awareness: democratisation of fiction
influenced by mass market relations

Modernism as anti-modernity (= AESTHETIC TREND)


M. Calinescu, Five Faces of Modernity
Modernity in the broadest sense, as it has asserted
itself historically, is reflected in the irreconcilable
opposition between the sets of values corresponding
to (1) the objectified, socially measurable time of
capitalist civilization (time as a more or less precious
commodity, bought and sold on the market), and (2)
the personal, subjective, imaginative dure, the
private time created by the unfolding of the self. The
latter identity of time and self constitutes the
foundations of modernist culture.

Strategies of realism:
empirical effect works metonymically, by
contiguity: illusion of everyday experience
truth effect works metaphorically, by
substitution: illusion of universal truth
Morris 2003
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BEYOND POSTMODERNISM:

MODERNITY AND POSTMODERNISM


postmodernism as ideology & set of artistic practices
postmodernism as an ethical position
Postmodernism begins when the mainstream of western thought
encounters otherness and does not or tries not to consume it but
instead responds to it, using the only language it can, its own Greek
language. Thus, postmodernism begins in ethics, in a response to
otherness; but it can only respond through precisely the language that
denies otherness and attempt to fracture that language. Who are these
others? In one way, they are personal others, other existents. But
perhaps more importantly, the others whom western thought
encounters are those with other sociocultural ways of thinking or
existing in the world.

late modernity
critical modernism (C. Jencks)
the age of information and virtual
realities => redefining literature
posthumanism

ROBERT EAGLESTONE, Postmodernism and ethics against the metaphysics


of comprehension, 2004
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REFASHIONING THE SELF


Cartesian (rational) ego
traditional liberal subject
o freedom & self-possession
o agency
o boundedness
o universal human nature
postmodern embracing of otherness
o openness
o destabilisation
posthuman redefinitions of mind and body

DOES LITERATURE MATTER?

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