Evolution of the 'Subject': Postmodern and Beyond
"We control life, Winston, at all its levels. You are imagining that there is something called human nature which will be outraged by what we do and will turn against us. But we create human nature. Men are infinitely malleable . . . " (Orwell 216).|
It was in Stuttgart, August 4–18, 1991. The seminar was marked by a faculty consisting of distinguished proponents of postmodernism such as Malcolm Bradbury, Raymond Federman, William H. Gass, Ihab Hassan and John Barth among others. Yet, it keenly celebrated the "End of Postmodernism: New Directions." In two years, the proceedings were published. In November 14–16, 1997, University of Chicago hosted a conference on "After Postmodernism" which intended to initiate a new discourse that should go beyond postmodernism. Six years later, Klaus Stierstorfer published his Beyond Postmodernism: Reassessments in Literature, Theory and Culture (2003). Actually, it is a hard fact that western societies have long moved beyond postmodernity, which designates a cultural context or an epoch, and postmodernism, which indicates a certain style and mode of artistic expression. Such a transition has affected almost all aspects of life and academia including literary theory.
Constructivism is a major tenant of the postmodern and the poststructuralist. In fact, it has proved to be their Achilles hill, too. They have been under constant attack because many thinkers believe that constructivism inevitably leads to passivism and determinism. Not that constructivism robs the human individual from any chance of resistance and subversion but that it debases these very notions altogether. Even subversion and resistance would be the constructs of the system against which they are directed, hence meaningless illusions.
As the result, individual is deprived of their agency. You are not what you decide to be, you do not do (perform) what you decide to do, you cannot genuinely resist or subvert the structure that has formed you and your milieu. Instead, you are subject to different external forces, most of which you cannot even acknowledge. This brings us to the notion of 'subject.' Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary lists 'subjectus,' meaning "placed beneath, inferior, open to inspection" as the etymological root of subject. In fact, 'sub-' means 'beneath and under' and '-jec-' means 'to throw'. Malpas (2001) identifies subject as a derivative of the Latin word 'subjectum,' meaning "that which lies under" (176) which is another stage of the term's evolution. As the root of the word suggests, subject refers to the presupposition of the precedence of an essential agent. Subject in this sense precedes action as its cause. This probably accounts for the adaptation of the word in the jargon of grammar, too. The subject of a sentence is its doer, its agent, one that initiates action. But, it should not be ignored that subject position in a sentence is merely an empty slot which is filled by a name. It is as the result that the name gains momentum. As Althusser pinpoints, the modern sense of subject denotes '...a free subjectivity... [that] "work[s] all by ... [itself]"' (701).
In modern thought, subject is the active individual and agent. It even comes to occupy the central point of creation during some epochs, such as Romanticism where human is at the centre of universe. Descartes' "cogito, ergo sum," "I think, therefore I am," seems to be the best representative of this thought. The 'I' is a subject who is capable of determining its own identity, hence actions and life. Hegelian subject is also another emblem of modern thought. In his "Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?", Lyotard remarks that "the tradition of the subject ... comes from Augustine and Descartes and .. Kant ..." (58). So, subject means 'subjecthood' in this sense.
However, the modern notion of subject has been attack by various thinkers and theories. Many postmodern and poststructuralist thinkers are deeply skeptical toward a free and central agent that can determine its identity and position in the world. Instead, they insist that a subject is constructed as an amalgam of social, political, etc. forces (some prefer the seemingly more accurate though never clearly defined 'discourse'). Not only our actions, status and associations but also our identity and value system are subject to these external forces over which we scarcely can exert any control. In other words, subject in this sense denotes 'subjection'.
This view has inevitably led to such comments as, "The subject is what speaks, or, more precisely, what signifies, and subjects learn in culture to reproduce or to challenge the meaning and values inscribed in the signifying practice of the society that shapes them" (Belsey vii). In other words, there is no choice for a genuine reinforcement or subversion. Even the challenges are contained within the system. Paul Smith's remark is also worth quoting at length:
"The individual" will be understood here as simply the illusion of whole and coherent personal organization, or as the misleading description of the imaginary ground on which different subject-positions are colligated.
