Another Avant-Garde Modernism

One of my problems with the distinction modernism/postmodernism is that I think a great deal of what is interesting in postmodernism is actually present in the avant-gardes of the early twentieth century, and is especially salient in the avant-garde movements of Latin America. In terms of periodization that corresponds with what we call high modernism in English, which is, indeed, rather different. I am therefore interested in any discussion of difference and divergence from more mainstream modern and postmodern traditions.

The entire text from which I quote here is available in Google Books.

In [Ishmael] Reed’s book [Mumbo Jumbo] it is the excess of nature that frees the human being from Western civilizational bondage. This is unusual in the postmodern novel. Yet the attitude is different with African-American and Native American fiction. . . . Actually, Reed’s novel . . . gains its viewpoint from the confrontation of mind and body, consciousness and unconsciousness, regulation and liberation, power and resistance, thought and action, form and force. Action is split in its meaning. Action as affirmation of life (and resistance against authority) is indissolubly connected with creativity and anarchy, with expression. . . . In a reversal of the ancient story of Western “civilization,” action in the liberating sense here has no story. . . . [I]t is the spontaneous eruption of life’s energies.

–Gerhard Hoffman, From Modernism to Postmodernism: Concepts and Strategies of Postmodern American Fiction (Amsterdam: Rodopi 2005) 580.


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