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20090401 Barthelme, Thopson, and Reed

Page history last edited by Brian Croxall 12 years, 2 months ago


In contrast to the elitist and structured approach of Modernism, Post Modernism was a populist literary movement intended for a wider variety of people. Perhaps one of the most important elements of the post modernist approach is the multiform sources from which it draws, jumbling traditions and stylistic elements into an amalgation.  Professor Croxall provided an interesting analogy: if modernism is New York City, post modernism is Las Vegas. The scrambled combinations of scale landmarks from famous locations create a playful atmosphere, in stark contrast to the structured grid of New York. The movement was perhaps a reaction to the structured lifestyle of the 1950s Eisenhower administration, when assembly lines exemplified the rote, mass production and consumerism of traditional suburbia. WWII demonstrated the devastating capacity of the assembly line, both to the workers (many of whom suffered from prolonged exposure to lead and nitroglycerin) and to the victims of the millions of projectiles manufactured. Post Modernism surfaced as a backlash to destruction wrought by so mechanical a system. It therefore rejects a definite genre, frequently offering a hodge-podge of perspectives that emphasize subjectivity. The playful irony that typifies Post Modernism thought celebrates the bizarre and the queer for their unexpected contributions to a deprived American's quality of life.



"Neo-HooDoo borrows from Ancient Egyptians...Neo-HooDoo borrows from Haiti Africa and South America.  Neo HooDoo comes in all styles and moods."

This quote epitomizes the idea of Pastiche in Post Modernism.  There is not one source from which Neo-HooDoo pulls; it "borrows" from many cultures.  It also exemplifies the idea that there is not one perspective, truth, or reality.  There are multiple points of view that are all equally valid.


"I met you under the balloon, on the occasion of your return from Norway; you asked me if it was mine; I said it was.  The balloon, I said, is a spontaneous autobiographical disclosure, having to do with the unease I felt at your absence, and with the sexual deprivation, but now that your visit to Bergen has been terminated, it is no longer necessary or appropriate."

This quote indicates the the presence of the balloon in Barthelme's "The Balloon" was actually for a very specific and personal purpose.  However, the people of New York assign their own meanings and interpretations to it.  This could be seen as a metaphor for Post-Modernism in which there is a specific meaning to the writing as intended by the author, but the writing is also quite open to interpretation.  There is not only one perspective.  There is no code, no key, that once you find that you can understand the text as the author intended.  Everyone can find their own meaning.


"No, this is not a good town for psychedelic drugs.  Reality itself is too twisted."

This quote provides commentary on the hyper-real state of Las Vegas.  Everything has been created to look so real (too real) that the facticity of it beats out the facts.  The narrator in this story doesn't seem to be able to handle that, especially with the addition of psychedelic drugs.


Key Terms


enlightenment rationalism - idea that humans can progress through reason; i.e. as we know more about the world, life becomes better for us.  example:  assembly lines.


post modernism (PoMo)- movement in art and literature that is a response to modernism in which universality is called into question; it can be summed up in  8 tenets.

1.  embraces multiple perspectives, truths, and realities

2.  questions the idea of the coherent narrative

3.  is playful and ironic

4.  is highly subjective

5.  focuses on the entertainment value of America

6.  embraces popular culture

7.  uses the Pastiche technique

8.  rejects the traditional idea of genre


New (Gonzo) Journalism - genre of literature in which a reporter's subjective response becomes more important than invents being reported.  Invented by Hunter S. Thompson and Norman Mailer.


Pop Culture - opposite of modernism's "high culture," well-known and generally accepted forms and lifestyles within a society


Pastiche - technique in a text that draws from many different sources and refuses to have one particular authority


Pre-Lecture Tunes

Before today's lecture I played some cuts from Girl Talk's newest album, Feed the Animals. As a mash-up artist, Girl Talk's work is an appropriate corollary to understanding the concept of the postmodern pastiche.


Lecture Slides



Comments (2)

zsold@... said

at 8:42 pm on Apr 2, 2009

i wrote a summary, please edit it to check up on my facts my notes were somewhat unclear in places.

Brian Croxall said

at 11:08 pm on Apr 16, 2009

You had a hard day to take notes since I whipped through a lot of territory in one hour. In observing the word limits for the summary you make the right choice to put most of the commentary about the specific authors into the analysis about the different passages. In the interest of your classmates, however, you should have included which passage is from which work; the the and author of the works; and the publication dates. For the Thompson passage, I would have liked to see you talk about gonzo journalism in relation the passage that you have picked.

As far as the definitions are concerned, you’ve hit on most of the important ones. A glaring absence, however, is “metanarrative” or “grand narrative,” since that was the key point that I returned to throughout the lecture. Your definition of rationalism is good, but it is unclear from what you’ve written how assembly lines relate to the concept.

The weakest part of the notes at the moment is the summary. It could be more direct in its language and would have logically included some discussion of metanarratives. The postmodern concept of the “too simple story” could have been used as an example, and you could have discussed how the different authors are related to the concepts of postmodernism we discussed.

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