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Postmodernism in PiecesMaterializing the Social in U.S. Fiction$
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Matthew Mullins

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190459505

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190459505.001.0001

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The Promise of Postmodernism

(p.170) Afterism
Postmodernism in Pieces

Matthew Mullins

Oxford University Press

Despite its unfortunate name, postmodernism is not an ism at all. It is not of the same species as romanticism, realism, and modernism. Postmodernism is less a name for a unified aesthetic, as its ism implies, than a description of the state of being after unified aesthetics. Postmodernism, it turns out, is not a thing. Thus it is not dead and cannot die. Building on Jean-François Lyotard’s argument that postmodernism is not a period, and acknowledging Fredric Jameson’s leeriness of postmodernism’s spatial poetics, the author argues that postmodernism is a space that positions readers to see beyond the ism-driven form of literary periodization. It marks the end, not of periodization or of history, but of periodization and history as it has been typically theorized in literary studies. Far from being an ahistorical perspective, postmodernism is a call for a new form of literary history that acknowledges its own narrativity.

Keywords:   postmodernism, aesthetics, periodization, literary history, Jean-François Lyotard, Fredric Jameson

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