And thence the commonly used term "subject" will be broken down and will be understood as the term inaccurately used to describe what is actually the series of the conglomeration of positions, subject-positions, provisional and not necessarily indefeasible, into which a person is called momentarily by the discourses and the world that he/she inhabits. (qtd. in Montrose 589)
Personality and identity are 'illusions' and 'imaginary grounds.' Also, they are 'conglomerations' into which one is summoned—not willfully goes. The individual is turned into a puppet that is molded and puppeteered by external factors. But who is the puppeteer and how does it achieve its status? There is no single answer to this question.
This paper traces the evolution of 'subject' in literary theory and criticism. First, it undertakes to implore the idea of postmodern, emphasizing one of its major tenants, i.e. the notion of subject position, in theory. Later on, the paradigm shift away from the postmodern will be explored. Finally, the result of this paradigm shift will be investigated in the departure from the notion of subject position and a move toward (a modified version of) humanism and even essentialism. Different theorists, thinkers and critics are frequently appealed to illustrate their idea of ‘subject’ in each approach. This necessitates frequent, and at times long, quotations from different authorities. Hopefully, it will be conveyed that with the evolution of the notion of 'subject' and the attrition of the notion of subjection, the turn of the century marks a move beyond postmodernity and postmodernism which directly affects literary theory.
The Postmodern 'Subject'
Contemporary critics, like Boyd, remark that in various schools and movement of the twentieth century, including psychoanalysis, structuralism and poststructuralism, "there has been a rejection of human nature as a given and a stress on human nature as the product only of culture and convention" (Boyd 1-2). Humanism taught us to view individuals as unified agents, but postmodernism substituted the notion of subject in this stead. Sim states that, "For poststructuralists and postmodernists, the subject is a fragmented being who has no essential core of identity, and is to be regarded as a process in a continual state of dissolution rather than a fixed identity or self that endures unchanged over time" (367). In other words, individual's 'subjecthood' and agency is replaced with 'subjection.' Apparently, a similar attitude pervades in the realm of literary theory.
In psychoanalysis, one is subject to one’s unconscious drives. In Freudian psychoanalysis, it is the unconscious mind—libido, the pleasure-seeking drive; id, the dark recess of libido and other desires; and superego, social norms and conventions of morality—that controls one's actions and thoughts. A child's initiation depends on her/his relationships with her/his mother and father. And, it is the 'superego' which represses the desires that society deems as taboo and encourages those which are accepted by the society. In other words, a whole impelling system which works simultaneously from within and without determines one’s being. A similar story reiterates in the theories of Jung, Freud’s student. In Jungian psychology, one is subject to a collective unconscious consisting of a shared collection of archetypes and racial memories.
Freud's 'biological determinism' is one main reason, besides his androcentrism, why he has been attacked by many feminists. Friedan believes that, 'Freud's aphorism "Anatomy is destiny" means a woman's reproductive role, gender identity, and sexual preference are determined by her lack of a penis, and any woman who does not follow the course nature sets for her is in some way “abnormal"' (qtd. in Tong 133).
Poststructuralism is a major strand within postmodernism; in fact, "Postmodernism ... subsumes poststructuralism ..." (Sim ix). In poststructuralism, also, subjecthood, resistance and subversion are frequently undermined. As Lipina-Berezkina contends,
... the contemporary critical debate on 'the demise of man' both as a character and as an author puts the existence of the humanistic subject and subjectivity in general at stake. It is drastically escalated by the poststructuralists: Derrida insists on the logical impossibility of self-presence; Lacan describes the subject as barred, as the sign of a lack; Barthes views the death of the author as a new mode of narrative. As a result of this escalated poststructuralist attack on the concept of subjectivity ... many believe that in postmodernism man [sic] disappears, the author is dead, and the art itself lacks originality and significance—thus almost everything that constitutes the humanistic subject of art, is undermined. (269)
Following structuralism, Lacan believes that the psychic structure of mind is similar to the structure of language. First, a child distinguishes herself/himself from 'other' in the 'imaginary order' through the ‘mirror stage’. But this illusion of autonomy is not long-standing. When a child enters the 'symbolic order,' it becomes subject to the discourse of the Other, i.e. language. Language stimulates the symbolic order the end result of which is a subject of lack. It is language that speaks us and through which we are forced to articulate our desire that can never be satisfied, hence one's alienation and separation.
