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Postmodern Humanism in Contemporary Literature and Culture: Reconciling the Void

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In Postmodern Humanism in Contemporary Literature and Culture, Todd F. Davis and Kenneth Womack investigate the emerging gaps between literary scholarship and the reading experience itself. For Davis and Womack, the idea of reconciling the void—the locus of our sociocultural disillusionment and despair in an increasingly uncertain world—concerns explicit artistic attempts to represent the ways in which human beings seek out meaning, hope and community in spite of the void’s immutable shadow.

“Davis and Womack explain in their introduction that, in writing this book, they hope to reconcile ‘the void that exists beneath the surface play of language and culture, a void that grows out of our limitations as mortal, finite creatures who struggle to make meaning in our individual, embedded contexts.’ They attempt to acknowledge postmodernism’s decentered, nonfoundational world that ‘calls for passivity and consumption’ but can still generate hope and meaning. In reconciling modernism and postmodernism, they offer critical readings of 11 writers and demonstrate that each finds a source of redemption, whether through ecology (Jim Harrison), forgiveness (David Mamet), or identity (Sherman Alexie). The authors conclude that ‘it is ultimately via language that we fashion hope, that we articulate love, that we build community.’ With this book, Davis and Womack achieve a victory over the silence imposed by a postmodern awareness that all meaning is constructed.”—W.F. Williams, Choice

“Finding a disjunction between a postmodern literary scholarship that circles around disillusionment or loss and contemporary reading experiences that attempt to find meaning, hope, and community through narrative, Davis and Womack theorize a ‘postmodern humanism’ that creates opportunities for ethical reflection and the revival of community. The book finds such threads of postmodern humanism in a wide range of texts and media, including Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, the poetry and prose of Sherman Alexie, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, and the Beatles’ White Album.”—American Literature

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