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From: "Jonathan Laidlow" <LAIDLOJM@hhs.bham.ac.uk>
Subject: (urth) Mo/Po-mo stuff
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 1999 09:25:35 GMT

Have to agree with Alex's epistemological/ontological theory.  
Indeed its the one that McHale puts forward in _Postmodernist 
Fiction_. The usual way I try to explain it to students (on a simple 
level) is that modernism was concerned with finding new ways to 
represent reality, because old models did not seem adequate (ie 
C19 realism). Postmodernism takes this a step further and 
suggests that reality cannot be successfully represented, so the 
alternative is to turn away from that and play with the form of fiction 
and the way reality can only ever be 'represented', not described.

I'm not sure I liked McHale's first book - like the work of Linda 
Hutcheon it seemed very good as a undergrad student but now 
seems to suck some of the excitement out of po-mo fiction. I 
believe McHale's 'Constructing Postmodernism' is better, but that 
could just be because he actually spends a lot of time on sf in that 

The American early postmodernists like Gaddis, Barth, and 
Barthelme haven't really stayed in print over here (UK), and I must 
say that the most exciting postmodern fictions I've read recently 
have been Delillo's 'White Noise', Rushdie's 'Midnights Children' 
and 'Satanic Verses', and (an oldie) Pynchon's 'Crying of Lot 49'. I 
personally thought that the short version of Pynchon is not only the 
most accessible, but also the most focussed of his works. Still 
haven't got past the Baseball game in Delillo's 'Underworld' yet. 
Since I began the book early this year I've finally had the chance to 
attend a Baseball game and so must try again, just in case it 
makes more sense.

All this concentration on 20th century Modernism/Post-modernism 
ignores the fact that there have been modernisms throughout 
history. I've been attempting for a while now to put together a 
coherent argument that my man Sterne has to be considered as 
part of an 18th century modernism (as in an attempt to undermine 
and reformulate established models of representation and find a 
new way to express the 'real') rather than as a man out of time who 
prefigures our 20th century concerns.

And I haven't mentioned Wolfe once! Sorry....

So - to briefly add to the introducing Wolfe to others - I have 
successfully passed 'Shadow of the Torturer' to two of the Profs 
(and in the UK a Professor is the top job - you only get the title when 
you're a real bigwig) who both thoroughly enjoyed it. Indeed one of 
them has migrated to  5th Head and I've now just put him onto Long 

And I haven't even begun to wade thru the Whorl stuff of recent 
months, so can I just say that OBW is a masterpiece which left me 
unable to read anything but comics and magazines for about three 
days, as nothing else I might consider reading would even come 

Visit Ultan's Library - A Gene Wolfe web resource
Jonathan Laidlow
University of Birmingham, UK

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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