Passing of Postmodernism, The: A Spectroanalysis of the Contemporary

SUNY Press
Free sample

The Passing of Postmodernism addresses the increasingly prevalent assumption that a period marked by poststructuralism and metafiction has passed and that literature and film are once again engaging sincerely with issues of ethics and politics. In discussions of various twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers, directors, and theorists—from Michel Foucault and Slavoj Žižek to Thomas Pynchon and David Lynch—Josh Toth demonstrates that a certain utopian spirit persisted within, and actually defined, the postmodern project. Just as modernism was animated by an idealistic belief that it could finally realize the utopia beckoning on the horizon, postmodernism was compelled by an equally utopian belief that it could finally reject the possibility of all such illusory ideals. Toth argues that this specter of an impossible future is and must remain both possible and impossible, a ghostly promise of what is always still to come.

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About the author

Josh Toth teaches literature and critical theory at Grant MacEwan University and is coeditor (with Neil Brooks) of The Mourning After: Attending the Wake of Postmodernism.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Mar 24, 2010
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Pages
210
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ISBN
9781438430379
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Semiotics & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Contradictory ideals of egalitarianism and self-reliance haunt America’s democratic state. We need look no further than Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and victory for proof that early twentieth-century anxieties about individualism, race, and the foreign or intrusive "other" persist today. In Stranger America, Josh Toth tracks and delineates these anxieties in America’s aesthetic production, finally locating a potential narrative strategy for circumnavigating them.

Toth’s central focus is, simply, strangeness—or those characters who adamantly resist being fixed in any given category of identity. As with the theorists employed (Nancy, i ek, Derrida, Freud, Hegel), the subjects and literature considered are as encompassing as possible: from the work of Herman Melville, William Faulkner, James Weldon Johnson, and Nella Larsen to that of Philip K. Dick, Woody Allen, Larry David, and Bob Dylan; from the rise of nativism in the early twentieth century to object-oriented ontology and the twenty-first-century zombie craze; from ragtime and the introduction of sound in American cinema to the exhaustion of postmodern metafiction.

Toth argues that American literature, music, film, and television can show us the path toward a new ethic, one in which we organize identity around the stranger rather than resorting to tactics of pure exclusion or inclusion. Ultimately, he provides a new narrative approach to otherness that seeks to realize a truly democratic form of community.

A bold new challenge to postmodern theory
The increasing irrelevance of postmodernism requires a new theory to underpin our current digital culture. Almost without anybody noticing, a new cultural paradigm has taken center stage, displacing an exhausted and increasingly marginalized postmodernism. Alan Kirby calls this cultural paradigm digimodernism, a name comprising both its central technical mode and the privileging of fingers and thumbs inherent in its use.

Beginning with the Internet (digimodernism's most important locus), then taking into account television, cinema, computer games, music, radio, etc., Kirby analyzes the emergence and implications of these diverse media, coloring our cultural landscape with new ideas on texts and how they work. This new kind of text produces distinctive forms of author and reader/viewer, which, in turn, lead to altered notions of authority, 'truth' and legitimization. With users intervening physically in the creation of texts, our electronically-dependent society is becoming more involved in the grand narrative.

To clarify these trends, Kirby compares them to the contrasting tendencies of the preceding postmodern era. In defining this new cultural age, the author avoids both facile euphoria and pessimistic fatalism, aiming instead to understand and thereby gain control of a cultural mode which seems, as though from nowhere, to have engulfed our society.

With new technologies unfolding almost daily, this work will help to categorize and explain our new digital world and our place in it, as well as equip us with a better understanding of the digital technologies that have a massive impact on our culture.
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