Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 14. Nr. September 2005

Is Subject Dead in Contemporary Literature?

Victoria Lipina-Berezkina (Dnepropetrovsk, Ankara)


The paper focuses on a problem of continuing interest: the problem of the self as it is involved in contemporary American and Russian literature.

Whenever we consider the nature of subjectivity in art, we first of all think of the theme of the self, the art of creating the hero's psychological world, which usually is the main criterion in aesthetic and ethical appreciations of art. However, 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 poststucturalists: 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, which is seen in misreadings of postmodernist complexity, many believe that in Postmodernism man 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. Could this be true or could this be a fallacy of literary criticism? The latter seems more probable. One of the reasons of this misunderstanding is connected with the application of the traditional category of subjectivity with its focus on personality, through which classical and modernist art is usually viewed, to postmodernism – the art that transcends all conventions.

Elsewhere I have studied the appearance of the subject nearly two centuries before the time which Foucault argues is its birthday (1). Now my focus is on what happens to it in today's literature – my focus, so to say, is on the other end of the scale (2). I try to explore both the critical trends in conceptualizing subjectivity and artistic subjectivity as the fiction of selfhood, pointing out the contradictions existing between them.

The aim of this study is not to add new examples in order to confirm a much privileged theory on the decentralization, fragmentation and the death of the subject in contemporary art, a theory, which apparently reached its dead-end in declarations like Baudrillard's: Contemporary art is utterly worthless (3). There is no need to deny that Postmodernism reconsiders and re-enacts all literary conventions and this one – the humanistic subject – in the first place. I would like to change the focus of the analysis and to investigate what happens to art when it shifts its centre, as I believe postmodernism does, from the deep level of character, typical of psychological realism and modernism, to the level beyond individual personality, which I define as a level of mentality – a complex integrity of the mental and spiritual orientations of literary character, of author and of reader. Not the selfless, decentered, fragmented character of a literary hero, but the situation of Man and Humanity is the subject of this art today.

In postmodernist art at the turn of the second Millennium a new emphasis is laid on the writer's authorial self-consciousness, on the notions of originality, uniqueness and universality. It is felt in John Barth's criticism of the death-of-the-author theory, advocated by Roland Barthes, whose books still have a great resonance. What the French Poststructuralist believes to be only a “paper-I” (4), is for the American writer full of meaning and does not exclude the presence of the author as the subject of art. Barth, both a theoretician and a practitioner of Postmodernism, in the essay with a polemical title “The Self in Fiction or ‘That Ain't No Matter. That Is Nothing'”, argues against this death verdict, this “'fall from innocence' on the part of literature, which Roland Barthes seems to date from about 3 p.m. on a Tuesday in 1853 or thereabouts and which he exaggerates in Writing Degree Zero (5). Here Barth analyses “the proper role” of authorial self-consciousness from Don Quixote to postmodernist fiction and arrives at the conclusion that authorial self-consciousness does not disappear but, on the contrary, is foregrounded as a “performing authorial self” and this self “is as self-knowing, and self-controlled, perhaps even as self-effacing, as it is self-conscious” (6). The writer differentiates between the authorial self-as-character and a broader phenomenon of self-consciousness, pointing out that the latter has greater provenance today. In his novel Lost in the Funhouse he playfully rejects this important dimension of art (“Oh God comma I abhor self cosciousness” (7)), demonstrating that the “innocence” of the self-conscious author is well lost and that a new type of postmodernist authorial self-consciousness is born. We must acknowledge that many things in art are better known to the artists themselves from the inside of their creative process. The interviews with Don Barthelme, Barth, Sukenick, Federman, Dixon, or Barth's Friday books, as well as the writers' metaliterary fiction, reveal their deepest concern with the nature and destiny of art today. These are good arguments for assuming that in Postmodernism the authorial self-consciousness does not disappear, but on the contrary, reaches an incomparable height, becoming “an extension, an attenuation, an aftermath, an anticlimax, or an adversary reaction” (8) to the former type of self-consciousness. The following analysis of the works will focus on the thesis that the author does not disappear from the text. What happens is that writer invents a variety of artistic techniques for making his presence invisible: but an author's involvement can always be scanned by the readers. The author's self-effacing strategy is always subtly self-conscious and to the highest degree.

The third important feature of this new mode of subjectivity is connected with a growing reader's function in activating the humanistic strategies of the contextual network, and his presence in the text as a site of meaning. Henry James envisaged these changes, when he equated a reader with a character: “The writer makes the readers… as he makes his characters” (9). I shall try to consider these three aspects of the new type of subjectivity more or less together and to analyse not only the ways postmodernist literature undermines the centrality of this traditional aesthetic category of art, displaying its “used-upness” (10), but first and foremost how this art problematizes it, recognizing the differences, and discovers new horizons in exploring Man and his subjectivity outside the conventional character-centre. This latter aspect of the problem is either entirely neglected in contemporary criticism or reduced to the problematics of language.

In classical literature before modernism, a literary hero is treated as a real living creature, who has his/her character, and is depicted in actions, conversations – that is, from the outside as well as from the inside: through inner monologue, represented speech, etc. The character satisfied the critical expectations and matched the sense of external reality. Different literary conventions are typical of different literary movements: Hamlet's soliloquies, Stendal's characterizations that describe the secret motives of his heroes, Henry James's “house of fiction”. In realism a hero is both the subject and the object of author's observations.

The postmodernist writers faced these new challenges, which John Barth outlined in his manifesto of Postmodernism “The Literature of Exhaustion”: the task is to supersede the discoveries both of their realistic and of their modernistic fathers (11). If in realistic literature “reality” is unconnected with personality, then in modernist literature the reality is what Mrs. Brown sees and feels. Virginia Woolf in her famous essay “Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Brown” (12) focuses on how it is important to depict Mrs. Brown herself. In her books she registers by the interiorized words the ways characters come into being. For her “so real” meant different things, but never “so lifelike”. The modernists discovered a new type of subjectivity, which is connected with the language of consciousness – “the atoms as they fall” (13). It is through this language of mind that the characters are constructed. However this age discovered that language is not a transparent, but an opaque glass, and the truth is unattainable. The modernists began to feel dramatically that words limit the artist's attempts to represent a character's “whatness”. A new generation of writers responded to this drama of modernism undramatically. They realized that almost everything has been used to achieve this goal and feel that this goal is unattainable by the modernist tools, that the highest peak in this exploration of Man has been reached, the literary possibilities are exhausted. The postmodernist artist asks the question: how can this used-upness of everything be transcended? And the answer was found. It was articulated by John Barth: “to use ultimacies against themselves” and to accomplish a “new human work” (14). In “The Literature of Exhaustion” Barth ironically noted: “'Somebody ought to make a novel with scenes that pop up, like old children's books,' one says, with the implication that one isn't going to bother doing it oneself” (15). Whom he has in mind is obvious. The absence of “round characters”, which Forster believed to be the highest artistic accomplishment of any artist (16), is not a lack of talent in Postmodernism, but the sign of a new artistic strategy and radical innovation.

