Postmodern Narrative and Cultural Critique in the Age of Cloning

By Christian Moraru

Subjects: American Literature
Series: SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Paperback : 9780791451083, 248 pages, September 2001
Hardcover : 9780791451076, 248 pages, September 2001

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Table of contents


PART I. Rewriting and Postmodernism

1. Rewriting and Late Twentieth-Century Narrative


Cultural Mythology and the Return of Narrative
Classical "Underwriting" to Contemporary "Counterwriting"
A Few Distinctions . . .
And a Definition: Focus and Terminology


2. Renarrativization, Revision, Critique


Intensities and Extensities
Modus Scribendi: Discourse and Intertextual Politics
Modus Legendi: An Approach to Rewriting


PART II. Rewriting and the National Narrative

1. Romanticism Reincorporated: E.L. Doctorow and the (Re)Production of America


Literary Rags, Historical Tatters
Antinostalgic deja-lu: Performance and Masquerade
Between the (Re)Assembly Lines
Transcendent Surplus, Capital Resurrections
The Immigrating Scripts amd the Staging of America


2. Cold War Fairy Tales: Robert Coover's Social Romance


The "Discourse of America"
Alger's "Wrong Turn": Coover's Personas and Algeresque Impersonations
The Public Burning of the Public Sphere


3. Trascendentalist Rewrites: Paul Auster and the "National Machine"


The Social "Other": Tranpositions and Duplications
The Textual Double: (Re)Visiting Poeland
Manhattan Transfers: From Poe to Walden Pond
Unnamable Thoreau


PART III. Rewriting Race: Models of "Cross-Fertilization" in African American Postmodernism

Repetition, Reinscription, and Blck Postmodernism

1. Outwriting: Ishmael Reed's Critical Reappropriations


Master of the Crossroads: Signifyin(g), Rewriting
Improper Appropriations: "Stolentelling" and the Deromancing of Race
Purloining Poe
Dancing to the Typewriter
Necromantic Rewriting: Bonds of Desire


2. Middle Passages: "(Re)Writing Furiously"


"Rewording": Blackness and Literary Agon
Rutherford, the Crivener: Rewriting as Manumission


3. Hip Hop Rewriting: Toward a "Postliberated" Aesthetic


Black Glasnost and "Cross-Pollinating" Reassemblages
The Pleasure of the Hypertext


PART IV. Writing Through: Rewriting, Plagiarism, Apocrypha

The Metastases of Originality

1. Avant-Pop Graftings: Mark Leyner's Outrageous Body of Work


(Re)Working Out
"My Books and My Body": Inset, Insert, Textual Surgery
Thrice-Told Tales: Hawthorne, Inc.
"Young Bergdorf Goodman Brown": A "Heinous Revision"
Mutant Narratives: A Typology


2. "Re-Lettering" Hawthorne: Kathy Acker and recriture feminine


Renaming, Language, Piracy
Hester Prynne in High School: Impurifying Puritanism


3. Hester Prynne in India: Bharati Mukjerjee's Postcolonial Letter(s)


Postcolonialism, Postmodernism, Rewriting
Apocryphal (Hi)Stories


Epilogue. Rewriting Postmodernism

Examines the tendency of post-World War II writers to rewrite earlier narratives by Poe, Melville, Hawthorne, and others.


Does the postmodern process of rewriting stories by earlier writers point to a crisis of originality in our cloning culture? In Rewriting, the first systematic examination of this tendency in late twentieth-century American fiction, Christian Moraru answers this question with a "no" by examining a wide range of representative writers including E. L. Doctorow, Robert Coover, Paul Auster, Charles Johnson, Ishmael Reed, Trey Ellis, Kathy Acker, Mark Leyner, and Bharati Mukherjee, among others. Moraru shows that in reworking the emblematic nineteenth-century short stories and novels of Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, Alger, Stowe, Thoreau, Twain, and others, postmodern American writers take on—and critically revise—a whole set of values and notions that shape our cultural mythology. Accordingly, Moraru redefines postmodernism in general, and postmodern rewriting in particular, as a culturally innovative and politically enabling phenomenon.

Christian Moraru is Assistant Professor of English at University of North Carolina, Greensboro.


"Moraru argues forcibly for inclusion of feminist, African American, and postcolonial points of view in postmodern criticism." — CHOICE

"In studying postmodern rewrites, Moraru's goal is to answer those critics on the Left and Right who see postmodern fiction as mere recycling in our age of cloning … Rewriting is a pleasure to read, as Moraru's writing is accessible and nimble." — American Literature

"Rewriting breaks new ground and resolves a debate central to the understanding of contemporary fiction." — Jerome Klinkowitz, author of Literary Disruptions: The Making of a Post-Contemporary American Fiction

"The book's triple subjects—postmodernism, reading, and intertextuality—are each extremely significant, utterly current, and vigorously debated. The range of this book is exemplary: it reexamines earlier central texts and authors as well as a number of works from the nineties. It will stay fresh for many years." — Brian Richardson, author of Unlikely Stories: Causality and the Nature of Modern Narrative