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Welcome to PoMo Month at Jacket Copy

bloomsdayjacques derridajames joycepostmodern


Is James Joyce the grandfather of postmodernism? Is Jacques Derrida its patron saint? Where are the women in the postmodern landscape? Is postmodernism something dense and unapproachable, or can it be fun? How much have postmodern ideas and techniques infiltrated our present moment, anyway?

These are some of the questions we'll be contemplating -- in the fractured, intermittent way a blog allows questions to be mulled as it also continues doing its everyday blog thing -- over the next 30 days. There will be guest posts and interviews and perhaps a few arguments. We're calling it PoMo Month.

We picked today to begin because, as you know, June 16 is Bloomsday, the day that James Joyce's "Ulysses" takes place. Postmodernism wouldn't have taken form at quite the same time, in quite the same way, without Joyce's challenging narrative, which bends and breaks traditional fictional forms.

Bloomsday is now widely celebrated, with revelers drinking in Dublin, actors reading at New York's symphonyspace, readers rambling in Pittsburgh, a symposium in Buffalo, a chapter on Twitter; even the Vatican is lending an ear. Does any other work of experimental fiction have so much reach? 

It must be a sign of something. Or a signifier.

Maybe Joyce wasn't a harbinger of postmodernism; maybe he was a straight-up modernist. Like many genres, the exact origins are murky, and up for debate. And as for the endings -- did Derrida's death in 2004 coincide with postmodernism's decline? Or is it still going? By embarking on PoMo Month, we're asking: Does it have a future?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: James Joyce in 1931, left, and Jacques Derrida in 2004, right. Credits: Joyce - File / Derrida - Joel Robine, AFP Photo

Comments () | Archives (2)

The comments to this entry are closed.

1. Not Sterne? (1759) Also, postmodernism, as a term, came a lot earlier than 1918.

2. Assuming that you merely accept Derrida's idea of "the absence of the transcendental." That, of course, isn't the only form of literature or the only form of postmodernism. He would therefore not necessarily be pomo's patron saint. And are you referring to pomo fiction or pomo criticism? You may need more than a month.

3. Kathy Acker comes immediately to mind. Shelley Jackson (who took pomo further than many male progenitors with her tattoo project).

4. You assume that "dense and unapproachable" cannot be fun. The lists in Gilbert Sorrentino's MULLIGAN STEW is deliberately "dense and unapproachable," but are wonderfully absurd and wonderfully fun!

5. Tina Fey's Sarah Palin impression (with Palin next to her), flash mobs and the urban playground movement, numerous YouTube personalities, just to start.

Okay, what do I win?


I propose that you win a style guide and a dictionary.



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