In comparison with the realistic “round character” and with the modernistic interiorized one, the postmodernist character seems depersonalised. But my main argument is that it could not be judged by the principles we apply to the analysis of classical literature, when we study the fullness of the hero's psychological presence in the text. If judged by this criterion we have to admit that postmodernism destroys and banishes this humanistic subject and that Eagleton et al (17) are right: the situation of crisis in the study of man has been reached by contemporary art. The man is dead and the art is worthless. However the panorama of contemporary American literature gives witness that such concepts are false, that they simplify the complexities and neglect the creative potential of cultural practices today.

Now postmodernist writers believe that any psychologically precise definition of character limits the possibility of an artist, as determinism, typical of realism, limited that art. Postmodernism undermines the very category of reality, central to Realism and important for Modernism, on which or through which the characters and events were projected. William Gass declares that character “is not a mirror or window onto life” (18). John Barth in his voluminous novel The Tidewater Tales. A Novel , introducing his hero – Peter Sagamore (whose name points to his real function in the novel: telling stories, sagas) – characterizes him, parodying the literary convention: “Peter Sagamore, 39 years old and 8 ½ months old, and his wife “Katherine Sherritt Sagamore, 39 years old and 8 ½ months pregnant” (19). The human situation and not an individual human destiny is the writer's focus: “'It is a story of women and men/Like us: like us in love,' Kathrine says” (20). In Barth's books, especially in Chimera ; The Tidewater Tales. A Novel ; The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor ; On with the Story. Stories , the writer starts the rediscovery of words and stories about Man and humanity in general. In The Tidewater Tales. A Novel the characters are retelling, reinventing, filling in the gaps of their beloved episodes from Homer's “Odyssey” with its essentially human situations: love, faithfulness, jealousy, seduction etc. The conventional psychological identity of a literary hero is substituted for by his creativity and responsiveness to the sign of humanity – Homer's “Odyssey”. Nick reinvents the end of “Odyssey”: in his version Odysseus and Nausicaa are united and sail to a place called “The Place Where Time Stands Still”, “where East may be East and West West, but where Past and Future disappear” (21). This situation is connected not only with what Nick and Katherine aimed to do when they escaped from the marriage ceremony on their boat called ”Story”, but also with the possibility of living their life in the process of story-telling (“we live stories and live in them” (22)), and thus to overcome death and be forever young. Through this artistic interconnection with Homer's “Odyssey” Barth's characters acquire an allhuman dimension, outside the limits of their physical, psychological and social identities, which are parodically subverted at the beginning of the novel. Barth creates the saga of an allhuman life within our culture's mode of expression. Any certain identity is undermined and blurred. Instead, a complexity of mental and spiritual orientations typical of Man is created. Postmodernism finds new ways to introduce human matters, dramatizing our cultural memories. I suggest that this phenomenon be defined as depersonalized subjectivity, which rises above the personal and aspires to the essentially human. It is based neither on the technique of psychological descriptions, introduced by the realists, nor on the stream-of-consciousness, explored by the modernists. It is created by the authenticity of conversations and what is of primary importance – by an aesthetic responsiveness to Art, the sign of humanity which is common to everyone. It confirms the theory that the narrative discourse is one of the routes of the return of the subject, and that it serves rather than supplants the human subject (23).

Another distinctive feature of postmodernist subjectivity is that postmodernist characters do not suffer the drama of lost identities, as the personages of the existentialist novels do (24). Postmodernism seeks to reduce and subvert this problem of lost identity as an exhausted theme. Barth ironically deconstructs this search for identity in his first novel The Floating Opera, creating a postmodernist parody. The main character, Todd, writes the death-Inquiry, the life-Inquiry, the self-Inquiry and finally comes to the conclusion that if there is no reason to live, then there is no reason to die. Thus, the dramatic search for the meaning of existence is rejected. Postmodernist poetics of subjectivity shifts its centre, focusing not on characters – there are no characters in the meaning of their full psychological presence in the text – but on the human situation as the state of humanity, which is beyond personal. I suggest that the formula “the subject in crisis” could be accepted, if understood dialectically: not as the demise of the humanistic subject, but as an artistic quest for new and unexhausted ways of understanding the situation of contemporary man. In this case the concept of “crises” is diametrically opposite to destruction.

Barth's recent works reveal the writer's involvement with the depiction of the state of humanity in the world. What Bellamy considers to be the obvious aspect of the newest realistic fiction, “the emphasis on suffering or feeling, return to an interest in emotion...” (25) has never been alien to Postmodernism with its pluralistically opened aesthetics. What has been changed now is the degree of saturation of these above-mentioned elements and the growing concern with the problems of truth in art . In the centre of one of Barth's latest books On with the Story. Stories, there is a story of love and loss (it is about a desperate loving couple vacationing at their “last resort”) and the idea of the humanising power of art. The book opens with a kind of prologue “Check-in”, and the first chapter, “Ad Infinitum: A Short Story ”, centres on the dramatic situation of bringing the “happiness-ending news”:

The news is bad indeed... The news is of that sort that in a stroke eliminates all agreeable plans and expectations – indeed, all prospects of real pleasure from the moment of its communication...All that is over now: for her already; for him and for them as soon as she relays the news to him... (26)

Nothing is described through character creation or an action-plot narrative. The tragic story is revealed through the imaginative energy of language and generative intertextuality: Keats's “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is inscribed both directly and indirectly into Barth's text, which is also centred on the key problem of art: the correlation between art and life. In the process of story-telling Barth creates his version of “freeze-framing” art. But he does not obliterate life (as is usually believed to be the main postmodernist feature); what is obliterated by the force of his story-telling art is the “real life's end”. In his story “the story-in-process” freezes the “happiness-ending news”. A wife will never tell her husband, “her partner, lover, best friend and companion” (25) the “death verdict” of his medical examination. The whole story is recognisably human. The narration is conducted on two levels. It reveals the intensity of the psychological situation when the wife learns the truth. She sees her husband from her room, while listening to the terrible news on the phone. Her feelings are not described directly: this “distancing” (by way of fixing the familiar details which she sees from the window, by the “intrusion” of the narrator's commonplace remarks) reveals the desperateness of the human situation:

There is, however no assimilating what she has just been told – or, if there is, that assimilation is to be measured in years, even decades, not on moments, days, week, months, seasons. She must now get up from her chair. Walk through their modest, pleasant house to the sundeck, cross the lawn to the daylily garden down the lake or pond, and tell him the news. She regards him for some moments longer, aware that as he proceeds with gardening, his mind is almost certainly on the phone call. (27)

