|dc.description.abstract||The aims of the thesis are to establish the concept of metamodernism in literature, and to consider its wider applicability within the arts and society generally. The thesis examines the features of metamodernism in light of William Blake’s model of the self, with a focus on two novels written in the second half of the twentieth century.
For Blake, the self is a constellation of faculties, among which reason, imagination, and emotions are paramount and interconnected. I propose that an increasing awareness of the importance of this interconnectedness, and a balance between reason on the one hand and imagination and emotions on the other – which Blake regarded as a transformative “awakening” of the soul – is essential to a metamodern sensibility.
Aspects of a paradigm change from postmodernism to metamodernist sensibility have been noted by the philosophers Stephen Toulmin and Luce Irigaray, whose thinking provides a theoretical framework for the thesis. In Return to Reason, Toulmin advocates a type of rationality that forsakes the domain of the abstract, the decontextualised, and the impersonal, and is instead informed by care for the other. Toulmin’s refocussed rationality corresponds with Irigaray’s grounded, interpersonal, feminine subjectivity, which she proposes as an alternative to the more abstract masculine subjectivity. While masculine subjectivity is generalised as logical and hierarchical, linear and object-oriented, feminine subjectivity is identified as emotion-based, non-linear, and people-oriented.
These influences provide the elements of a metamodern sensibility that integrates both the rational and the emotional. Their interaction may be observed in Michel Tournier’s Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique (1967 – hereinafter Vendredi) and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997). Based on textual analysis of these works and others, the architecture of the metamodern self is developed in this thesis.
With respect to Vendredi, I suggest that Tournier rewrites the Enlightenment story of Robinson Crusoe’s trust in reason, and reason’s ability to ground science, technology, and progress. Tournier’s innovation consists in showing that these masculine-associated traits fail to establish a sense of fulfilment. Tournier’s Robinson experiences joy when he abandons the dream of progress and excessive rationality, and learns to live spontaneously and creatively with Vendredi’s guidance. Nonetheless, bracketing reason and the subsequent following of emotions do not provide lasting satisfaction, for Robinson is bitterly disillusioned after the defection of Vendredi. Tournier’s protagonist achieves a sense of serenity only after he has grown disenchanted with the ordered world of rationality, and when he has overcome his emotions, especially his disappointment. He experiences an epiphany that indicates that neither reason nor emotions can provide solutions unless they are integrated at a superior level, deriving from experience.
A similar integration of reason and emotion is portrayed in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, which tells the story of the twins Rahel and Estha, “one soul in two bodies,” each an imperfect personification of the reason-emotions dichotomy. Their story – despite positive aspects such as self-transformation, coming to terms with the past, reevaluating traditions – demonstrates the tragedy that invariably accompanies the separation of self, and the disastrous effects of self-justifying reasoning. My thesis emphasises the role of the feminine – represented by Rahel – in recovering unity.
The dynamics of the self in Tournier’s and Roy’s novels signal a paradigm shift that surpasses both modernity and postmodernity: modernity was characterised by a rejection of tradition and excessive reliance on (male-dominated) reason; postmodernity challenged traditional wisdom by developing sophisticated ways of ironically distancing the reader or viewer from previous texts or works of art. This new paradigm, which I call metamodern, is an integration of reason and sensibility, in which the self transforms; the self’s journey is recorded in “tellable stories” that bridge established modern and postmodern dichotomies, where interconnections, the feminine, and innocence are valued.||