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  •  Wow! This is a great structure for this diary and (14+ / 0-)

    very thought-provoking.

    Let me see if I am getting this right:

    1. There is SF/Fantasy--wonder and unreality
    2. 19th century--Realism
    3. Modernism--which rebels against the unreal realism of 19th century
    4. Magic Realism which owes a huge debt to SF/Fantasy
    5. Crichton which is realistic (19th century version) and fantastic. (SF?Fantasy)

    Have I got it right? Or am I missing something?

    I guess the only thing I would add is that I think of modernism as hyper-realism, and given that, if you are going to focus on inner thoughts, feelings and day-dreams, the shift to magic realism seems rather smooth. (We are all superman in our fantasies. LOL).

    It's *Gandhi*, not Ghandi

    by poco on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 06:36:42 PM PDT

    •  My only minor disagreement (10+ / 0-)

      is that I think I'd describe modernism as a shift in focus to the formal aspects of art, more so than any real changes in content.  I mean, certain changes in content come naturally with the territory - lots of dreams, symbols, and fantasies - but I think they're mostly getting there by saying, "What is language?  What is form?  What is genre?"

      Lots of my favorite sci fi/fantasy comes from the modernist era: Čapek, Zamyatin, Krzhizhanovsky, etc.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 07:24:35 PM PDT

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      •  I think it is both. I certainly agree with (9+ / 0-)

        you that there is a a greater emphasis on formal aspects, such as language (absolutely) and genre.

        But there was  a similar shift in form from Fielding (18th century) (Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews, with a narrator as a viable character to Austen with inner lives of characters, to George Eliot with a sort of half and half.

        The focus on formal aspects actually starts with Sterne (also 18th century); he along with Joyce, does more than most others to question issues of form--especially the questions of genre, or of the Aristotelian model of a set beginning, middle or end.

        I think (and I could be completely wrong) but what Brecht is asking us to do is to see how many of these demarcations are open to inquiry and how so many of the limits that we have taken for granted, actually bleed into each other.

        It's *Gandhi*, not Ghandi

        by poco on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 07:47:19 PM PDT

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        •  Well... Tristram Shandy doesn't have (9+ / 0-)

          much impact, though: it's mostly ignored until its "rediscovery", conveniently enough, by the Modernists (e.g. Viktor Shklovsky's groundbreaking essay on Sterne and formalism).  For most of literary history, Sterne's most influential work is A Sentimental Journey, which is an otherwise straightforward travelogue.  To the extent that pre-Modernists focused on form, it was mostly in the interest of content.  It's not until the art-for-art's-sake movement that form starts becoming an end unto itself, and that unlocks all kinds of Pandora's boxes about the limits of form, and genre, and language.  

          But, your larger point, I agree with completely.  Lit history gets boxed into convenient portions, but those boxes are way more porous in real life, if they exist at all.  That's one of the reasons the Modernists were so easily able to dip back into previous generations of writers - Rabelais, Sterne, Pushkin - and borrow their innovations in new, experimental ways.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 08:00:25 PM PDT

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          •  OT @ pico (7+ / 0-)

            Speaking of magical in another sense, I finished Life a user's manual a few weeks ago. It's fair to say I'm speechless and have been going around wanting to hug the book close to my heart. I hope to go back to it soon because my memory is so bad.

            What's amazing is that given all the "constraints" is that it reads so very well as a novel and not as an exercise at all. There's a real sense of an author's voice--compassionate and benign--behind the stories.

            •  Great! I'm so glad to hear that (7+ / 0-)

              you finished it, and that you liked it so much!  And you're exactly right that the author's voice is what holds it all together: Georges Perec himself, the authorial voice, may be my favorite literary creation of all time.  So warm, so human, so curious, so playful, and so, so fucking smart.  

              Have you read W, or a Memory of Childhood?  Quasi-memoir, absolutely shattering.