On the second level of narrative there is her husband's reluctant awareness of the meaning of the phone call, his efforts to overcome the thoughts about it by concentration on the “intricacy and tenacity of those rhizomes”: “With such reflections he distracts himself, or tries or pretends to distract himself, as she steps unhurriedly from the sundeck and begins to cross the lawn, himward” (28). Such a design of non-ending has a different function from metafiction's. It is neither an alternative method of aesthetic ordering nor a technique of deliberate ambiguity. The artistic parallelism to Keats's idea of the power of art (“Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair” (29)) emphasises an important implication of Barth's text. This story, like a Grecian urn, immortalises life and, in the context of the facts of human existence that are realistically depicted in the story, acquires a new dimension; it is a story about the saving power of art : “Forever they'll go on closing the distance between them – as they have in effect been doing ... since day One of their connection – yet never close it altogether: asymptotic curves that eternally approach but never meet” (30). Barth uses a rich variety of postmodernist techniques to stress new problematics. So the postmodernist poetics serves a new humanistic content, revitalizing the themes which were always important for art and artists. The postmodernist writer, like Keats, discovers the truth within the context of art itself. In Keats's ode, art and life are united by the power of poetic imagination: “What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?/What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?/What pipes and timrels? What wild ecstasy?” (31) John Barth re-enacts the same situation, “Where exactly on our planet are these people? What pond or lake is that beyond their pleasant lawn, its olive surface just now marbled with springtime yellow pollen? ...What sort of telephone solicitors disturb their evidently rural peace?” (32) Reproducing the same structure of crescendoing questions, he demonstrates that the story-telling is also the art capable of saving love, happiness and life: “we need only slow it, delay it, atomize it, flash back in time as the woman strolls forward in space with her terrible news” (33). Here he creates the artistic parallelism to “Ode”, in which the imagination of the poet makes “Cold Pastoral” equal life. If Keats at the beginning of the 19 th century wanted to believe that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”, then Barth at the end of the millennium, transcending his earlier postmodernist strategy of the predominance of fiction over life (“Fact is Fantasy”), comes to the rediscovery of the significant truth of art, stressing with dramatic psychological intensity that art is the only saving power in the world of tragic realities. Here Barth is accentuating not so much the situation of art, as the situation of man and humanity. The subject is no longer equated with an individual character. Personality becomes not a sign of something but foregrounds psychologically, ethically, and aesthetically the significant moment that gives the text a human dimension.

A different artistic tendency to create the subject beyond the personal is represented by the works of Stephen Dixon, who is undeservedly neglected by serious criticism. His mode of writing receives different definitions from “realistic” (34) to “magic realism” (35). Dixon elaborates a new type of subjectivity – subjectivity without hero , psychologism without individualization. One of the most shocking of Dixon's experiments, which could be called Subjectivity Degree Zero , is his story “The Hole”, with its focus on Lynch Mob Mentality and on the crisis of humanity in the world. The text resembles a script or a recording of authentic conversations, which are centred on an act of terrorism. This immediately connects us with the reality we live in: the recent violent terrorist attacks in the USA and in a Moscow theatre. In Dixon's story some school children and their teacher are entombed under the collapsed planetarium building, which is on fire. The rescue team made a quick small hole wide enough for a child to slip out, but not enough for the teacher. The parents outside are crying and hurrying up the rescue operation. The climax of the situation reaches its apogee, when the teacher blocks the hole, not allowing the children to get out. Thus he tries to force the rescue team to dig a hole wide enough for himself.

The whole situation and its moral truth is double-coded by the author. In the course of negotiations, the teacher declares: “… my students also learned a vital lesson about life I never could have taught them in class on how to stay alive and deal their fellow human beings in an emergency situation” (36). His speech acquires the rhetoric of political discourse: ”how no person should be discriminated against because of physiognomy, ethic, political, geographical, or employment group, his or her age, colour, religion, thought, health” (37). Thus, instead of self-sacrificial action – political demagogy. The double-coding of the whole situation becomes intensified and turns into the test on humanity for everyone in the scene: the characters, the narrator, and the reader as the main target of this test. Everyone is supposed to experience the mental and emotional shock.

At the end of the story, though everyone is safe, the mob is still wild with revenge. Being scared, the teacher disappears in the hole, and no one, not even his son and a protecting policeman, can coax him up. The revengeful mob lynches his son instead:

They caught the son, dragged him back, kicked at his head and body till it seemed all his limbs, ribs and face were broken, then hung him upside down by his feet from one of the tree branches… and beat his already unrecognized face with their handbags… (38)

The image both of extreme inhuman violence and of human extreme despair (women's handbags) is created by the camera-eye technique, by the absence of any comments and descriptive adjectives. But inside it there is pain and awe. Nothing is said about the father, the teacher. He was found neither dead nor alive, but there is no other exit from the place. Was he a witness to his son's lynching? Could the parents' act of lynching the innocent boy be justified? Could the teacher's action be justified? How to understand a policeman's approval? The openness and uncertainty, the plurality of all possible answers and moral judgements, is constructed by the poetics of this text, which does not provide any single perspective. Dixon creates the text, which is not a mirror for understandable reality. The questions “who is right?” and “Why are the children the victims of terrorism?” remain unresolved for the readers, not because the answers are not in the text, but because they simply do not exist for this situation. The cognitive hesitation moves from one truth (or seeming truth) to hesitation and uncertainty in it, to a new version of truth and new hesitation. This epistemological uncertainty points to the problem of the infiniteness of meaning, and suggests that any judgement looks like primitive simplicity. The combination of concrete human situation and “cognitive efforts” to understand it creates an inner space of the text with its main image of disturbed certainties about the nature of the self and the role of consciousness. The author, the narrator, the character, and the reader, who also becomes the function of the text, are all involved, mentally and spiritually, in understanding the situation of Man and the nature of evil. The narrative dramatizes their relationships. Thus, within a small scope of the story the dynamics of implied thoughts and moral dilemma are reproduced.

Does this mean that postmodernist art is antihuman, if it does not nail down the truth? Dixon's text could be a strong argument in the debate “Can Postmodernism Condemn terrorism?” (39). After the events of September 11, statements were being run that Postmodernism was responsible for the fact, because it created the climate which led to it. What is deliberately overlooked is the complexity of postmodernist art: its relativism and ambiguity are an artistic strategy, but not the conviction of an artist that there are no human values worth defending. This art has its specific artistic strategies and unconventional ways for serious thoughts about the crisis of humanity in the world. “It is one thing to say “Values are only relative”; quite another, and more thrilling, to assert: ”There are relative values!” (40) – this statement of Barth's character in The Floating Opera is an illuminating explanation of this very important difference, and it can be read as an answer to the critics, who should have known better the culture they are blaming. The literature may pretend to be indifferent to human values, but its profound obsession is man and his destiny. Half a century ago Robbe-Grillet, a theoretician of the nouveau roman , examined this strategy: “the function of art is never to illustrate a truth – or even interrogation – known in advance, but to bring into the world certain interrogation…not yet known as such to themselves” (41).

