Postmodernism and The Catcher in the Rye

Postmodernism and The Catcher in the Rye

M S I N R E D POSTMO N I R E H C T A C E H T D

AN THE RYE COLLEGE PREP MODERNISM BEFORE WE CAN FULLY UNDERSTAND POSTMODERNIST LITERATURE, WE MUST FIRST REVIEW SOME OF THE TENETS OF MODERNISM. MODERNISM IS MARKED BY A STRONG AND INTENTIONAL BREAK WITH TRADITION. THIS BREAK INCLUDES A STRONG REACTION AGAINST ESTABLISHED RELIGIOUS, POLITICAL, AND SOCIAL VIEWS. MODERNISTS BELIEVE THE WORLD IS CREATED IN THE ACT OF PERCEIVING IT; THAT IS, THE WORLD IS WHAT WE SAY IT IS. MODERNISTS DO NOT SUBSCRIBE TO ABSOLUTE TRUTH. ALL THINGS ARE RELATIVE. SOMETHING IS MORAL OR IMMORAL ACCORDING TO SPECIFIC SITUATIONS. MODERNISM (CONT) MODERNISTS FEEL NO CONNECTION WITH HISTORY OR INSTITUTIONS. THEIR EXPERIENCE IS THAT OF ALIENATION, LOSS, AND DESPAIR.

MODERNISTS CHAMPION THE INDIVIDUAL AND CELEBRATE INNER STRENGTH. MODERNISTS BELIEVE LIFE IS UNORDERED. MODERNISTS CONCERN THEMSELVES WITH THE SUB-CONSCIOUS. MODERNISM IS CHARACTERIZED BY A "WESTERNIZATION" OF MANY FORMERLY TRADITIONAL SOCIETIES AND NATIONS AND A RESULTING CHANGE IN THEIR VALUES (OFTEN THEY ARE THE DETRIMENT OF THE FORMERLY TRADITIONAL SOCIETY AND NATION). THESE "MODERN" VALUES INCLUDE A BELIEF IN THE DESIRABILITY OF INDUSTRIALIZATION, INDIVIDUAL POLITICAL RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY, MASS LITERACY AND EDUCATION, PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION, THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD, PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS LIKE THOSE IN THE WEST, MIDDLE CLASS WESTERN VALUE SYSTEMS, A DISBELIEF INOR AT LEAST A QUESTIONING OFTHE EXISTENCE OF GOD, AND (SOMETIMES) THE EMANCIPATION OF WOMEN POSTMODERNISM "POSTMODERN" IS THE TERM USED TO SUGGEST CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE OF THE LAST HALF OF THE 20TH CENTURY. IT IS DIFFERENT FROM MODERNISM IS SEVERAL WAYS WHEREAS MODERNISM PLACES FAITH IN THE IDEAS, VALUES, BELIEFS, CULTURE, AND NORMS OF THE WEST, POSTMODERNISM REJECTS WESTERN VALUES AND BELIEFS AS ONLY A SMALL PART OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE AND OFTEN REJECTS SUCH IDEAS, BELIEFS, CULTURE, AND NORMS

WHEREAS MODERNISM ATTEMPTS TO REVEAL PROFOUND TRUTHS OF EXPERIENCE AND LIFE, POSTMODERNISM IS SUSPICIOUS OF BEING "PROFOUND" BECAUSE SUCH IDEAS ARE BASED ON ONE PARTICULAR WESTERN VALUE SYSTEMS. WHEREAS MODERNISM ATTEMPTS TO FIND DEPTH AND INTERIOR MEANING BENEATH THE SURFACE OF OBJECTS AND EVENTS, POSTMODERNISM PREFERS TO DWELL ON THE EXTERIOR IMAGE AND AVOIDS DRAWING CONCLUSIONS OR SUGGESTING UNDERLYING MEANINGS ASSOCIATED WITH THE INTERIOR OF OBJECTS AND EVENTS. POSTMODERNISM (CONT) WHEREAS MODERNISM FOCUSED ON CENTRAL THEMES AND A UNITED VISION IN A PARTICULAR PIECE OF LITERATURE, POSTMODERNISM SEES HUMAN EXPERIENCE AS UNSTABLE, INTERNALLY CONTRADICTORY, AMBIGUOUS, INCONCLUSIVE, INDETERMINATE, UNFINISHED, FRAGMENTED, DISCONTINUOUS, "JAGGED," WITH NO ONE SPECIFIC REALITY POSSIBLE. THEREFORE, IT FOCUSES ON A VISION OF A CONTRADICTORY, FRAGMENTED, AMBIGUOUS, INDETERMINATE, UNFINISHED, "JAGGED" WORLD.