More real is our overdetermination by the drives, the unconscious, and the Symbolic Order of our culture, the social languages that identify us and lend us identities, all of which exceed consciousness and never assume the form of knowable or conscious identity (which, for Lacan, is always fantasmatic). Our identity is given to us from outside, and we are constitutively alienated. (Rivkin and Ryan 393)
So, Lacan's theory is based on lingua-psychic subjectivity. "For Lacan, anatomy is not destiny; rather, language is destiny" (Tong 153).
For Foucault, another dominant poststructuralist, one is subject to the myriad of power, symbolized in a Panoptican structure, and different discourses that constitute it. In his world, everything is a construct, whether it is madness, body or sexuality.
The first volume of The History of Sexuality argues that the very forms of subjectivity we consider most essential to ourselves as selves had no existence prior to their symbolization, that the deepest and most private recesses of our being are culturally produced. (Armstrong 570)
Derrida, another poststructuralist key thinker, revolts against the transcendental signifieds, such as nature and essence, as centres and rejects the 'metaphysics of presence.' There is no transcendental signified to serve as a fixed point and scale for the identity to be formed against it. "[T]here is no identity," Derrida remarks, "There is only identification" (qtd. in Royle 59). Paul de Man, another deconstruction thinker, emphasizes the role of language constructivism. As Colebrook summarizes, according to de Man, "it is only through narrating that there is a self at all. We cannot think of selves who narrate, precisely because selves are formed through narration" (109). In this way de Man does not grant precedence to subject. "We cannot elevate ourselves above this power of language; all we can do is destablise [sic] the system from within by presenting it as system: as language" (Colebrook 128).
New historicism is also influenced by Foucault and deconstructive logic. So, expectantly, a similar dead-end notion of power robs the individual of her agency. A similar discursive constructivism reigns in new historicism, too, as the result of which not only characters but also their actions, attitudes and motivations are considered as discursive amalgams. 'Subversion-containment dialect' is a major notion in new historicism. It suggests that any attempt directed toward the subversion of the system to which one is subject turns out to reinforce that system, instead. In his Cultural Politics - Queer Readings, Alan Sinfield, a cultural materialist who has a lot in common with new historicism but is also its critic, traces this effect to Althusser's notion of ideology.
... new historicism converges on Althusser, with respect to its preoccupation with what I call the "entrapment model" of ideology and power. This model claims that even attempts to challenge the system help to maintain it; in fact, those attempts are distinctively complicit, insofar as they help the dominant to assert and police the boundaries of the deviant and the permissible. (Sinfield 24)
Despite his criticism of new historicism and Stephen Greenblatt, Sinfield is not excluded from constructivism. As his "Cultural Materialism, Othello, and the Politics of Plausibility" conveys, Sinfield does not believe in humanism or essentialism despite all the accusations from feminists. He places cultural construction first and foremost. But, he believes that humanism and essentialism are not needed for political activism: "... dissident potential derives ultimately not from essential qualities in individuals (though they have qualities) but from conflict and contradiction that the social order inevitably produces within itself, even as it attempts to sustain itself" (752). That is to say, subjects are constructed by the system in which they are entangled, but to resist and subvert this very system, which has already shaped them, they do not need to be individuals. In other words, agency does not necessitate subjecthood (747-750).
Lyotard is a major postmodern theorist. He called for the abolition of 'grand narratives', especially the grand narratives of emancipation and speculation, and the substitution of 'little narratives' in their stead. So, for Lyotard, "[k]nowledge ... consists of a heterogeneity of competing local knowledges in which there are simply 'islands of determinism'" (Easthope 19). But, he unwittingly establishes a new grand narrative in this way. His ideas have been criticized for being located within the system he criticizes and tries to subvert (just as Foucault puts resistance within power itself). "For the postmodernists, Lyotard represents the view that in all the advanced societies '(socialist) struggles and their instruments have been transformed into regulators of the system'" (Spencer 166). The result is inevitable determinism and subjection. In his "A Postmodern Fable," he asserts that
Humans are very mistaken in their presuming to be the motors of development and in confusing development with the progress of consciousness and civilisation [sic]. They are its products, vehicles, and witnesses. Even the criticism they may make of development, its inconsistency, its fatality, its inhumanity, even these criticisms are expressions of development and contribute to it. Revolutions, wars, crises, deliberations, inventions, and discoveries are not the 'work of man' but effects and conditions of complexifying. (21)
He goes on to say that in this postmodern fable, "man is not the centre of the world, he is not the first (but the last) among creatures, he is not the master of discourse" (21).