The postmodernist writers, realizing that the author cannot be omniscient in his knowledge of reality, that Balzak's principle of universality is naïve and false, discovered new techniques to make themselves invisible. But still, the writers' positions can always be scanned by the readers. The postmodernist writers explore new ways of creating and dramatizing connections between the text and reader, between the hero and the reader's response – these connections are not mediated by the author's explanations, but they do exist in the inner space of the text itself. The writers are trying to preserve human matter , challenging and reconstituting only the place of the character and the omniscient author as the main literary conventions. The attitude of the postmodernist writer to man and his world is serious and tragic but without pathos and open emotionality. Selfhood, the good, and art exist as intertwined themes. Dixon's story is good proof that Stanley Fish is right in his cover article in the July issue of Harper's magazine “Postmodern Warfare: The Ignorance of our Warrior Intellectuals” (42), claiming that “our warrior intellectuals” should be more considerate about the nature of Postmodernism and the drama of truth.

Dixon's story is a test on humanity that questions: what it is to be human in today's world. The principle of postmodernist subjectivity here is rooted in understanding the variety and changeability of the process of human understanding. The subjective inner space of the unrealised, unsaid versions of Dixon's story displays the self as insufficient cogito . The indeterminacy of the reader's response to the event and the character is the main feature of postmodernist open subjectivity. This constant combination of concrete human situations and cognitive efforts to understand them proves that the postmodernist version of literary subjectivity has humane value. It also gives grounds to speak about the new humanistic problematics of postmodernism at the end of the Millennium. In Postmodernism, author, narrator, character and reader are all involved in understanding the human situations, and their relationship is subtly dramatized.

The lack of depth in the depiction of the characters (no one has names or personal features) is not a technique of dehumanisation, as it is believed to be typical of Postmodernism, but the development of the discoveries made by Eliot, Huxley and Beckett, who felt a zero inner world of their “hollow” contemporaries. In Dixon's story, “the hole” stands not only for literal meaning (the father literally disappeared in the hole). It also develops its inner meaning through associative expansion: Dixon shows that man's lack of depth is dangerous and that the hollow in his inner self could be filled with the inhuman. The postmodernist writers do not deny the complexity of human reality as the subject of art, what changes is the principle of approaching it, the ways we read character and text. Probably this was what Robbe-Grillet meant when he argued that “man's situation in the world is no longer the same today as it was a hundred years ago, and not at all because our description is too neutral, too objective, since in fact it is not neutral at all…” (43). At first glance postmodernist texts may seem anti-psychological and anti-subjective. But that is not so. The postmodernists transcended the discoveries of Proust, Joyce, Woolf and Lawrence. The core of their new artistic strategy is to install a new subject as a generic Man, as a trans-personal one, by subverting his traditional psychological representations and by way of deepening the narrative inwardness. They challenge only the place of literary character as the main literary convention of literature, simultaneously enshrining man as author and as reader. The latter's position becomes even much stronger. Dixon's mode of writing is the case.

Dixon started experimenting with this Subjectivity Degree Zero in the story “Said” (1980). This type of poetics could be called the poetics of absence : there are no characters in the traditional sense of the word, there is no plot as event, there are nearly no other words but the monotonous repetition of the word “said”: “…he said, she said. She left the room he followed her. He said, she said. She locked herself in the bathroom, he slammed the door with his fists. He said. She said nothing” (44). Here Dixon is probing how absolute this absence of a literary character could be and discovers other means to intimate the self. Nothing is said directly. But the reader imagines everything that is. Against the background of this facelessness, the human situations seem intensely and intimately psychological. The play with the homophone “said” as “sad” intensifies this effect. Apparently, Barth had this very human matter in mind, when he declared that “the self is not transcendable” (45).

In a much more aesthetically complex manner Dixon develops this “said” strategy and at the same time questions it, in his recent novel 30 Pieces of a Novel (1999) (46). In this very unconventional text the writer creates an exhaustible multiplicity of human situations. However he does this outside the concept of character and outside the tendency to equate it with consciousness. The main character, or a surrogate narrator, is Gould Bookbinder, who is literally, compositionally, a binding means for these 30 Pieces of a Novel, and he is constructed by them. This voluminous book (672 pages) opens with the statement that undermines both the convention of plot as event and the reality of character as the subject of art:

There is something that comes back at moments that for the most part don't seem to have anything to do with the incidents. When he was standing in the bathroom yesterday taking a shower. Well, now that he refers to it he sees where it could sort of be explained why it came back there… (47)

There is an obvious disconnection between the first and the second sentences, which reproduces a stream-of-consciousness, a picture of the mind. The intonation of oral speech, the elliptical syntax signify that the beginning is the direct inner speech of Gould Bookbinder, though no inverted commas are present, no other specifications are given. This interchanging flow of narrative voices – an implied author's voice and the hero's indirectly direct speech, which is transcribed as an authentic voice – represents the main artistic strategy of this text. This emphasis on “moments” of being, “incidents”, perceptions, which are ungraspable with the precise word of feeling (“this is something”), this effect of the presence of the mind, reminds us of the modernists and especially of Virginia Woolf's aesthetic principle: to catch “the thing itself before it has been made anything” (48). However this recognizably modernist technique, these “moments of being” – the phrase which was coined by Woolf for the life of perceptions – is deliberately subverted by Dixon. The main character, Gould Bookbinder, acquires a new dimension, becoming both the playful and serious binding strategy of the writer, and a learned activity of the reader, bringing together two types of texts and two types of cultures. Later in the text, when Gould Bookbinder speaks about his profession as a literature teacher, this strategy is clearly explicated: “I'm talking about teaching and understanding the subtleties and particulars of literature and making the connections and seeing its big rich” (49). We may suspect that the writer wants his readers to do the same and that this is the main artistic strategy of the book and the main principle of character-creation. Dixon problematizes the concept of the subject and introduces a new “binding” strategy of reading it. It is our cultural memory that binds and connects.

