04 August 2008

Modernism vs PostModernism in Nightwood

Forgive me if this question as posed in class, as I had to miss lecture due to a conflicting business trip. Considering the themes presented in Nightwood, I was curious why some critics consider the novel modernist while others consider it postmodernist?

According to postmodernist philosopher Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard:
"The postmodern would be that which, in the modern, puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself; that which denies itself the solace of good forms, the consensus of a taste that would make it possible to share collectively the nostalgia for the unattainable; that which searches for new presentations, not in order to enjoy them but in order to present a stronger sense of the unpresentable."

If this is to be accepted as true, can we make a case that Nightwood is actually postmodern IN modernism? And why would this not also be true for Stein?

1 comment:

Snehal said...

The question wasn't posed in class, but it's a great question. The problem is in defining postmodernism and/or modernism as a style instead of a movement or a period. As styles, modernism and postmodernism are both flexible enough and rigid enough to include substantially more and also exclude canonical works which are usually grouped under their rubrics. There's actually a pretty lively debate in critical circles as to whether both Stein and Barnes are not better understood as proto-postmodernists rather than modernists.

Here are some places to look:
Monika Kaup, "The Neobaroque in Djuna Barnes," Modernism/Modernity 12.1 (2005).

Nicola Ptichford, "Unlikely Modernism, Unlikely Postmodernism: Stein's TENDER BUTTONS," American Literary History 11.4 (Winter 1999).

If anyone is interested and needs access to these pieces, let me know.