Deconstruction of Meaning

I always found postmodern literature easier to read and understand because it’s easier for me to latch onto. I also particularly enjoy it because it’s also what I read the most as I develop my own writing style. In the Theory Toolbox, I enjoyed the table of Ihab Hassan’s list of the differences between modernism and postmodernism.

When I looked at it for the first time, without thinking too much about works I’ve read from either period, I sort of chuckled to myself as I realized postmodernism’s list made it look like the writers were just going wild without any real purpose to their writing. What really stood out to me in that list were the words “deconstruction” and “participation.”

Deconstruction stood out to me because I feel like that means that postmodern writers believe in determining their own meanings for things in life, rather than blindly accepting what has come before. These writers are not necessarily telling you how to think and what to feel, but rather possible interpretations of whatever life and circumstances may throw at you. I could be wrong, but that’s what I took from it.

I liked the word “participation” because I feel like postmodern literature does a better job of including the reader in the minds of the characters in a work, while also almost making the reader feel as if they’re going through the events of the story themselves, alongside the protagonists.

Hearing so much about postmodernism makes me wonder what the next major literary period will be named, and how different it will be from the current one.



2 Responses to Deconstruction of Meaning

  1. garruzzoae January 26, 2016 at 10:20 pm #

    I agree with a lot of what you said about postmodern literature, particularly novels. The TT list struck me as especially interesting too. Like you, I had never conceptualized postmodern works in terms of their involving the reader in the act of constructing the work, having them “participate” in it, until reading this section. Rather, I’d always thought it was simply the mark of postmodernism to be formally self-conscious, without realizing that proposing questions about form to the reader in itself stands as an invitation to the reader to engage in construction.
    Also, as you mentioned at the end, I wonder a lot about what is to follow postmodernism as well. It seems to me that the line of succession is sort of at a halt right now, since postmodernism is so raggedly overused after 60+ years, though it does not itself prescribe any clear outlets of reaction. By that I mean that it doesn’t have a set of implicit dogmas to be challenged (since its sole tenet is to be ever anti-dogma) as did all of the other great literary movements, like modernism with its high art and cohesion, Victorianism with its editorial moralizing, romanticism with its fetishizing of nature, emotion, and the artist, etc. Perhaps maybe if postmodernism’s only dogma is anti-dogma, and its only form is the deconstruction of form, the only way to escape it will be to re-embrace dogma and form, if still with a hint of postmodern irony.

  2. Prof VZ February 7, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    I like the idea of embracing form with a hint of postmodern irony–a sort of knowing formalism. In a way, it reflects what reading, in the strongest sense, has always been about: the messy, exciting, wayward act of negotiating amongst contexts.

    Interestingly, some of the most obscure forms of postmodern writing–especially in the poetry world (see L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry)–have depended on this idea that difficulty and ambiguity invited readerly participation and is therefore somehow democratic / progressive / anti-imperial.

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