Postmodernism and Joyce Carol Oates

Essay by Spey88University, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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On Postmodernism

For my short essay I will focus on a postmodern reading of Joyce Carol Oates, "How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Corrections and Began My Life Over Again." More precisely, as a postmodern text. Postmodernism refers to texts that reject coherence in a narrative, objective truth, and show doubts about the reliability of language to communicate. Postmodern techniques that are evident in Oates story were fragmented narrative, disrupted time sequence, disunified subject, and metanarrative.

The first aspect I will talk about is fragmented or nonsense narrative. To me these terms are pretty self explanatory. Fragment narrative is a narrative given in bits and pieces, as opposed to a straightforward linear narrative. It also uses fragment and run on sentences, or to put it another way, tends to disregard a lot of syntactical and grammatical rules. Nonsense narrative most of the time falls under fragmented narrative too, it is a narrative that has no clear meaning, yet can have shades of meaning and ambiguous meaning.

Nonsense narrative (and fragment narrative) is also characterized by a lack of coherence relative to writing in the modern period. The first example of the story I will use is in the very beginning. Directly under the title there is a small "paragraph" of fragment or nonsense narrative. I don't even really know what to call it and due to the capitalization of most of the words it seems to be an extended secondary title. It says, "Notes for an Essay for an English Class at Baldwin Country Day School; Poking Around in Debris; Disgust and Curiosity; A Revelation of the Meaning of Life; A Happy Ending (pg 522)." The reader is not sure what to make of this; it is in fragment form and at first glance...