Jameson equates postmodern with 'late capitalism' when we are merely consumers. So, our consuming habits determine our identity. This changes Descartes' 'cogito, ergo sum' to, as Watson says, 'I shop, therefore I am' (63). Besides, it leads to the loss of awareness of reality while favoring pastiche. Pastiche represents a pointless assimilation of different elements already used by others for there is no hope of invention because every subject is already exhausted. Such a phenomenon causes, as Jameson suggests, "the disappearance of the individual subject" (qtd. in Easthope 23). The individual's autonomy is lost with the loss of the real, hence fragmentation. So, "there is no affect, no depth, because there is 'no longer a self present to do the feeling'" (Easthope 23). In his "Postmodern and Consumer Society," Jameson talks about "the 'death of the subject' or ... the end of individualism as such" (25). He contends that "the old individual or individualist subject is 'dead'; and that one might even describe the concept of the unique individual and the theoretical basis of individualism as ideological" (25).
Baudrillard also takes on the notion of the loss of reality. He believes that once there was a time when signs referred to reality through simulation. But, in a postmodern condition, simulacra refer just to other signs and are devoid of any actual referent. This results in 'hyperreality', viz. signs become more real than reality itself. He goes to such an extreme as to announce that the Gulf War did not actually take place and it was just a media simulation. For both Jameson and Baudrillard, as Malpas remarks in his The Postmodern, resistance is again located in the very system they criticize rather being based on a stance outside of it and in an oppositional stance (128). In other words, there is no hope for a genuine resistance. The only remaining choice is subjection.
The last postmodern movement to be discussed here is feminism. Feminisms are not wholly postmodern. What is called 'first wave feminism' is totally a modern approach, with the promises of emancipation and speculation. Theorizing a feminist stance was also very common before feminism's blend with deconstruction and other poststructuralist approaches which defy reason and theory. And the distinction between sex, the biological aspect of being a woman, and gender, socio-culturally constructed feminine roles, is an instance of feminisms' dislike of cultural constructivism. Yet, 'postfeminism' or 'third wave feminism' and 'difference feminism' are particularly postmodern. Their stance is constructivist rather than essentialist; that is to say, they argue that "gender identity, particularly female identity, is not something fixed, but instead a fluid process that cannot be reduced to any essence or norm of behaviour ..." (Sim 7).
Judith Butler is a towering figure among constructivist feminists. She ascribes gender identity not to essence but to performativity. She dispenses with the idea of Hegelian subject. Instead, she substitutes perfomitivity; that is to say, one’s identity (as a woman) is not determined essentially or inherently. It is actually constructed by what one performs. She is careful not to use performance, because it presupposes the existence of a subject. In theatre, for instance, there is a preceding subject, the actress, who performs a role. But in performativity, there is no preceding subject; on the contrary, the subject comes into being when an ascribed performative act is undertaken. In other words, identity is not the cause of action but its effect. For Butler, "gender is 'a kind of impersonation and approximation ... but ... a kind of imitation for which there is no original' ... Gender ... is a performance which constructs that which it claims to explain" (Thornham 46). She even goes as far as asserting that not only (sexual) identities are constructed as effects but bodies are also constructed; they are inscribed upon.
