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Reviewed by:
  • Postmodern American Literature and Its Other
  • Yupei Zhou
W. Lawrence Hogue . Postmodern American Literature and Its Other. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2008. 212 pp. $45.00.

W. Lawrence Hogue argues that while postmodern American fiction operates from notions of multiplicity, indeterminacy, fluidity, and incompleteness, major postmodern American male writers such as Thomas Pynchon and Paul Auster often reiterate a Eurocentric male subjectivity in their novels. However, postmodern women, African American, and American Indian writers such as Rikki Ducornet, Kathy Acker, Ishmael Reed, and Gerald Vizenor not only act against Enlightenment logicality but also interrogate Eurocentric, male-oriented subjectivity. These authors write from the periphery and enact paradigms of logic, reason, and subjectivity that are distinct from yet equal to the Eurocentric paradigm of modernity. [End Page 783] Hogue develops his argument by examining each writer's narrative strategies and exploring their metaphysical, epistemological, or ontological conceptualizations.

Hogue situates his critical inquiry in Enrique Dussel's theoretical framework of the contrasting paradigms of Eurocentric modernity and planetary modernity. Reviewing Dussel's paradigm of Eurocentric modernity, Hogue emphasizes that Eurocentric modern subjectivity has reinforced, throughout the history of Western civilization, the logic of otherization—in other words, the logic of binary oppositions, of repressing, excluding, objectifying, and under-representing the Other, or of "patriarchy, compulsory heterosexuality, capitalism, Christianity, and colonialism" (17). For Hogue, Dussel's planetary paradigm of modernity constitutes a critique of Eurocentric modernity, since this new paradigm re-conceptualizes and rewrites world history as one of an interregional world-system and of multiplicity, hybridity, and complexity. In this paradigm, the reason of the Other is offered as an alternative to Western reason—that of linearity, closure, and progress, and the subjectivity of the Other, equal to Eurocentric subjectivity. According to Hogue, a postmodern writer, critiquing and deconstructing both the universality of instrumental reason and the subjectivity of the Eurocentric male, helps define and construct the planetary paradigm.

As seen against this condition, both Pynchon and Auster, two of the most representative postmodern American male writers, have blind spots. At both the narrative and the epistemological levels, they critique the Enlightenment logicality of modernity without accepting the subjectivity of the Other. Pynchon, for example, subverts the totalizing conventions of the traditional novel in V by creating nonhierarchical characters of multiple identities and adopting multiple and fragmentary points of view. He embraces and creates new languages of multiplicity and indeterminacy by endorsing the "nonrational" human dimensions such as the animate and the mystery. But, as Hogue discovers, the postmodern subjectivity represented by Pynchon is essentially the privileged Western male self. In V, European American women and African Americans, for example, are still positioned in a hierarchical framework, and his African characters are still defined as primitive. In the same way as Pynchon, Auster creates fluid subjectivities and multiple identities at the narrative level and accepts chance, coincidence, and open-endedness at the metaphysical level. But also like Pynchon, Auster relegates European American women and African Americans to either a marginal position or a primal state and renders them as static beings untouchable and untouched by postmodernity. In Hogue's opinion, both of them otherize and efface the periphery as well as the rejected part of the modern Eurocentric past or self.

For Hogue, deconstructing the realistic novel is "a metaphor for deconstructing Western metaphysics" (146). Ducornet, Acker, Reed, and Vizenor share Pynchon's and Auster's deconstructive attitude toward the traditional novel. In chapters three and four, Hogue continues to build his critical analysis on this attitude. Ducornet, as Hogue analyzes in chapter three, uses paganism and angelology in The Jade Cabinet to subvert the Victorian conventions of the novel and hence the universality of instrumental reason. With these strategies, she also manages to blur the line between the magical and the rational, the masculine and the feminine, so that the gendered and privileged Eurocentric subjectivity in which both Pynchon and Auster are trapped is disrupted. Similarly, Acker, through a collage of discourses in Pussy, reconfigures the Western conventions of literary narratives by writing into them the periphery, the female body, and intersubjectivity. She manages to create nonrational "feminine" spaces so that the binary oppositions between public and private...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-6182
Print ISSN
1062-4783
Pages
pp. 783-785
Launched on MUSE
2011-09-28
Open Access
No
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