Postmodern Fiction

It is not surprising that the novel has borne a disproportionate amount of the burden of being ‘postmodern’, because its hitherto usual ‘discourses’ – in the relationship of author to the text, its apparently liberal or ‘bourgeois individualist’ construction of unified character, its relationship to historical truth – lay it at so many points open to a postmodern critique. From modernist mastery and open formal control, respect for autonomy and individualism, and claims to historical explanatory force, all to be found, for example, when Joyce writes about Dublin or Faulkner about the South, we move towards a playful, disseminatory falsifying account of characters, who may exist on so many planes at once as to lack all plausible psychological unity. The postmodernist novel doesn’t try to create a sustained realist illusion: it displays itself as open to all those illusory tricks of stereotype and narrative manipulation, and of multiple interpretation in all its contradiction and inconsistency, which are central to postmodernist thought. Its internal theorising, its willingness to display to the reader its own formal workings, is also typically postmodern, not just in the novel, but also in film, for example in Godard’s adaptation of the Brechtian technique of the interpolated sign-post or text, and also in visual art, which is so often ‘about itself’ in this period.

– Christopher Butler, Postmodernism

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