While some feminists such as Rosi Braidotti and Donna Haraway try to reconcile the modern and postmodern feminist stances (Thornham 50), others severely criticize female subjection. The opponents believe that a constructivist perspective does not provide the unifying cause for political activism (Grant 32, Thornham 45). As Thornham paraphrases, Tania Modleski believes that "[t]he kind of disembodied, 'anti-essentialist' feminism ... [is] a luxury open only to the most privileged of women. Only those who have a sense of identity can play with not having it" (Thornham 48). Also, Linda Hutcheon believes,
Postmodernism has not theorised [sic] agency; it has no strategies of resistance that would correspond to the feminist ones. Postmodernism manipulates, but does not transform significance; it disperses but does not (re)construct the structures of subjectivity. Feminisms must. (109)
End of the Postmodern
As we have seen so far, the modern notion of solipsism has been substituted by the postmodern notion of subject position. Moreover, uncertainties have been claimed about the traditional humanism (Easthope 21). The result is the omnipresence of such terms as 'subject,' 'anti-essentialism,' 'spectacle,' 'death of man,' 'death of subject,' 'death of author,' 'anti-humanism,' 'posthumanism,' and 'incommensurability' in postmodern thinking. This is one of the reasons why postmodernism has been censured.
Postmodernism has been criticized for its erosion of identity and essence. We, the subjects, are just constructs defined by various discourses that dominate the épistèmé (Grant 70). There is no essence, self, identity and, hence, agency anymore but only subjection and construction. Subject, resistance and subversion are closely intertwined. For subversion and resistance are not intelligible as far as there is no agency. As the result, the postmodern, depriving the subject from its agency, is actually eroding all hopes of activism, resistance and subversion. In other words, it entangles the postmodern subject in a dead-end structure from which there is no way out. Besides, postmodernism is negative in its approach. That is to say, it is more concerned with rejecting earlier theories than proposing anything positive; it criticizes everything but affirms nothing. The postmodern is more a fault-finder than a theorist (Sim 340, Spencer 162). This is partly because challenging and criticizing needs a firm ground on which to base one's standpoint. Unless there is a firm theoretical framework, nothing can be approached critically. Yet, the postmodern dispenses with all the grounds, such as knowledge, science, theorizing and objectivity, on which a genuine resistance and subversion might be based. Its rhizomatic, dialectic and inclusive nature does not let any exclusion or rejection, and its dismissal of grand narratives, transcendental signifiers, reality and presence does not provide any scale for measurement and reason. All this leads to the postmodern's "easy assimilation or accommodation with the status quo" (Spencer 162).
So, the postmodern has been criticized as "[n]ihilistic, subjectivist, amoral, fragmentary, arbitrary, defeatist, [and] willful ..." (Spencer 162). Interestingly enough, such accusation are not only charged by its critics but also by its main thinkers and proponents. Ihab Hassan, one of postmodern key thinkers, has waged attacks on postmodernism, too. He attended Stuttgart conference and did not even care to mention postmodernism. In his "Beyond Postmodernism: Toward an Aesthetic of Trust," he attributes "fragments, hybridity, relativism, play, parody, pastiche, an ironic, sophisticated stance, [and] an ethos bordering on kitsch and camp" to postmodernism (Hassan 200). His comment on the proponents of postmodernism is also shocking: "Lock ten of its [viz. postmodernism's] proponents in a room, and watch the blood trickle under the door" (199).
Acknowledgment, or even celebration, of diversity, multiplicity and heterogeneity is the most appealing aspect of the postmodern for feminists and ethnicities. Yet, neither is comfortable with the challenge of identity, essentialism and subjecthood that the postmodern brings. Some are even suspicious of it, for it ontologically threatens their newly gained identity and subjecthood. As bell hooks believes,
Considering that it is as subject one comes to voice, then the postmodernist focus on the critique of identity appears at first glance to threaten and close down the possibility that this discourse and practice will allow those who have suffered the crippling effects of colonisation [sic] and domination to gain or regain a hearing. Even if this sense of threat and the fear it evokes are based on a misunderstanding of the postmodernist political project, they nevertheless shape responses. It never surprises me when black folks respond to the critique of essentialism, especially when it denies the validity of identity politics by saying, 'Yeah, it's easy to give up identity, when you got one'. Should we not be suspicious of postmodern critiques of the 'subject' when they surface at a historical moment when many subjugated people themselves coming to voice for the first time. Though an apt and oftentimes appropriate comeback, it does not really intervene in the discourse in a way that alters and transforms. (132)
But, since late 1980s and early 1990s a move away from postmodernism can be discerned. Some, such as Rosenblatt, have even gone to extreme and announced that "on 11 September 2001 ... postmodernism was interred in its rubble" (qtd. in Malpas, 2005: 105-106) and that postmodernism is "dead and buried" [my italics] (Kirby). Kirby does not halt with this mere sting. Regretfully, he goes on to say, "The only place where the postmodern is extant is in children’s cartoons like Shrek and The Incredibles, as a sop to parents obliged to sit through them with their toddlers. This is the level to which postmodernism has sunk; a source of marginal gags in pop culture aimed at the under-eights." Simon During also argues that the 9 11 ended the postmodern (67) while 'globalisation [sic]' was replaced in its stead (64, 81).
