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Late Postmodernism and Cultural Memory

  • Jeremy Green

Abstract

“Another 20 years of boring literary novels and the thing’s dead.” Jonathan Franzen made this remark to justify providing his reader with “a maximally enthralling experience.”1 The reader’s absorption guarantees the novel’s survival, presumably because obstacles to popular appeal can only further trends of indifference already afoot in the culture at large. As I argued in the previous chapter, Franzen’s anxieties circulate around cultural distinction, prestige, and authority, all of which are threatened by the rise of consumer culture and its attendant ideologies. The three novelists I address in this chapter are no less concerned about the novel’s survival, but have chosen to make issues of reading, readability, and readership central to their fiction. Can the words of the writer still find a receptive mind? How is such a mind constituted out of the structure of memory embodied in literary history? These questions take on a greater urgency if the problem of individual communication comes to be seen as a microcosm of readership, cultural efficacy, and the uncertainty surrounding the project of innovative fiction.

Keywords

Fairy Tale Literary Text Tennis Ball Literary Culture English Department 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    See in particular Joseph Dewey, Understanding Richard Powers (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2002); and Review of Contemporary Fiction 18.3 (Fall 1998): 7–109.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995 ). All references will be given in parentheses.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    The test was described in Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Mind 59 (1950): 433–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 5.
    N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999 ), p. 271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 6.
    Kathryn Davis, The Walking Tour (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999 ). All references will be given in parentheses.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason I: Theory of Practical Ensembles, trans. by Alan Sheridan-Smith (London: NLB, 1976 ), pp. 272–273.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress ( Elmwood Park, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1988 ), p. 227.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Joseph Tabbi, “David Markson: An Introduction,” Review of Contemporary Fiction 10.2 (1990): 91.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    David Markson, “Reviewers in Flat Heels: Being a Postface to Several Novels,” Review of Contemporary Fiction 10.2 (1990): 128.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    David Markson, Malcolm Lowry’s “Volcano” ( New York: Times Books, 1978 ).Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    David Markson, Springer’s Progress (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977 ).Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    David Foster Wallace, “The Empty Plenum: David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress,” Review of Contemporary Fiction 10.2 (1990): 219.Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    This description of the project of the avant-garde is indebted to Peter Bürger’s classic study, Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. by Michael Shaw ( Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984 ).Google Scholar
  14. 23.
    David Markson, Reader’s Block (Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1996 ). References will be given in parentheses.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jeremy Green 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy Green

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