The term postmodernism in the literal order has to follow modernism. But postmodernism cannot be defined thus straightway. The actual line of demarcation between them is difficult. Though postmodernism has come to dominate scholarly debates and discussions regarding the contemporary literature and culture since 1980s, it is unreasonable to think that all the literary stalwarts and cultural giants changed their perception simultaneously from 1980s. You can not demarcate that this is the end of modernism, and from this point, postmodernism begins.
The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms defines postmodernism thus–“may be seen as a continuation of modernism’s alienated mood and disorienting techniques and at the same as an abandonment of its determined quest for artistic coherence in a fragmented world. ” The postmodernism writer has freed himself from the shackles of restrictions. You can not expect from such a writer to make attempts to do justice to coherent patterns of images and meanings in the world. He is concerned about the prevailing confusion but not worried about it.
He does not wish to plunge deeper into the maladies in the metaphysical sense and enter in to world of arguments and counter arguments, for achieving something tangible. The goal of the postmodernism writer is experiencing, not merely imaginings. He is a rebel against procedures and systems, wherever it blocks the capabilities of human spirit. Therefore, he smashes the traditional obstacles or all types to find new, free paths for genuine individual and social progress. He reads the issues as they are and tries to give the description and solutions appropriate to the circumstances.
On many issues his thinking touches the portals of spirituality, and transcends reason. This development augurs well for the postmodernism literature. “Postmodernism is a complicated term, or set of ideas, one that has only emerged as an area of academic study since the mid-1980s. Postmodernism is hard to define, because it is a concept that appears in a wide variety of disciplines or areas of study, including art, architecture, music, film, literature, sociology, communications, fashion, and technology.
It’s hard to locate it temporally or historically, because it’s not clear exactly when postmodernism begins. ” (Klages…. ) Changes in one area affect the other areas and consequently they initiate a series of changes in many segments of the society. Therefore, the scope of postmodernism is vast. The postmodernism writers are able to find their plots and stories amidst the noise and din prevailing in the society. When they are unable to visualize the perfect discipline and balance in the human society, they are willing to carry on with the available discipline.
Authors like Barth enjoy this disconnectedness prevalent in the present era. The subject of the story, “Lost in the Farmhouse,” and the method of telling it are unique and one can see the stamp of postmodernism in the technique and content of the story. It relates to a young boy’s experience in a funhouse by the shore. It is a decrepit fun house and the experience is surrealistic. It is difficult for the reader to judge whether Barth is trying to get at the truth or he revels in pure fiction! Barth is both subtle and direct in use of the metaphor in the story.
The narrator is quite vocal in his comments about the symbolic and metamorphic elements. In the initial part of the story the narrator announces that Ambrose “has come to the seashore with his family for the holiday, the occasion of their visit is Independence Day, the most important secular holiday of the United States of America. ” (p,1)It is important for Ambrose, because he sees that day as the day of welcome liberation from the adolescent struggles, the social prejudices that he suffered, and the self-consciousness that wishes to assert itself to experience something new.
He owns dynamic hopes and seeks their fulfillment. Such attitude of the individuals, especially the combustible younger generation, is the seed of postmodernism. What is the root cause for individuals like Ambrose to think the way they think? “To the postmodernist, the Western world society is an outdated lifestyle disguised under impersonal and faceless bureaucracies. The postmodernist endlessly debates the modernist about the Western society needing to move beyond their primitiveness of ancient traditional thought and practices. (Postmodernism…)The materialistic civilization impacted by the industrial and internet revolution has destroyed the ancient social structure in many areas and at the same time recreated new structures beyond the expectations of humanity. On many issues we have become directionless and destination less.
This is how Barth mentions about ‘inability to lead us through the maze. ’ Ambrose envies the good luck of Peter and Magda—something happens naturally with them and they are able to find the right exit at the right time! But somewhere, in the changed circumstances, Ambrose sees hope! Postmodernism is difficult to define, because to define it, would violate the postmodernist’s premise that no definite terms, boundaries, or absolute truths exist. … The term “postmodernism” will remain vague, since those who claim to be postmodernists have varying beliefs and opinions on issues. ”(Postmodernism…) What is the impact of modernism to postmodernism? Bath explains it in style with narrations that apparently look simple, but have profound meaning. “Thrice a year—on Memorial, Independence, and Labor Days—the family visits ocean city for the afternoon and evening.
When Ambrose and Peter’s father was their age, the excursion was made by train…Many families from the same neighborhood used to travel together, with dependent relatives and often with Negro servants;…Nowadays the journey is made by automobile—more comfortably and quickly though without the extra fun though without the camaraderie of a general excursion. ”(Page, 1) This is a simple illustration, how the modern materialistic civilization has robbed the precious little joys of the families and the society. Modernism and postmodernism is all about such attitudes and developments that have engulfed the society.
People enjoying the flora and fauna and the beauty of the nature, today stand on the naked rocks. Post modernism is about fearless thinking and free writing. Such writing transcends all barriers. It ‘crosses the moon and beat the stars. ’ It does not care for nationalism, religion, politics—these are all primitive concepts according to postmodernism literary trends. It is not against materialistic progress but if progress in area, were to destroy the joys of humanity, what is the use of such prosperity? Barth explains this with a simple illustration.
When the family is on a holiday at the Funhouse, he writes, “Father came back from talking to a coast-guardsman on duty and reported that the surf was spoiled with crude oil from tankers recently torpedoed offshore. Lumps of it, difficult to remove, made tarry- tide lines on the beach and stuck on swimmers. ”(p. 5) Does this contribute to plenty and prosperity of humanity? —such view points are the highlights of the post modernism literature. In the story “Lost in the Funhouse,” Barth makes passing but stern references to inequalities still prevailing in the society on account of racialism.
Even though this concept has no legal sanctity in the American Society, in actual practice; black people do suffer from inferiority complex. Their economic prosperity, as compared to the white race, is still the distant dream. The capitalism of America has created a society of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Religion does not serve the intended purpose for peace and for improving the standard of life of the people. Ambrose’s observation is indeed the concern of the intellectuals and statesmen, to whom world peace and prosperity is of great concern. He states, “Nothing was like what it looked like.
Every instant, under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, millions of living animals devoured one another. Pilots were falling in flames over Europe; women wee being forcibly raped in the South Pacific. ”(p. 7) Conclusion: An author whether of modernism or postmodernism era, follow the same ideas, without rigid genre distinctions and boundaries between high and low. But the difference between the two is in attitudes. Modernism has certain fixed layout, and if anything beyond that happens, they lament such fragmented view of human subjectivity.
Postmodernism does not think on these lines. Fragmentation according to them is a dynamic process and that needs to be celebrated and enjoyed. Barth explains this theme in his story and seems to say to his characters, if perfect discipline is not available in any area, carry on with the available discipline! Enjoy even the nonsense! Nothing in the Nature is to be pitied or condemned. Everything has the purpose behind it and is happening as it should. From the transcendental point of view, nothing happens by accident—all that we see are incidents!
Courtney from Study Moose
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