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Postmodernism in PiecesMaterializing the Social in U.S. Fiction$
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Matthew Mullins

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190459505

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190459505.001.0001

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Flattening Nature and Culture

Flattening Nature and Culture

(p.65) Chapter 2 Flattening Nature and Culture
Postmodernism in Pieces

Matthew Mullins

Oxford University Press

This chapter revisits Brian McHale’s argument that the dominant marker of postmodernism is its preoccupation with ontology. What makes fiction postmodern in the author’s view is not only its preoccupation with the ontological realm but also its tendency to flatten its ontological worlds through an emphasis on the agency and significance of everyday objects. In other words, ontology is not only dominant in postmodern fiction but also flat. If postmodern fiction’s ontological dominant is essentially a flat ontology, then in the worlds of these texts, everyday things play roles that are as important as those of human characters. Material objects in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, Toni Morrison’s Jazz, and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude radically decenter humans as the loci of social networks and explore the successes and failures of merging nature and culture.

Keywords:   ontological dominant, Jonathan Safran Foer, Toni Morrison, Jonathan Lethem, ontology, postmodernism, nature and culture

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