This coexistence of different types of culture in the inner space of the book is different both from the literary reminiscences, typical of Romantic art, and from the inscribed intertextuality, typical of Modernism and Postmodernism. In Dixon's text this coexistence is very subtle and is never explicit, at no time does the writer display the references for binding. It is the reader's refined subjective responsiveness and cultural knowledge that can create the situation for binding, understanding, and delight. It has nothing to do with the parodic intertextuality, which is usually considered to be the main characteristic of Postmodernism. Dixon's strategy manifests a subtler and a distinctly different type of heightened authorial self-consciousness, which is so unlike the “delights in replay” (50). His replaying beyond the obvious is very elusive and needs more intellectual and emotional energy on the side of the readers, the refined readers, we must stress. In this novel there are no references to Joyce's Ulysses , but what is created by Dixon is a new type of postmodernist epic about Everyman in his commonness and recognisable humanity. Gould Bookbinder is a new version of Everyman at the end of the twentieth century. The mythic archetype of human life as an eternal journey is a connecting link between Homer, “Everyman” (an allegorical poem written at the end of the 15th century), Joyce, Barth and Dixon. The life of Gould Bookbinder is humdrum and devoid of heroism, but, like Leopold Bloom's (51), is full of humane essences . However, the difference exists: Gould's life is never projected through his perceptions, his “moments of being”. The place of Dixon's character as subject is feeble. He is only an accumulation of self-said stories with the variety of “Ends” (such is the title of the closing section of the novel), which constitutes the larger story of Life, a Story of stories, so to say. Gould Bookbinder is Everyman: we do not know his nationality, his religion, his social surroundings. The details are very contradictory. At the beginning of the book he is a salesman, a literature teacher and a scholar at the end. But we could read inside his “he said”, which registers both humdrum everydayness, and his never ceasing longing for love, intimacy, bonds.

Though being not personified and not individualized, being never shown through the aesthetic immediacy of individualized perceptions (like Woolf's or Joyce's characters), Gould is not just a technical “binding” means. In his life everything is mixed: love, despair, divorce, carnal desires. The image of life, which is created in the book, resembles so much Joyce's image of man's odyssey, today and ever, in overcoming the burden and “mishaps” (52) of everydayness, disconnecting impulses. Dixon comes to the same humanistic idea, using a different artistic strategy, creating the art, which is able to overcome its own exhaustion, the art which is not devoid of humanistic impulses typical of classical tradition. That is why there are grounds to state that American literature at the end of the century does not dehumanize the subject but discovers a new type of humanism, a new concept of self-freedom, showing, what enormous efforts are needed to endure it.

Unlike the works of Woolf, Joyce and Lawrence, where the stream-of-consciousness melts the line between the world and mind, Dixon never reveals the subjective world of his character, yet the humanistic matter does not disappear. It is an exaggeration to consider, as Vattimo does, that the postmodernist subject always searches its consciousness (53). This statement is true for Modernist art: for modernist writers the subjective self is full of meaning and is connected with consciousness. The postmodernists, realizing that no level of man and his consciousness could be explored by Art, turned either to play with subconsciousness, parodying the classical texts (as in Barth's The Floating Opera, Tidewater Tales. A Novel ), or substituted for it by the infiniteness of human situations. The characters in Barth's and Dixon's novel are made present through deliberately depersonalised speech, which is free from any conventions: quotation marks, grammatical rules. This art of creating the self-telling characters , who never reveal their inner space, is the innovation of late postmodernism in the field of the new artistic subjectivity. In Dixon's texts the “said mode” makes the subject “twice removed”: first, by the pronouns “ he ” (not “I”), and second, by “he said ”, which creates the effect of re-fictionalization. And though the speech is reported directly (He said …”), man is not an individual source of meaning, his speech is faceless, it only registers the details and actions and distances personal perceptions as in a piece “Eyes”:

Looks at his mother – sleeping, definitely: the breathing. If she weren't he'd initiate a conversation about something: that they're much better off in the shade than in the sun, don't you agree? How can people, like the ones on the grass there, lie in the sun, not just the heat and humidity but the sweating and harmful rays? (54)

Dixon writes the text as if challenging Benveniste's definition of subjectivity as an enunciative act of self-identification through language: ”It is in and through language that man constitutes himself as a subject , because language alone establishes the concept of ‘ego' in reality, in its reality” (55). The writer is targeting the Western philosophical tradition from Plato to Lévi-Strauss, which insists that writing, as opposed to the living voice, is an alienated form of expression, while in oral speech man is in full possession of himself. He shows that Gould's voice, is not an intimate, spontaneous medium, on the contrary, it makes the character twice removed from the self. Thus, artistically he deconstructs the belief that living voice “coincides” with the self (56). Dixon seems to takes efforts to prevent any totalizing concept of subjectivity and develops new ways to contest the individual subject. This “he said” is not the testimony of identity, not an individualization, as it might be expected. It creates only the objectivity of human situation, which is reported impassively. This “said” narrative strategy subverts the stability of the point of view, which has always been a guarantee of subjectivity. The subject processes as if a direct speech of a character (and never as a represented speech), and this problematizes the inscription of subjectivity, signifying the change in the subject's position: he is never an individual source of meaning. The empirical basis of the humanist concepts of knowledge – trust in observation – is called into question by this “he said” strategy.

Thus Dixon discovers his own ways to overcome any totalizing concept of subjectivity, any unified autonomous consciousness, and any totalizing order of narrative. The concept of an individual subject is contested and artistically transcended. What is created is a new subject as a modus of open mentality , limited neither by the inner world of consciousness, nor by the outer world of life flow. The subject is not dethroned but enshrined as a human mind that binds and connects. The character is created as a “speech mode”: the illusion of “oral” speech in this “said mode” controls the narrative and does not allow it to project an individual consciousness. It projects only a type of mentality of generic Man, his loneliness, his longings, which are common and recognizable by everyone. Dixon creates a pseudo-documentary effect, which registers the details and actions without any inwardness: “She'd say, “No, I'm okay, I can do it.” She doesn't say it; he didn't ask her or even give a look that said does she need help, but he thinks she'd say it if that's what he'd said or had given that look” (57). The inner self is impersonalized through this “said mode” of the text, and as a result the character becomes twice removed from the reader by the speech of the narrator and by Gould's directly quoted speech. The postmodernist writer creates the character as a reading strategy: it is left to the reader to connect the dots between this “said” and direct quotes and bind the decentered fragments of Gould Bookbinder into a character of Everyman. The emphasis on the personal disappears, and that, which may seem personal, being shown in the “said mode,” immediately melts in the atmosphere of impersonal. This “said mode” and the details which Gould sees, are all used to plug us into the character, but not from the inside, as in modernism, but from the level beyond his personal inner world . I suggest defining this art as an art of vocalised open mentality in contrast to the interiorized subjectivity of Modernism. There is no monolith unity, no story as event, but the fragments of vocalized and objectivized “human situations”. Postmodernism approaches the problem of the subject from absolutely new perspective, but man still remains the main subject of this art.