WHEREAS MODERN AUTHORS GUIDE AND CONTROL THE READERS RESPONSE TO THEIR WORK, THE POSTMODERN WRITER CREATES AN "OPEN" WORK IN WHICH THE READER MUST SUPPLY HIS OWN CONNECTIONS, WORK OUT ALTERNATIVE MEANINGS, AND PROVIDE HIS OWN (UNGUIDED) INTERPRETATION. IT IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND THAT THE POSTMODERN AUTHOR RARELY PROVIDES CLOSURE; IT IS UP TO THE READER TO PUT ALL THE PIECES TOGETHER BASED ON HIS/HER INTERPRETATION. LET ME KNOW HOW YOU FEEL AT THE END OF THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. IS THERE CLOSURE TO HOLDENS STORY OR DO YOU FEEL EVEN MORE LOST THAN YOU DID WHEN YOU BEGAN THE NOVEL? WHEREAS THE MODERNIST NOVEL MOURNS THE LOSS OF A COHERENT WORLD, THE POSTMODERN NOVEL CELEBRATES AND REVELS IN THE CHAOS. THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN MAKE AN ARGUMENT THAT THE CATCHER IN THE RYE IS MORE MODERN THAN POSTMODERN. THERE IS MOST CERTAINLY A FEELING OF LOSS ASSOCIATED WITH HOLDENS DEPARTURE FROM CHILDHOOD. DO YOU THINK HOLDEN CELEBRATES THE CHAOS HIS PSYCHOLOGICAL BREAK HAS BROUGHT TO HIS LIFE? ADDITIONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF POSTMODERNISM IN FICTION IRONY, ABSURDITY, PLAYFULNESS & BLACK HUMOR : TREATING SERIOUS SUBJECTS AS A JOKE, SOMETIMES WITH EMOTIONALLY DISTANT AUTHORS. PLAYFULNESS IS CENTRAL TO POSTMODERNISM; IT REINFORCES THE IDEA THAT THERE IS NO ORGANIZING

PRINCIPLE IN A CHAOTIC WORLD. DISTRUST: OF THEORIES AND IDEOLOGIES; OF THE AUTHOR/NARRATOR, UNDERMINING HIS CONTROL OF ONE VOICE OF MODERN ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT CULTURE, IDENTITY, & HISTORY, PASTICHE (MIXING GENRES) AS AN HOMAGE TO OR A PARODY OF PAST LITERARY STYLES METAFICTION: MAKING THE ARTIFICIALITY OF WRITING APPARENT TO THE READER, I.E. DELIBERATE STRATEGIES TO PREVENT THE USUAL SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF, DRAWING ATTENTION TO THE CONVENTIONS OF LITERATURE POIOUMENA: PURPORTING TO BE ONE KIND OF NARRATIVE, WHEN ITS REALLY ANOTHER, EXPLORING THE BOUNDARIES OF FICTION AND REALITY HISTORIOGRAPHIC METAFICTION: FICTIONALIZING ACTUAL EVENTS AND FIGURES FROM HISTORY Temporal distortion: events can overlap, repeat, or multiple events can occur simultaneously, often to achieve irony. Technoculture and hyper-reality: worlds & characters inundated with information, focused on technology in everyday life, swamped by products and bombarded by

advertising, ambiguity about whats real and whats simulated. Paranoia: subverting or parodying the belief that there is some power or ordering system behind the chaotic postmodern world. The postmodernist believes that the search for order is pointless and absurd. Maximalism: sprawling canvas and fragmented narrative i.e. looking disorganized and filled with playful language for its own sake. Minimalism: short, slice-of-life stories where readers have to use their own imaginations to create the story. Unexceptional characters, economy with words. Spare style: anti adjectives, adverbs and meaningless details. Faction: blending fact and fiction, especially historical novels or those using real living personalities e.g. world politicians or celebrities. Magic realism: imaginary themes and subjects, with a dream-like quality, mixing the real with the fantastic, surreal and bizarre. Time-shifts, dreams, myths and fairy stories as part of the narrative, arcane erudition, inexplicable events, elements of surprise or abrupt shock. Intertextuality: quotations, references and allusions, designed to make apparent that every text absorbs and transforms some other text somewhere.

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