Postmortem postmodernists : authorship and cultural revisionism in late twentieth-century narrative

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Laura E. Savu (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Keith Cushman

Abstract: "The past three decades have witnessed an explosion of narratives in which the literary greats are brought back to life, reanimated and bodied forth in new textual bodies. In the works herein examined--Penelope Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower, Peter Ackroyd's The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde and Chatterton, Peter Carey's Jack Maggs, Michael Cunningham's The Hours, Colm Toi´bi´n's The Master, and Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence--the obsession with biography spills over into fiction, the past blends with the present, history with imagination. Thus they articulate, reflect on, and can be read through postmodern concerns about language and representation, authorship and creativity, narrative and history, rewriting and the posthumous. As I argue, late twentieth-century fiction "postmodernizes" romantic and modern authors not only to understand them better, but also to understand itself in relation to a past (literary tradition, aesthetic paradigms, cultural formations, etc.) that has not really passed. More specifically, these works project a postmodern understanding of the author as a historically and culturally contingent subjectivity constructed along the lines of gender, sexual orientation, class, and nationality. The immediate implications of my argument are twofold, and they emerge as the common threads linking the chapters that make up this study. First, to make a case for the return of the author into the contemporary literary space is to acknowledge that the postmodern, its antihumanist bias notwithstanding, does not discount the human. Author fictions bring life and work into creative realignment, affirming and celebrating human creativity as the best means of illuminating and exploring the human, "all-too-human" experience shared by authors and readers. Second, to emphasize the kinship between rewriting and the posthumous is to reveal the classic's capacity to renew itself and take on new meanings in different contexts. If, as J.M. Coetzee maintains, "criticism is duty-bound to interrogate the classic" (16), then author fictions assume some of the prerogatives of criticism: through the appropriation and implicit interrogation of the classic, they ensure its survival. Thus by fictionalizing celebrated biographies, within or alongside related bibliographies, late twentieth-century writers create an intriguing genealogy for themselves and their own cultural moment."--Abstract from author supplied metadata.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2006
narratives, literary greats, Penelope Fitzgerald, Peter Ackroyd, Peter Carey, Michael Cunningham, Colm Toi´bi´n, Geoff Dyer, Biography, postmodern, literary criticism
Postmodernism (Literature)
Authorship in literature
Biography as a literary form

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