“What [in the World] Was Postmodernism?” Special Issue

Gathering: “What [in the World] Was Postmodernism?” Special Issue

In June of 2015 at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, the "What [in the World] was Postmodernism?" Symposium brought together scholars, poets, and media artists to reflect on how postmodernism has shaped their respective fields and practices, and how the defining traits of that movement have managed to—or failed to—translate into whatever we decide has superseded it in today’s postcolonial, posthumanist, and digital culture. Scholars interrogated how we might deconstruct or reconstruct the phenomenon of the postmodern—as a style, philosophy, or era, among other possibilities—along 21st century fissures and fault lines. They paid particular attention to the global, regional, and local contexts bracketed by "in the world," while keeping in mind the ontological implications of the duplicitous and multiplicitous worlds postmodernism so often entails. This gathering of essays for the electronic book review was conceived as a kind of antipodean offshoot of the larger, contemporaneous project of The Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature (2016), and it draws together some of the most compelling responses to the puzzles of postmodernism put forth at the 2015 event.

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What [in the World] was Postmodernism? An Introduction


An Introduction to the gathering.

The Historical Status of Postmodernism Under Neoliberalism


Simon During proposes to unravel the “layered” history of postmodernism in New Zealand. In so doing, the author of this essay treats postmodernism as “an event rather than a period” and describes postmodernism’s development in the epoch of neo-liberalism.

The Uses of Postmodernism


Jacob Edmond argues that while postmodernism might be useless as a theoretical concept or periodization, it nevertheless illuminates changes, both local and global, in the final decades of the twentieth century. Edmond analyzes the uses of postmodernism in the United States, New Zealand, Russia, and China. He shows how the various and even contradictory uses of the term postmodernism allowed it to represent both sides in the unfolding tension between globalization and localism in late twentieth-century culture.

Nominalisms Ancient and Modern: Samuel Beckett, the Pre/Post/Modernist?


While describing the work of Beckett as deeply influenced by nominalism, Holly Phillips explores “ineffable permutations of intellectual history” and demonstrates how medieval philosophy has deeply influenced twentieth century literature. Simultaneously, Phillips undermines the idea that nominalism’s dismantlement of universals has finally been accomplished by postmodernism.

"Not Going Where I Was Knowing": Time and Direction in the Postmodernism of Gertrude Stein and Caroline Bergvall


In an essay spanning modernist and postmodernist poetics, Lynley Edmeades demonstrates how postmodern poetry cultivates “present-ness” by drawing on Lyotard’s concept of “constancy,” Gertrude Stein’s notion of “continuous present” and Caroline Bergvall’s adherence to “non-linearity.”

From Master(y) Narratives to Matter Narratives: Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods


In an attempt to re-materialize postmodernism, Damien Gibson provides, by drawing on material ecocriticism and on the concept of “narrative agency,” a critical posthumanist reading of Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods.

What is Metamodernism and Why Bother? Meditations on Metamodernism as a Period Term and as a Mode


Alexandra Dumitrescu’s essay describes the development of metamodernism in New Zealand and presents metamodernism as an interrogation of “modernist uprootedness or postmodern drifting.”

Practicing Disappearance: A Postmodern Methodology


In this essay, Neil Vallelly answers the question “What is postmodernism?” by demonstrating how disappearance, as envisaged by Jean Baudrillard, “lies at the heart of postmodern theory.” Vallelly also argues for the critical value of postmodernism’s traces in contemporary literature and suggests the adoption of a “methodology that embraces disappearance.”

Metaphysics after the Western Wall Has Come Down


Polymythic Personalistic Organicism, Biocentric Egalitarianism, and the Postmodern Return to Religion.

"The End"


Dunedin, home of the University of Otago, facing the Pacific on the southeast corner of the South Island of New Zealand, used to be far from everywhere - if not exactly the end of the world, then (as they say) you could it see from there. Nowadays, of course, it is as close to everywhere as anywhere else, and much closer than some places, wired into the world-wide web and served by online forums of intellectual life such as the ebr.