State University of New York Press

SUNY series in Postmodern Culture

Joseph Natoli

Published by: State University of New York Press

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SUNY series in Postmodern Culture

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After the Orgy

Toward a Politics of Exhaustion

Applying Jean Baudrillard’s question “What are you doing after the orgy?” to the postmillennial climate that informs our contemporary cultural moment, this book argues that the imagination of apocalyptic endings has been an obsessive theme in post-Enlightenment culture. Dominic Pettman identifies and examines the dynamic tensions of various apocalyptic discourses, from the fin-de-siècle decadents of the 1890s to the fin-de-millènnium cyberpunks of the 1990s, in order to highlight the complex constellation of exhaustion, anticipation, panic, and ecstasy in contemporary culture. Through analyses of rapturous cults, cyberpunk literature, post-apocalyptic cinema, techno-paganism, death fashion, and the Y2K prophecy, After the Orgy explores why the twentieth century swung so violently between the poles of anticipation and anticlimax. In the process, the book raises pressing questions concerning the relevance of such ideas in our new millennium and points out alternatives to the monotonous horror of traditional narratives.

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Beautiful Chaos

Chaos Theory and Metachaotics in Recent American Fiction

Explores the way chaos theory is incorporated in the work of such writers as Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Don DeLillo, and Michael Crichton. Beautiful Chaos is the first book to examine contemporary American fiction through the lens of chaos theory. The book focuses on recent works of fiction by John Barth, Michael Crichton, Don DeLillo, Michael Dorris, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, Carol Shields, and Robert Stone, all of whom incorporate aspects of chaos theory in one or more of their novels. They accomplish this through their disruption of conventional linear narrative forms and their use of strategic tropes of chaos and order, but also—and more significantly for an understanding of the interaction of science and fiction—through their self-conscious embrace of the current rhetoric of chaos theory. Since the publication of James Gleick’s Chaos: Making a New Science in 1987, chaos theory has been taken up by a wide variety of literary critics and other scholars of the arts. While considering the relationship between chaos theory and recent American fiction, Beautiful Chaos details basic assumptions about orderly and dynamic systems and the various manifestations of chaos theory in literature, including mimesis, metaphor, model, and metachaotics. It also explains particular features of orderly and dynamic systems, including entropy, bifurcation and turbulence, noise and information, scaling and fractals, iteration, and strange attractors.

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Kurt Vonnegut's Crusade; or, How a Postmodern Harlequin Preached a New Kind of Humanism

“I’ve worried some about why write books when presidents and senators and generals do not read them, and the university experience taught me a very good reason: you catch people before they become generals and senators and presidents, and you poison their minds with humanity. Encourage them to make a better world.” — Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut’s desire to save the planet from environmental and military destruction, to enact change by telling stories that both critique and embrace humanity, sets him apart from many of the postmodern authors who rose to prominence during the 1960s and 1970s. This new look at Vonnegut’s oeuvre examines his insistence that writing is an “act of good citizenship or an attempt, at any rate, to be a good citizen.” By exploring the moral and philosophical underpinnings of Vonnegut’s work, Todd F. Davis demonstrates that, over the course of his long career, Vonnegut has created a new kind of humanism that not only bridges the modern and postmodern, but also offers hope for the power and possibilities of story. Davis highlights the ways Vonnegut deconstructs and demystifies the “grand narratives” of American culture while offering provisional narratives—petites histoires—that may serve as tools for daily living.

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Memory's Orbit

Film and Culture 1999-2000

Mixing memoir and cultural criticism, Memory’s Orbit examines the intersections between a wide range of films and current events, finding its theme and orbiting narrative structure in the personal stories we live within and their relationship to the social and cultural order. Joseph Natoli covers such films as The Matrix, American Beauty, Fight Club, Eyes Wide Shut, and American History X, as well as such headline events as the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., the dot-com boom, the WTO protests in Seattle, and Bush versus Gore, consistently identifying those aspects of the social order that have shaped his narrating frame. Eschewing theoretical exposition and jargon, Natoli performs postmodern critique, and this book continues his innovative work in the genre of cultural studies.