              As far as Life goes, no surprise that I'm sometimes haunted by the line,

              It is the twenty-third of June, nineteen seventy-five, and it will soon be eight o'clock in the evening.
              (By the way, in the French, each repetition of this phrase is slightly different: "it is almost eight o'clock", "it is just about eight o'clock", etc.  I'm not sure why Bellos repeats it literally each time when Perec is so careful not to.)

              And then you go back to that wicked opening:

              Despite appearances, the puzzle is not a solitary game: every move the player makes, the puzzle-maker has made before; every piece the player picks up then picks up again, that he studies, that he strokes, every combination he tries and tries again, every mistake and every insight, every hope and every discouragement have all been decided, calculated, and studied by the other.

              Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

              by pico on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 10:28:52 PM PDT

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              •  I read A void/Avoid (6+ / 0-)

                but haven't gotten to W, or a Memory of Childhood yet. I know that he lost both his parents and died at a young age himself.

                Perec was very interested in spaces and architecture and I'd like to read more about that too. Some of the descriptions of contents of shelves and cabinets remind me a bit of Joseph Cornell's box constructions though Perec was being far more deliberate.

                The final image of Bartlebooth in Chapter 99 is so powerful and bittersweet, especially as it relates to the Preamble.

        •  You guys are way ahead of me here, since you have (11+ / 0-)

          a much better schooling in Modernism and 20th Century developments in literature. I understand all the terms you're using, but I don't have a mental bulletin board to pin them too.

          Which is a very healthy confusion for me to feel, as it's something my own readers sometimes complain of.

          Deconstructing the formal aspects of art makes me think of things T. S. Eliot wrote essays about. And the Fielding/Austen/George Eliot progression makes sense to me.

          what Brecht is asking us to do is to see how many of these demarcations are open to inquiry and how so many of the limits that we have taken for granted, actually bleed into each other.
          Very much so. I'd been thinking of this as something that happened in the last 40 years. It has been getting faster, with more porous borders, recently. But now I'm thinking it may have started 100 years ago.

          Well, there are two things to look at. You always get your prophets, especially in art, who envision glimmers long before they arrive. So you can point to Shakespeare, Sterne, Joyce, as instances of radical innovation. The second thing is the entire field of mainstream literature, and popular fiction. I think fiction now is a bit like Rock in the '60s: the limits are melting between the genres, even in popular middlebrow fiction.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 08:25:09 PM PDT

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          •  That "faster, with more porous borders" (5+ / 0-)

            is the rise of the Postmodern in fiction! It's usually thought of as pastiche, and it will appropriate and use all other modes of writing. Thus seeming like a giant mix-up or a genre-bending exercise. I would say, however, that the postmodern novel is, in and of itself, a specific genre. Most fiction right now that isn't genre fiction -- or else what is called "literary fiction" (New Yorker/Writer's camps sort of stuff) -- will probably more or less fall into some gray area of the postmodern. More or less.

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            by mahakali overdrive on Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 09:58:41 AM PDT

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            •  Postmodernism intoxicates some authors, offering (4+ / 0-)

              so many clever tricks and turns that they lose their clear shape and original voice. The danger of melting boundaries is, you end up cooking a hodgepodge, with no distinct taste of its own. But in the hands of an author who knows what their doing, it can add a lot of interesting spice to the mix.

              That said, I really need to read some more on Modernism and Post-Modernism. I shouldn't be throwing around large, sloppy categories that I don't have a firm grasp on.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 12:50:13 PM PDT

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              •  Pfft. (4+ / 0-)

                Categories, schmategories. I'm only speaking from the boring perspective of canonical blah-blah-blah here. This is one of those things that are how hirings are structures (literary period, often defined in the 20th C. as "Modernism" and "Postmodernism," roughly -- with a lot of overlap, arguably some going back to late 19th C.)

                To me, what's interesting about it is the concern with the interior subject vs. the concern with culture in general.

