Who writes about Postmodernism, anyway?
June 27, 2007 11:46 PM   Subscribe

What are some good books on Postmodernist literature?

I'm an avid reader of Postmodern literature, and having just about completed a course that explored the roots of Postmodernism, and how it applies to American literature, I would like some good academic books on the Postmodern movement in literature. Any suggestions are welcome, but keep in mind that I'm an undergrad, and don't have too much experience in literary theory.
posted by SansPoint to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The one and only unignorable book on this subject is Fredric Jameson's Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. It's a masterpiece of criticism and of thought, but it will be very slow and tough going for you (as it is for everyone), and not sharing Jameson's massive breadth of reading (as few of us do) means you'll miss some references. Read it anyway, even at a rate of one page per day carefully considered.
posted by RogerB at 12:04 AM on June 28, 2007

It's a masterpiece of criticism and of thought

I'd respectfully like to point out that Jameson's film criticism in this book is utterly hollow and meretricious — it exists only insofar as it supports his thesis on the most rigidly story-based grounds. As if framing, colour codes, editing, sound, music, and photography working in concert did not exist. In this respect, I regard him as a poor and literal-minded critic.
posted by Wolof at 1:21 AM on June 28, 2007

Two accessible, key reads are Postmodernist Fiction by Brian McHale and A Poetics of Postmodernism by Linda Hutcheon.
posted by meerkatty at 1:55 AM on June 28, 2007

Seconding Jameson, but I think his introduction to the book is the most accessible (relatively speaking) and useful part of it and functions nicely as a stand-alone essay. You could score a cheap copy on A.B.E. and just get it for the intro, then decide if you'd like to go further (now or later).
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:00 AM on June 28, 2007

Seconding meerkatty; those were both worthwhile required reading when I was in school. I also liked Charles Jencks' What is Post-Modernism? Not limited to literature, but/and a useful read.
posted by kmennie at 7:32 AM on June 28, 2007

I heartily second the McHale recommendation; a broad, accessible introduction to notions of postmodernism (beyond literature) is The Postmodern Turn by Kellner and Best.

As for Jameson, he's one of the heavyweights in modern literary theory of a certain stripe and that's a keystone text, deserving of classic status. But his writing is an acquired taste; I nearly died getting through The Political Unconscious as an undergrad (interesting book though).

(You can certainly also leaven your pomo-lit secondary reading with a dose of media studies and reception studies texts, to lessen the impact of all the mutually-congratulatory rhetorics of subversion and endlessly circulating signifiers and so forth.)
posted by waxbanks at 8:04 AM on June 28, 2007

I made it through Jameson, but his point of view on the subject wasn't very helpful to me. I second the Linda Hutcheon book. It's a highly readable and broad introduction to the subject. I also found the Jencks book valuable. While you're at it, you might as well go to one of the real manifestos on the subject, Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition. Lyodard is a harder read, but if you read Hutcheon first, you'll have enough context for it.
posted by wheat at 8:41 AM on June 28, 2007

My favorite: Shopping in Space: Essays on America's Blank Generation Fiction by Elizabeth Young and Graham Caveney. This was before the term "Generation X" gained currency, so Young and cohorts swiped the term "Blank Generation" (from a Richard Hell song, I think) and used it as a label for Brat Pack-y writers like Bret Easton Ellis and Jay Mcinerney. In any case, I think all the writers covered in this book are firmly grounded in postmodernism. Certainly Ellis - the subject of two seperate chapter-length essays - can be painted with that brush.
posted by Clay201 at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2007

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