The characters turn their experience into speech: oral, as in Barth's Chimera , Lost in the Funhouse: Fiction for Print, Tape and Live Voice and in Dixon's texts, or written, as in Jake's case in Barth's The End of the Road . These techniques create texts which are both audible and inaudible, but which objectify the characters on the level of speech. Dixon distorts the accepted belief that oral speech gives the impression of the presence of original experience. On the contrary, by portraying the speaking voice he shows that it depersonalises and screens the hero's inwardness behind the words. Gould Bookbinder exists in a cacoon of words. However, a breakthrough is possible, if the screening “he said” is abandoned. Dixon's novel ends as a humanistic myth with the belief that mutual recognition and harmony – intellectual and emotional – is attainable, in spite of all “mishaps”. The final words of the “piece” “Ends” are love, unity, and understanding:

“…there's something very important I want to say to you that can't seem to wait. …you're not hearing what I'm saying so of course wouldn't hear what I think's so important to say.” He thinks he forgot one of the “he says” – . Oh, so what. Ah, so what? Just stop it (58).

“Who is speaking thus at the end of this paragraph?” – Roland Barthes's question seems to be quite relevant here. Is it the hero's transcribed oral speech, or is it that of the author, who reveals to us his subjectivity and displays his discovery, both serious and playful, which could save the “subject in crisis”, implying that his artistic task is to go beyond this “said” to something it could not articulate, and that his task is to restore the essences, the feelings that had drained through words? The last sentence: “'He thinks he forgot one of the ‘he says – '”, appears, when his Sally is sleeping in his embrace, and Gould is happy. This sentence opens the text and the character, displaying another layer of meaning – not “said” but lived lives . “Oh, so what?” may refer to the case when pathos and emotions, which were rejected by contemporary culture, and which were deliberately removed by the distancing “said” technique, unexpectedly spring up to the surface. Dixon restores the possibility of art not “to escape the emotions”. The human matter explodes, and it is celebrated in this subtly hidden cultural intertextually that challenges Eliot's famous statement. Dixon's “Oh, so what?” is not a question, but a statement by which he also restores the category of the author as the subject of art. Dixon problematizes the condition of our “said” lives, of turning personal experience into speech and shows its uncoverable contradictions: a barrier of words that hampers and alienates the understanding and self-expression. It is the writer's both serious and playful answer to the colleague at the Johns Hopkins University's creative writing seminar – John Barth. In The End of the Road Jake faces the dilemma:

To turn experience into speech – that is to classify, to categorize, to conceptualize, to grammatize, to syntactify it – is always a betrayal of experience, a falsification of it; but only so betrayed can it be dealt with at all, and only in so dealing with it did I ever feel a man, alive and kicking (59).

Barth displays the dilemma – Dixon “situates” a possible solution, creating an autodeconstructive text with a new case of différance, inviting readers to rethink the place of man in art. Dixon's Gould in the most intimate moments of love realises that between him and this young girl there is a barrier of words that made their happiness impossible:

“…And the truth is, too much talk too, okay?' And he said, “Listen, don't how tell me not talk or how to and then when to talk and more of the not-to-do-this stuff unless something I'm doing is physically hurting you'…'So what's he's saying? He's saying nothing. Oh, he's saying little?' (60)

This episode could also be read as an emblematic illustration of what Foucault diagnosed in contemporary culture: not sex but sexuality, implying the falsification of experience in the discourse. Thus Dixon made the “said” mode of his writing not only a technique, but the main subject of the novel, which is plugged into the poststructuralist debates of the century about man, speech (oral and written), about the power of discourse and the language of resistance. The writer centres these matters to any considerations, thus, releasing the character and the author both from the limiting power of the literary tradition and from the theoretical mould of post-metaphysical ontology. Now it is obvious: at the end of the 20 th century writers are not theoretically “innocent”. This image of the writer as a refined thinker is subtly inscribed in Dixon's text and constitutes one of the main dimensions of the human subject. It is he and his learned reader, who respond to the intellectual battles of the age and develop new ideas in the process of creating and reading, proving that humanism is still tenable within the age of theory. In a very subtle way Dixon questions how to convey, while not betraying, the genuine human experience, and how to cope with the situation of the crisis of man in art. He analyses the reason for his hero's unhappiness and the way it could be overcome. The answer of the writer is to return to love and to escape from words. Gould at the end of the novel seemed to find what helps to endure the boredom of everydayness. The word he was looking for and which is known to everyone is love – and it is found and it is realized in Gould. Dixon, Barth and Pynchon show that love and art are the last bastions of individuality and that human values are rooted in man's hope and capacity to create. However, the essence of man and his indispensable quality is loneliness: in Barth's On with the Story. Stories love is tested by death, in Pynchon's Vineland it cannot last, it is always in the past, in the nostalgic 60s, in Dixon's novel the optimistic end of the book is not the end of Gould's loneliness, but only one of the possible ends (the title of this section “Ends”) and it appears in the book in a reverted order.

Thus, on the threshold of the third Millennium the postmodernist writers challenge the depth model of subjectivity of realistic and modernist literature and create literary character not as a hero of the text, but as a projection of the situation of Man and of humanity in general. Postmodernist writers are trying to open new possibilities in the art of understanding man: how to overcome the artistic limit of the character as a concrete personality? How to create Man without reproducing his emotions and perceptions, but only his voice, that never tells himself, but deals only with ‘not-I world'. It is significant that Dixon unquotes the narrative at the end of the novel. Thus he deconstructs, questioning the artistic validity of this vocalized “said mode”.

Postmodernist literature at the end of the 20 th century can be viewed not as the art of the destroyed subject, but as the art that substituted the old episteme, which can be called character thinking , by a new one – open mentality , and it is equal to the discovery of a new subject. Postmodernist subjectivity is a new arena of the relationship between the character and the author, between the text and the reader's mind. Mind, perception and aesthetic responsiveness to the signs of culture – all human matters – work together to establish this sense of human self that is beyond the personal. It is a new direction in the process of the recuperation of subjectivity in the mode of open mentality. The contemporary situation of the “subject in crisis” could be viewed not as a Thanatos of the human soul, but as a dialectical process of transcending the subject as an individual ego in the direction of discovering either the commonly human or the essentially humanistic.

Today it is clear that to speak about the postmodernist character in a traditional way is impossible. What is the personal identity of Todd from Barth's first novel The Floating Opera ? Or Peter Sagamore's and Kathrine's from Tidewater Tales. A Novel , or a husband's and a wife's from On with the Stories. Story , or Zoyd's from Pynchon's Vineland ? Or Gould's? Man is opaque not only for the other, but first of all for himself. He is free and his actions are unexpected and more unexplainable to himself than to the others (Todd's desire to blow up a show-boat, for example). The question why is irrelevant, the answer is unknown, it is beyond logic and explanation.