Ihab Hassan asks "What was Postmodernism?" [my italics] and replies, "... we hardly know what postmodernism was" [my italics] (199). But, when he talks about what has become of it, he confidently asserts, "... cultural postmodernism has mutated into genocidal postmodernity ... But cultural postmodernism itself has also metastasized into sterile, campy, kitschy, jokey, dead-end games or sheer media hype" (203). As Barry Lewis writes,
De Villo Sloan, in his essay "The Decline of American Postmodernism" (1987) thinks ... "Postmodernism as a literary movement ... is now in its final phase of decadence." Malcolm Bradbury and Richard Ruland, in their sweeping survey From Puritanism to Postmodernism (1991) think so too: "Postmodernism now looks like a stylistic phase that ran from the 1960s to the 1980s." Therefore a large proportion of writing published after 1990 which is dubbed "postmodernist" is really "post-postmodernist", or "post-pomo" for short. (122)
This has led many critics to come round to the opinion that we are already experiencing a "post-postmodern" condition (Sim 14) in which the corrosion of the notion of subject position is pertinent. The notion of subjection is ended and that of subjecthood is revived (Lipina-Berezkina 290). A similar inclination can be observed in the realm of theory and criticism. Literary theories that have been proposed from 1990s on mark a return to liberal humanism or even essentialism. Ecocriticism, which has its roots in the literature of earlier periods, was established in the first half of 1990s. And, Darwinian Literary Studies was introduced in mid-1990s.
Revival of (a modified) Modern 'Subject'
Ecocriticism is concerned with the ecosystem and its relationship with literature. As the result of the urgent eco-crisis, global warning, ozone thinning, arctic meltdown, nuclear waste, and so on, the world as a habitat is deeply endangered. Ecocritics try to impede the destruction of nature, calling for concrete measures to be taken. To achieve their goals, they appeal to science, which was seriously wounded as the result of the postmodern attacks. They believe in the objective world and the objectivity of science through which the concrete world can be known. Also, they do their best to theorize, a taboo in postmodernism, their standpoint to be able to tackle challenges. Humanity is responsible for the destruction brought on nature and should change its attitude toward nature to avoid further damage; in other words, the individual is occupying an agent position.
Ecocritics are among the critics of postmodernism. They oppose the postmodern and poststructuralist constructivism; while, they revive and put to use the modern status of objective sciences. Michael J. McDowell claims that postmodern critical theory has "become so caught up in the analysis of language that the physical world, if not denied outright, is ignored" (qtd. in Kerridge 531). They believe that the postmodern overt emphasis on constructivism leads to the neglect of nature as an objective reality that is at risk (531):
Kate Soper in What is Nature? ... comments that 'it is not language that has a hole in its ozone layer' ... This neat, memorable phrase has been cited by a number of critics to exemplify the emphasis on literal truth, rather than social construction, that marks ecocriticism out from other literary critical schools ... (Garrard 167)
As Martin Lewis maintains, attempts to save as many species as possible is the least that humanity can do to atone for its environmental sins (Garrard 20). Humanity is the responsible agent.
Furthermore, ecocriticism relies on the grand narrative of science and scientific method and creates its own grand narrative to account for environmental issues and provoke activism (Garrard 13). Some ecocritics rely on a modified version of liberal humanism. As Garrad observes, "The challenge for ecocritics is to keep one eye on the ways in which 'nature' is always in some ways culturally constructed, and the other on the fact that nature really exists, both the object and, albeit distantly, the origin of our discourse" (10). Yet, others go as far as the rejection of any sort of constructivism and a return to essentialism. One such strand is ecofeminism which relies on essential differences to further its cause (Garrard 23-27).
