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??? COHPAnATIST INTRODUCTION — NARRATIVE PRACTICES IN THE POST-COLD WAR TRANSITION: CULTURAL AND NARRATOLOGICAL TRANSFORMATIONS Marcel Cornis-Pope /TJAe imagination has now acquireda singular newpower in social lifo. The imagination - expressed in dreams, songs, fantasies, myths, and stories —has always been part of the repertoire, in some culturally organized way, ofevery society. But there is a peculiar newforce to tlie imagination in social life today. Morepersons in more parts ofthe world consider a wider set of"possible" lives than they ever did before. Arjun Appadurai,"Global Ethnoscapes" (197) In his 1988 reappraisal of "Self-Reflexive Fiction," Raymond Federman ascribed to innovative fiction a strong reformulative function in recent history, enhancing the critical dialogue between individual and culture through "self-consciousness," which draws the reader into the workings ofthe text and its cultural environment, and "self-referentiaUty," which pits the author's consciousness against the rhetoric of his text (29). In both versions, narrative reflexivity is much more than a formal gimmick: its function is to extricate the novel "from the postures and impostures" (21) of the Cold War, committing fiction to a poetics of "divergence" (18). This poetics of divergence—we could add from our post-1989 vantage point—has contributed significantly to the breakup ofthe Cold War mentalities : freeing the social imaginary from the competing grand narratives ofideology and their annihUating totaUstic images (the Rocket, the Bomb, the Ideological Empire, the Nuclear Holocaust, the Dead Zone), and replacing monologic concepts ofculture with polysystemic views that retrieve the voices of süenced others. If, as Mary Louise Pratt has contended , the current geopoUtical scene is a "hospitable space for the cultivation of multilinguaUsm, polyglossia, the arts of cultural mediation, deep intercultural understanding, and genuinely global consciousness" (62), it is also because of the revisionistic strategies of postmodernism which have encouraged alternative "voices" and codifications in a culture 's narratives. Postmodernism has been described as "the corrosive cultural movement when suspicion of master narratives becomes widespread and the margins soUcit the matrix," valorizing the experience ofthe formerly subaltern groups (Leitch ix). As Vincent B. Leitch explains: To conceptualize culture from the vantage point of social margins is to foreground violent omissions, repressions, and contingencies oftraditional reason, representation, knowledge, and high culture. Put in other terms, postmodern cultural analysis characteristically entails an ethicopolitics of VcH. 23 (1999): 111 NARRATIVE IN THE POST-COLO WAR TRANSITION inclusiveness, multiculturalism, polylogue, social transformations, antiauthoritarianism , and decentralization. (133) The type of "multicultural," polysystemic fiction that has emerged since the early 1970s rides cultural boundaries between center and periphery, dominant and subordinated group, redefining US cultural production as hybrid, a mixture ofcontinuaUy changing subcultures. It also challenges generic boundaries between criticism and fiction, frame and story, and voice and writing, hybridizing and compUcating the noveUstic form with multiple narrators, polymorphous characters, and alternative stories. Offering itself as a semiotic "borderland" where "two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different cultures occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle, and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy" (Anzaldúa, Preface to Borderland), multicultural fiction mediates historical, cultural, and psychological otherness. Postmodern theories and practices have also played a catalytic role in the political emancipation of the Soviet block, empowering East European Uterary and cultural criticism with the tools that have aUowed it to assume a reconstructive function, encouraging innovation and normbreaking. As I have argued elsewhere ("Critical Theory" 131-56; The Unfinished Battles 7-58), the Glasnost phenomenon can be regarded as a product of an increased cultural-phUosophic dialogue across the ideological divide between the Soviet block and the West. The postmodern grafts have been useful to a number of intellectual and artistic groups in Eastern Europe involved in articulating an alternative model ofinteUectual interaction that is tolerant, pluraUstic, reformulative. By comparing and interfacing cultures, this postcommunist/post-Cold War consciousness has recovered and consolidated that middle ground between Eastern and Western, dominant and peripheral, that was overlooked by the previously polarized world-view. That middle ground can be found in many places: in the reemergence of Central Europe, in diasporic or hybrid Uteratures, and in multicultural or postcolonial identities. However fragüe, these in-between areas are being continuaUy...


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