The analysis of American postmodernist literature reveals that this shift in the centrality of values from the identity of the psychological character, characteristic of Modernism, to the search for general human identity, started by Postmodernism, is the result of radical experiments in the sphere of mentality as the primary focus of the new art. Postmodernist writers realized that the old, conventional concept of character no longer fits the fiction, that today it is impossible to depict the subjective world of man as his individual consciousness. That is why they expanded the concept of subjectivity in art, foregrounded it, including the authorial critical self-consciousness and the reader's interpretative capacity. Thus, the humano-centric is substituted for the character-centric mode of literature. Robbe-Grillet half a century ago envisaged a new direction of art, calling it “total subjectivity” (61).

The tendency of an aesthetic and critical reconsideration of the place of Man as the subject of art is the main characteristic of cultural climate at the end of the second Millennium, and it is typical not only of American literature. We witness a similar process in Russian literature today, where it manifests even more critical and personal involvement of the writers. In the novels by Vladimir Sorokin the self as the subject of art is defiantly undermined, and this is more obvious than the desire to reconstitute it, typical of American Postmodernism. It can be explained by the peculiarity of the Russian cultural tradition. The writers perceive the Great Tradition of Russian realistic novel, with its teleology of the good, as moral and aesthetic tyranny. Besides, they have a fresh memory of and a strong nausea towards the ideal hero, typical of socialist realism. Thus, Pelevin in Chapaev and Void (62)contests the image of the national hero of Socialist Realism. The aesthetics of negation, the tendency to challenge and contest the “ideal” subject of socialist realism is serious and deeply personal.

In Sorokin's novel Roman (63) this critical debate on the death of Man, both a hero and an author, is inscribed as the main subject of the book. What is created is a phantasmagory on this current poststructuralist debate. The whole text is subtly double-coded: the word “roman,” which is the title of the novel, has two meanings in Russian – it means “a novel” and a male's proper name. The first part of the novel is a stylization of the nineteenth-century Russian novel (Turgenev, Tolstoi, Dostoevsky), with its extensive descriptions of nature, environment, psychological characterization. Here Sorokin parodies the possibility of constructing a new subject of art. The hero of the novel, Roman, a lawyer, abandons the city in search of freedom and goes to live in a village. In the second part of the book he becomes a killer. He kills almost everybody in the village, including his newly married wife, and dies himself. Thus Roman, a hero and Roman, which in Russian means “novel”, dies. Sorokin double-codes the text, inviting one to read it as a literal inscription of the debate on the death of man as an author and a character. The former, finds it impossible to overcome the Great Tradition, the tyranny of which is destructive. The first part of the novel is its direct stylization. The second part of the novel is a collage of episodes from horror literature with slaughter, blood, black mass, etc. Here the text starts an autodeconstruction, the recording of what happens when literature is exhausted and the author dies. The concept of the hero undergoes the same changes. In the first part of the book, Roman is a controlling subject – the entity of the text depends on him. Roman, both the character and the genre, is in the search of harmony and freedom. In the second part of the novel the hero is emancipated from the author and destroys everything that can be described by an author, including himself as the subject of this art.

This novel could be read as a subtle ironic response of the writer, a refined thinker, to the idea of the demise of the human subject, which he views as another, in this case a theoretical, tyranny. In his version the subject's disappearance means only one thing – the death of art. Sorokin demonstrates that when the subject disappears, the object disappears, too. Roman as a character is dead, the author is dead and what is produced is not art at all. Such is an ironic and phantasmagorical problematization of the situation – “subject in crisis”. However, Sorokin, the real writer, who responds and deconstructs, is still the thinking subject of this book, who is questioning whether the subject could be dead and Art be still alive. Its presence and absence are both questioned. This tendency to deconstruct and autodeconstruct reveals the self and the humanocentric concepts at the heart of the text. Man, as a “thinking thing”, is persistently present in the writer's and reader's strategies of writing and reading. The latest event – Sorokin's case in the Russian Federation Court – demonstrates that the author is more than simply alive. He disturbs, provokes and kicks. One thing that is common to American and Russian writers is this new freedom of the author as the subject of their texts, his freedom in violating a taboo in all spheres of life. And this freedom in Russian literature is incomparable with that of American writers, who have hardly ever suffered similar ideological restrictions, political censorship and trials. That is why in Russian literature the tendency to challenge and contest is more passionately personal and less playful and optimistic.

What we witness in the literary process at the end of the Millennium is a variety of situations in challenging the image of self as a self-sufficient cogito, and the search for new possibilities to re-enact self as the subject in literature – be it the vocalized illusion of character, the authorial self-consciousness, or the reader's intelligence and imagination. The writers use a variety of techniques in order to speak on behalf of the self. Each of these authors lives as a conscious subject and produces the self which it means to be. The postmodernist writers are, in fact, doing what Foucault wanted to be the goal of contemporary thought: “to promote new forms of subjectivity through the refusal of individuality, which has been imposed on us for several centuries” (64).

If the “fin-de-siecle” is usually conceptualized as the peculiar historical-cultural situation at the turn of the century which is marked by the dramatic realisation of the crisis of all prevailing values as well as by the urgent search for new horizons in art and literature, then, accordingly, the “fin-de-millennium”, with its utterly heightened sense of ending, of the understanding of complex transformations in all spheres of life, is characterised by even more drastic aesthetic changes, by an astonishing new turnaround in all kinds of literature, and by an even more critically self-conscious and deconstructive art. The most striking feature of contemporary literature is the artistically-critical response of the leading writers to the theoretical debated of the age on crucial, as never before for art issues: the destiny of Man, Art and Humanity. These changes in postmodernist poetics are the result of the further development of the inner possibilities of this art – the art of pluralistic openness and creative re-enaction. These features are usually screened by more conspicuous and more overtly experimentalist tendencies in this art. Through the dramatic quest for Truth in art, through the step by step realisation of dramatic interconnectedness between art and reality, the writers come to a new content, which is defined by John Barth as “the experiencing of human experience” (65). They show that “reality” is a human concept, and it can never be depicted without man – character, author and reader. The writers challenge Ortega y Gasset's view that art will survive by dehumanising itself, that for the artist aesthetic pleasure derives from a triumph over human matter. For them the treasure of art lies in the fact that it “refreshes, ennobles and expands our spirit along the painful way” (66). The postmodernist writers responded to the theory of the death of the subject by discovering a new concept of subjectivity and a new form of humanism.