Thus, not only does ecocriticism defy the postmodern ideals of little narrative and anti-theorism, but it also embraces humanistic and/or essential standings that are totally anti-postmodern.
Darwinian Literary Studies is another interdisciplinary approach which concentrates on the implications of Darwinian thinking borrowed from biology for literature. First books in this realm appeared in 1995. Darwinian critics trace the literary themes that are concerned with biology and survival through different texts and periods; try to reveal the 'bio-grammar' of literature; investigate the adoptive function of literature and probe the evolution of the genres; study the motives of characters and inspect narrative, its production as well as consumption among other things.
They are also among the critics of postmodern. Boyd believes that 'theory' is "dead" now (1). Jonathan Gottschall, one of the prominent theorists of Darwinian Literary Studies, calls for a paradigm shift and return to human nature in literary studies (259). He argues that, "Darwinian literary scholars have called on evolutionary theory, as well as research on universals in world literatures and cultures, to challenge the postmodern insistence that reality is a chimera and that behaviour and culture are arbitrary constructs" (261). As Carroll observes in the introduction to his Literary Darwinism, adaptationist literary studies first polemically defined itself against poststructuralism and postmodernism.
In Darwinian Literary Studies, identity, human nature and essence are again put in the forefront. Darwinian Literary critics do not study individuals as constructs and postmodern subjects but as autonomous and essential agents. Human mind and nature make moral law, language and culture. In Literary Darwinism, Carroll declares that "personality factors and emotions" are two major determinant of individual identity (127). In his article "The Human Revolution and the Adaptive Function of Literature," Carroll maintains that individual identity is significant not only in ecology but also in the interpretation of texts (45). Individual identities are "shaped partly by innate characteristics ... and partly by the conditions of experience" (45). This is a modified version of liberal humanism in which individual nature and individual experience are accounted for. Thus, human nature becomes the subject of literature (Boyd 12): "They [i.e. adaptationist literary scholars] identify human nature as a biologically constrained set of cognitive and motivational characteristics, and they contend that human nature is both the source and subject of literature" (Carroll, 2004: vi). The reverberations of Descartes’ cogito, ergo sum can be distinctly heard in these remarks.
Similarly, in the continuum of Darwinian Literary Studies also there are two poles: some critics follow a modified version of liberal humanism without wholly dispensing with cultural and social impacts. Foley believes that "... the hunter-gatherer way of life, far from being a deeply stable adaptation, is itself the product of the interaction between ancestral features and new conditions ..." (qtd. in Carroll, 2006: 37). Boyd, also, proposes a bio-cultural model which "implies neither genetic determinism nor limitation to the status quo ..." (1). He believes that such a model would be richer than the solely cultural one. On the other hand, some critics such as Gottschall put a greater emphasis on human nature and essence. Sometimes they wholly dispense with the idea of cultural or social constructivism, reverse the relationship and radically state that "... human culture and behavior grow out of human biology” (Gottschall 255).
The individual was agent and occupied the position of subjecthood in modernism. Such solipsism even went as far as considering human beings as the centre of the world. Individual was the autonomous and rational cause. But, with the advent of postmodernism, the individual was deprived of such a privileged position. Instead, individual was erased and substituted by subject. One was a construct subject to various sorts of determinism, including psychic, linguistic, social and cultural. One was no longer the autonomous self capable of reason, for reason itself was basically questioned and deconstructed. The only medium for human communication, i.e. language, was renounced as being inadequate and biased, but nothing was replaced in its stead. The same thing happened to logic, theory and science. Thus, the world became a locus for free-floating hyper-real signifiers that referred to no external real referent.
But, with the turn of the millennium, postmodernism gave way to a new trend. Human individuality and agency were (at least partly) restored. Some claims even went as far as call for essentialism. Maybe it is the cycle of history foreseen in a model proposed by Lyotard, the postmodern thinker: that history consists of cycles of modernism followed by postmodernism just to be replaced by modernism again (Sim 14). Whether you call it a paradigm shift to 'pseudo-modernism,' 'post-postmodernism,' or 'pragmatism,' shift to the new age has had a significant vestige in the inclinations of literary theory and criticism.
Althusser, Louis. "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses." Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 693–702.
Armstrong, Nancy. "Some Call it Fiction: On the Politics of Domesticity." Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 567–583.