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Musing the Mosaic

Approaches to Ronald Sukenick

In Musing the Mosaic prominent critics of postmodern and contemporary fiction and culture discuss the fictional and theoretical works of Ronald Sukenick, one of the most important American writers to emerge from the late 1960s. Sukenick has been a prolific participant in reshaping the American literary tradition for two generations and played a pivotal role in the creation and growth of the Fiction Collective and FC2 publishing houses, as well as the journals American Book Review and Black Ice Magazine. In his work he argues that contemporary fiction can neither perform traditional functions nor rely on any conventions in an ever-more dynamic world. Staying true to Sukenick’s own creative style, one that takes the seams out of writing before re-stitching it in ways that are truly novel, the contributors examine how and why his writing comes closer to the dissolving, fragmentary nature of reality and its lack of closure than perhaps anything written before it.

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Passing of Postmodernism, The

A Spectroanalysis of the Contemporary

Examines the increasingly prevalent assumption that postmodernism is over and that literature and film are once again engaging sincerely with issues of ethics and politics. The Passing of Postmodernism addresses the increasingly prevalent assumption that a period marked by poststructuralism and metafiction has passed and that literature and film are once again engaging sincerely with issues of ethics and politics. In discussions of various twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers, directors, and theorists—from Michel Foucault and Slavoj Žižek to Thomas Pynchon and David Lynch—Josh Toth demonstrates that a certain utopian spirit persisted within, and actually defined, the postmodern project. Just as modernism was animated by an idealistic belief that it could finally realize the utopia beckoning on the horizon, postmodernism was compelled by an equally utopian belief that it could finally reject the possibility of all such illusory ideals. Toth argues that this specter of an impossible future is and must remain both possible and impossible, a ghostly promise of what is always still to come.

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Performing Whiteness

Postmodern Re/Constructions in the Cinema

Performing Whiteness crosses the boundaries of film study to explore images of the white body in relation to recent theoretical perspectives on whiteness. Drawing on such diverse critical methodologies as postcolonial studies, feminist film criticism, anthropology, and phenomenology, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster examines a wide variety of films from early cinema to the present day in order to explore the ways in which American cinema imposes whiteness as a cultural norm, even as it exposes its inherent instability. In discussions that range from The Philadelphia Story to Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Foster shows that, though American cinema is an all-white construct, there exists the possibility of a healthy resistance to cultural norms of race, gender, sexuality, and class.

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Post-Marxist Theory

An Introduction

Poststructuralist Marxism, or post-Marxism, is a theoretical viewpoint that elaborates and revises the work of Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault. Unlike traditional Marxism, which emphasizes the priority of class struggle and the common humanity of oppressed groups, post-Marxism reveals the sexual, racial, class, and ethnic divisions of modern Western society. This book surveys the different versions of post-Marxist theory: the economic theory of Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff, the historical methodology of Michel Foucault, the political theory of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, the feminism of Judith Butler, the materialist philosophy of Pierre Macherey, and the cultural studies of Tony Bennett and John Frow. Providing a coherent framework for these otherwise quite divergent theorists, Philip Goldstein outlines the history of Marxist philosophical or theoretical views and explains how they all count as post-Marxist.

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Productive Postmodernism

Consuming Histories and Cultural Studies

Productive Postmodernism addresses the differing accounts of postmodernism found in the work of Fredric Jameson and Linda Hutcheon, a debate that centers around the two theorists’ senses of pastiche and parody. For Jameson, postmodern texts are ahistorical, playing with pastiched images and aesthetic forms, and are therefore unable to provide a critical purchase on culture and capital. For Hutcheon, postmodern fiction and architecture remain political, opening spaces for social critique through a parody that deconstructs official history. Thinking in the space between these two sharply different positions, the essays in this collection investigate a broad range of contemporary fiction, film, and architecture—from such narratives as Don DeLillo’s Libra, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, to the vastly different spaces of Las Vegas casinos and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum—in order to ask what the cultural work of a postmodern aesthetic might be.

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Roll Over Adorno

Critical Theory, Popular Culture, Audiovisual Media

What happens when Theodor Adorno, the champion of high, classical artists such as Beethoven, comes into contact with the music of Chuck Berry, the de facto king of rock ’n’ roll? In a series of readings and meditations, Robert Miklitsch investigates the postmodern nexus between elite and popular culture as it occurs in the audiovisual fields of film, music, and television—ranging from Gershwin to gangsta rap, Tarantino to Tongues Untied, Tony Soprano to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Miklitsch argues that the aim of critical theory in the new century will be to describe and explain these commodities in ever greater phenomenological detail without losing touch with those evaluative criteria that have historically sustained both Kulturkritik and classical aesthetics.

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