It is possible to argue whether these artistic concerns represent a new alternative phenomenon in art – a new postcontemporary art – or are the features of transformed postmodernism. Art is not a theoretical construct but a dynamic mode that is constantly being shaped. What these new books prove is that the epoch of creativity has not ended, and the aesthetic desire for Truth, which still “teases us out of thought” (67), outlines the current tendency in art. It seems that the process of the recuperation of the Subject has started, and the day has come when postmodernism can be called truly “the literature of replenishment”, as was predicted by Barth in the essay of the same title. Thus, the subject, being deconstructed, returns at another place. Postmodernist art is already integrated into the world literary process as its classic (Barth, Don Barthelme, Coover, Gass, Pynchon, et al), and the vision of Postmodernism as the chaos and destruction of the human subject reveals that literary criticism lags substantially behind the life of letters.


TRANSINST       Inhalt / Table of Contents / Contenu: No.14


(1) Victoria Lipina-Berezkina, “Historicizing Subjectivity: Self as Mind in the Seventeenth-Century English Personal Essay” in William S. Haney II, Nicholas O. Pagan (eds.), Ethics and Subjectivity in Literary and Cultural Studies (Bern: Peter Lang, 2002), 129-143.

(2) This paper is a fragment of a chapter of my book in progress on American and Russian Postmodernist literature. A part of this book has been published as a chapter (“The Problems of Studying Postmodernist Literature at the End of the Millennium”) of the collective monograph: William S. Haney II, Nicholas O. Pagan (eds.), Literary Studies: Beginnings and Ends (Lanham:University Press of America, 2001), 51-65. I started this research as a Woodrow Wilson scholar in 1996. At that time I had interviews with John Barth and William Gass who stimulated my research.

(3) Jean Baudrillard, La conjuration des imbeciles”, Liberation , May 7 (1997).

(4) Roland Barthes, Image, Music, Text . Trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Noonday Press, 1977), 161.

(5) John Barth, The Friday Book (Baltimore: The Hopkins University Press, 1997), 208.

(6) Ibid, 214.

(7) John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse: Fiction for Print, Tape, Live Voice (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1968), 113.

(8) John Barth, The Friday Book , 212.

(9) Henry James, Views and Reviews (Boston: Ball, 1908),18.

(10) John Barth, The Friday Book , 64.

(11) John Barth, The Friday Book , 67.

(12) Virginia Woolf, A Woman's Essays (London: Penguin Books), 69-88.

(13) Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction” in Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976), 155.

(14) John Barth, The Friday Book , 70.

(15) John Barth, The Friday Book , 66.

(16) E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (London: Penguin Books, 1990), 73.

(17) Terry Eagleton,”Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism”, New Left Review 152 (1985), 60-73. A comprehensive discussion of this problem see in Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism (New York, 1995), 159-178.

(18) William Gass, “The Concept of Character in Fiction” in William Gass , Fiction and Figures of Life (New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 1970), 38.

(19) John Barth, The Tidewater Tales. A Novel (London: Methuen, 1988), 20-21.

(20) John Barth, The Tidewater Tales , 22.

(21) John Barth, The Tidewater Tales , 207.

(22) John Barth, The Friday Book , 236.

(23) Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

(24) In the Labyrinth by Robbes-Grillet, the nameless soldier, whose friend has been killed, must deliver a parcel, left by his friend, to a father (but whose father?) The soldier has forgotten the name of street, the hour of appointment. The nameless man, wandering through a city without name, suggests a dramatic search for identity, for personality: namelessness here is a part of tragedy and it implies an ambiguous answer to the question about the significance of human existence.

(25) Joe David Bellamy, Literary Luxuries. American Writing at the End of the Millennium (Columbia: University of Missouri, 1995), 79.

(26) John Barth, On with the Story. Stories (Boston: Little, Brown, 1996), 22-23.

(27) Ibid.

(28) John Barth, On with the Story , 25.

(29) John Keats, Poetical Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 209-210.

(30) John Barth, On with the Story , 27.

(31) John Keats, Poetical Works , 210.

(32) John Barth, On with the Story ,29.

(33) Ibid.

(34) John Barth, The Friday Book , 257.

(35) Vince Passaro, Two volumes of fiction from one of America's most prolific writers

(36) Stephen Dixon, Stories (New York: Henry Holt and Co), 117.

(37) Ibid.

(38) Stephen Dixon, Stories , 125.

(39) The Responsive Community (Summer, 2002).

(40) John Barth, The Floating Opera (New York: Appleton, 1956),251.

(41) Alain Robbe-Grillet, “For a New Novel” in Michael McKeon (ed.), Theory of the Novel. A Historical Approach (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2000), 810.

(42) Harper's (July, 2002).

(43) Allan Robbe-Grillet, “New Novel, New Man” in Theory of the Novel , 822.

(44) Stephen Dixon, “Said”, Boundary 2(1980), 99-100.

(45) John Barth, The Friday Book , 52.

(46) Stephen Dixon, 30 Pieces of the Novel (New York: Henry Holt and Co, 1999).

(47) Stephen Dixon, 30 Pieces , 3.

(48) Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 180.

(49) Stephen Dixon, 30 Pieces , 192.

(50) John Barth, The Friday Book , 213.

(51) Ella Goncharenko, Joyce and Modernism (Dnepropetrovsk: Nauka i Obrazovanie, 2000).

(52) Stephen Dixon, 30 Pieces , 167.

(53) Gianni Vattimo, “Myths and the Fate of Secularization”, Res . 9 (1985), 35.

(54) Stephen Dixon, 30 Pieces , 275

(55) Emile Benveniste, Problems in General Linguistics . Trans. Mary Elizabeth Meek (Coral Gabbles: University of Miami Press, 1971), 221.

(56) The writer started experimenting with this vocalization in his story “Mac in Love”, which goes through voice and voice grows into metaphor for what voice could do. His voice goes right into apartment and then the two women start speaking (Stephen Dixon, Stories , 32-42).

(57) Stephen Dixon, 30 Pieces , 245.

(58) Stephen Dixon, 30 Pieces , 672.

(59) John Barth, The End of the Road (New York: Bantam, 1969), 119.

(60) Stephen Dixon, 30 Pieces , 215.

(61) Alain Robbe-Grillet, “New Novel, New Man” in Michael McKeon (ed.), Theory of the Novel , 822

(62) Viktor Pelevin, Chapaev i Pustota (Moskva: Vagrius,1996).

(63) Vladimir Sorokin, Roman (Moskva, 1994).

(64) Michel Foucault, “Afterword: the Subject and Power” in Hubert L.Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow (eds.), Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1982), 208-26.

(65) John Barth, The Friday Book , 364.

(66) John Barth, Chimera (New York, Random House,1972), 17.

(67) John Keats, Poetical Works, 210.

For quotation purposes - Zitierempfehlung:
Victoria Lipina-Berezkina: Is Subject Dead in Contemporary Literature? In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No.14/2005.

TRANS     Webmeister: Gerald Mach      last change: 16.9.2005     INST