Baudrillard, Jean. "The Gulf War: Is It Really Taking Place?" Postmodern Debates, ed. Simon Malpas. 63–74.
Belsey, Catherine. “General Editor’s Preface.” Postmodern Debates. Ed. Simon Malpas. vii–viii.
Boyd, Brian. "Literature and Evolution: A Bio-Cultural Approach." Philosophy and Literature 29 (2005), 1–23.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York and London, 2007.
Butler, Judith. "Gender Trouble: From Parody to Politics." Postmodern Debates, ed. Simon Malpas. 110–116.
Carroll, Joseph. Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature and Literature. New York and London, 2004.
Carroll, Joseph. "The Human Revolution and the Adaptive Function of Literature." Philosophy and Literature 30 (2006). 33–49.
Colebrook, Claire. Irony. London and New York, 2004.
During, Simon. Cultural Studies: A Critical Introduction. London and New York, 2005.
Easthope, Antony. "Postmodernism and Critical and Cultural Theory." Ed. Sim 15–27.
Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. London and New York, 2004.
Gottschall , Jonathan. "The Tree of Knowledge and Darwinian Literary Study." Philosophy and Literature 27 (2003). 255–268.
Grant, Iain Hamilton. "Postmodernism and Politics." Ed. Sim 28–40.
Grant, Iain Hamilton. "Postmodernism and Science and Technology." Ed. Sim 65–77.
Hassan, Ihab. "Beyond Postmodernism: Toward an Aesthetic of Trust." Ed. Stierstorfer 199–212.
Homer, Sean. Jacques Lacan. London and New York, Routledge, 2005.
hooks, bell. "Postmodern Blackness." Postmodern Debates, ed. Malpas. 128–135.
Hutcheon, Linda. "Postmodernism and Feminisms." Postmodern Debates, ed. Malpas. 101–109.
Jameson, Fredric. "Postmodern and Consumer Society." Postmodern Debates. Ed. Malpas. 22–36.
Kerridge, Richard. "Environmentalism and Ecocriticism." Literary Theory and Criticism, ed. Patricia Waugh. New York, 2006. 530–543.
Kirby, Alan. "The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond." Philosophy Now 58 (Nov./Dec. 2006). June 16, 2009. www.philosophynow.org/issue58/58kirby.htm.
Lewis, Barry. "Postmodernism and Literature." Ed. Sim 121–134.
Lipina-Berezkina, Victoria. "American Postmodernist Literature at the Turn of the Millennium: The Death and Return of the Subject." Ed. Stierstorfer 269–290.
Lyotard, Jean-François. "A Postmodern Fable." Postmodern Debates, ed. Malpas. 12–21.
Lyotard, Jean-François. "Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?" Postmodern Debates, ed. Malpas. 53–62.
Malpas, Simon. "Introduction." Postmodern Debates, ed. Malpas. 1–11.
Malpas, Simon, ed. Postmodern Debates. Basingstoke, 2001.
Malpas, Simon. The Postmodern. London and New York, 2005.
Montrose, Louis. "Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture." Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 584–591.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Basingstoke, 1973.
Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. CD. New York, 1999.
Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.
Royle, Nicholas. Jacques Derrida. London and New York, 2003.
Salih, Sara. Judith Butler. London and New York, 2002.
Sim, Stuart. "Postmodernism and Philosophy." Ed. Sim 3–14.
Sim, Stuart, ed. The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism. New York, 2001.
Sinfield, Alan. "Cultural Materialism, Othello, and the Politics of Plausibility." Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 743–762.
Sinfield, Alan. Cultural Politics – Queer Readings. 2nd ed. London and New York, 2005.
Spencer, Lloyd. "Postmodernism, Modernity, and the Tradition of Dissent." Ed. Sim 158–169.
Stierstorfer, Klaus, ed. Beyond Postmodernism: Reassessments in Literature, Theory, and Culture. Berlin and New York, 2003.
Thornham, Sue. "Postmodernism and Feminism." Ed. Sim 41–52.
Tong, Rosemarie. Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction. 3rd ed. Boulder, Colo., 2009.
Watson, Nigel. "Postmodernism and Lifestyles." Ed. Sim 53–64.