All entries for Thursday 29 December 2005

December 29, 2005

Notes from talk and seminar with Cris Nash

Also: George Ttouli, Peter Blegvad, and 2nd year Creative Writing students.

Cris Nash writes books on postmodernism, such as "World-Games" and "The Unravelling of the Postmodern Mind". He talked for the first half and then we had a discussion.


Heisenberg and Godel's work in science suggests that perception and conception cannot totalise.

But postmoderns go further, and say:

who is failing to percieve?

What we may think of as our identities
are in fact products of society [and/or language]

we are in a mess without edges
over which we have no control

C20 theorists all meet at this point: Foucault, Adorno, etc.

.: postmoderns decentralise the subject
by rejecting story, narrative, and other associated notions.

Psychology is the foundation of character in realism
but Psychology is an ideology clinging to the idea of an integrated self

Subject and object exist in narrative, but not in nature

The position of postmodernism is the indeterminacy of the subject.

"the infinite plays of signification" become what literature enacts.


Literary Techniques for the Antinarrative Writer:

1 – Zooming in / out.
in: details but no totality (e.g. describing cracks in the pavement in great detail)
out: totality but no sense of subject (e.g. geneaological lists, statistics)

2 – Disrupt time, place and causality

3 – Association/negation
"The door is ajar. The door is closed."
Ambiguation, e.g. by

– making it unclear who is speaking

– breaking gramattical structure
Induces aporia, subjective sense of liberation in the face of the indecidable or paradoxical.

4 – Parataxis – missing data

5 – Infinite regress – circularity – e.g. through self-reference

6 – Metalepsis – blurring fiction and reality
e.g. characters killing the reader

7 – Non-locutionary programs.
e.g. bricolage
random generation
mathematical forms
generation based on tables
See: OULIPO

What does this effect? Without meaning, all becomes surface – pleasure, excitement.


Discussion:

[these aren't direct quotes, they're expanded from the notes I took]

Niki Seth-Smith: in the face of total linguistic freedom, there is a choice between egoism on the one hand and annihilating cynicism on the other

Thom Hutchinson: Marginal / minority lit. has a need to assert identity rather than dissolve identity. Does postmodernism have to ignore this?

Peter Blegvad: The pendulum is swinging back to narrative and realism.

Peter Blegvad: Postmodern fiction offers an experience of self-awareness rather than the pleasure of narrative
much as Eastern mysticism promised to do in the 60s

Niki Seth-Smith: similarities btw antinarrative and defamiliarising objects through meditiation

Katy Whitehead: Abrahamic religion as linear — history as truth
Eastern religion as circular — history as illusion

Postmodernism based on radical scepticism – negation.

Can antinarrative strategies be incorporated into narrative? Will this work, can it still be entertaining? Isn't it a case of chalk and cheese?


My take Re: Eastern mysticism:

Alan Watts seems to have prefigured this. He talks about the indeterminacy of percepton and knowledge but comes from a different angle. He was not a literary theorist, but an interpreter of Eastern religion for Western readers. The idea that "subject and object exist in narrative, but not in nature" is a recurring point in his books.

Postmodernists talk about "the infinite plays of signification" while mystics talk about "the eternal dance of maya".

The difference between the two might be that the religious approach incorporates an idea of (not sure how to say it) stability even within the everchanging ephemerality of reality. A Zen text talks about the Zen sate of mind being "no ceiling above the head, no tile below the feet". Yet there is also the idea of the unconditioned mind, "your face before you were born", the Eternal Way.

Wheras, to the postmodern mind, there is no stability: chaos is total.


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