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                by mahakali overdrive on Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 02:33:34 PM PDT

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      •  Modernism was driven, in Literature, (6+ / 0-)

        by a quest for a new way to represent interiority and the individual subjectivity of the main character. I'm not sure about other art forms. And here, when I say "Modernism," I'm thinking of Woolf, Pound, Lewis, Faulkner, Stevens, and Joyce as sort of iconic examples of this. Their formal elements shifted because of their desire to replicate or speak to the the subjectivity of time, space, and perception. Thus we see a rise in stream-of-consciousness or other literary devices which try to "catch" temporality, location, the consciousness, and perception itself.

        It's an interesting ouevre of writing. I'm not sure we're talking about the same genre, but Modernist fiction usually has a pretty specific definition which isn't quite the same as Modern fiction.

        Nice to see you! I'm intrigued by this conversation even though I should be working.  

        Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

        by mahakali overdrive on Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 09:54:45 AM PDT

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        •  We might just be talking about (5+ / 0-)

          different traditions of Modernism: in Russia, it was the drive for new formal modes of expression, which Chekhov was parodying already in the 1890s ("New forms are what we need!  And if there aren't any, we're better off with nothing!")  But I was also drawing from the pre-Modernist French tradition above vis-à-vis Parnassianism and decadence, and the focus on the artificial and theatrical over the trappings of realism (certainly the kind of groundwork laid by Huysmans, Wilde, and whole fin-de-siecle package.)  There's a large swath of Modernists even in the West that I'm not sure fit with the interiority/subjective-state side of the movement - but I don't know how people who study Modernism in the West categorize these things, so I may be out of my area of comfort. Do you all consider Marinetti a modernist?  Apollinaire?  Alfred Jarry?

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 12:04:11 PM PDT

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          •  Definitely, the long 20th C. (6+ / 0-)

            is what you're referring to. Hardy's later work, and Conrad, will also sometimes be included here as "proto-Modernists" of sorts. I'm not too familiar with French Modernism beyond Proust, although I vaguely remember Baudelaire being included here in a sort of an early sense again. Most of the Russians we still read were also almost Modernists, and will usually be taught at the University if not by scholars who are specifically interested in Russian fiction, than by some Modernist or another. So I'm very much in the Brit/Am. here since that's generally where the Modernist movement, as it crystallized around WWI-WII (and its aftermath) took root, spear-headed by people like Eliot and Pound, and also Woolf, because they were running publication houses and publishing so many literary reviews and could, therefore, dictate some of the terms of what was included in this canon -- like Rebecca West or the infamous slings that Woolf shot at Proust.

            Marinetti? Yes, but as a subset of Symbolists or even Futurists, IIRC, which are sometimes considered Modernist without a doubt. I know him mainly through Italo Calvino, who really admired him, and whose work I've read (a postmodern author nonpareil!). I know Jarry's name in passing but haven't read him. Ditto Apollinaire, sorry! I'm not sure it's super-important to categorize these as a reader unless trying to understand what the Modernist author is really responding to, which is generally thought to be a response to the Hell of WWI creating a lot of introspection about the human condition in a very limited "nutshell" definition here.

            I was interested in Modernism, rather deeply, during my undergraduate and thought I'd pursue it initially, but then dropped it and never picked it up again. Fickle, right? But this is how US Lit./English Departments are structured. It always aggravated me since I'm far more interested in theory and how we read than period.

            Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

            by mahakali overdrive on Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 02:47:45 PM PDT

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    •  Wait, there's structure here? How'd that happen? (11+ / 0-)

      My original conception was this simple Hegelian scheme: Magic + Realism = Magical Realism.

      Sometimes when I spend a lot of time examining a subject closely, it finds its own shape in my subconscious (as a good story should). I think what happened here is, by the time I'd written the first two slices of my Neapolitan diary, the last had developed a lot of shape along the way.

      You have teased out the main pieces I was chewing on. I can feel there's more in the last paragraph, that I didn't get to. The whole what modernism is, and all the different bits embedded in it. And what happens when stream of consciousness hits the fan of post-modernism. I guess we all get wet.

      This has been very rich chewing. I'm a lot further along than I started, and I'm left with a different set of questions, which are almost as interesting as the ones I began with. I think I have to go reread the long wikipedia entries on Modernism and Post-Modernism.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 07:41:28 PM PDT

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