Fact and Fiction (Routledge Classics)

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Certainly I make experiments, but the unsuccessful ones are quietly hidden away and what I choose to publish is in my terms successful: that is, it has been the best way I could find of solving particular writing problems. Fiction is called experimental out of despair. These are cogent objections from writers with impeccable experimentalist credentials, whose reservations need to be taken seriously. Nevertheless, our hope is that the present Companion might go some way toward salvaging the term experimental , rescuing it from the contexts where it is a term of dismissal and condescension, and reinvigorating its connotations of edginess, renovation and aesthetic adventure.

The volume is divided into eight sections arranged into three parts, the first of which is entitled The Historical Avant-Gardes. The opening section on modernist-era experimentalism introduces the key early- and mid-twentieth-century movements which transformed the meaning of the avant-garde: Futurism, Expressionism, Dada and Surrealism, and Existentialism and Absurdism.

The next section turns to experimental innovations across Europe and the US in the period following World War II, whether in poetry the New York School, the Beats , or prose the nouveau roman , meta- and surfiction. The radical politics and techniques of Lettrism and Situationism are discussed here, along with the creative inventiveness of OuLiPo and proceduralism or writing under constraints generally.

Fiction, 1895–1926

Many of the developments of this period can be brought together under the heading of postmodernism, a phenomenon that has proved notoriously difficult to define or locate chronologically. The third section of the volume discusses forms of experimental writing in which the notion of identity has been especially contested throughout the twentieth century — the female, African-American and postcolonial avant-gardes — before the final section of Part One examines attempts to put a stamp on the experimental contemporary, whether in the form of theoretical reflections and manifestoes, engagements with popular culture Avant-Pop, post-postmodernism , wider cultural movements globalization, altermodernism , or new forms of critical practice post-criticism.

Part Two of the volume eschews a strictly chronological approach, focusing instead on innovation within and across genres. The next section focuses on experiments with narrative and with fictionality more generally, with chapters on unnatural narration, impossible worlds, experimental life writing, and genre fiction and the avant-garde.

A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society

The final section of this part considers ways in which the novel in particular has experimented in recent years with form and design, with attention to graphic novels, multimodal fiction, the incorporation of information design in the novel and printed interactive fiction. The third and final part of the volume comprises one section and turns to the impact that the digital age has had on experimental literature across media.

Chapters on digital fiction, code poetry and new media, computer gaming, and virtual forms of autobiographical writing show the wide range and versatility of contemporary experimentation, and point to the ways in which the first years of the twenty-first century, like those of the twentieth, have been concerned with the radical possibilities opened up by new technologies.

It is a somewhat different matter, however, to recognize the direct genealogical connection between the historical avant-gardes of a hundred or so years ago and late-twentieth-century and twenty-first-century experimentalism. Many of the general features, and even some of the specific practices, of experimental literature of the second half of the century were anticipated by the avant-garde groups of the period from just before the Great War until the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the epoch of the great isms of the early twentieth century, including Italian and Russian Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and Expressionism, down to Existentialism and Absurdism see chapters by White, Murphy, Stockwell and Gavins.


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Multi- and inter-media experiments, experiments with language, identity, visuality and the creative process, the embrace of transformative new technologies, the testing and transgression of the limits of artistic and social acceptability — all of these, and many other features of recent literary experimentalism, are prefigured by the historical avant-gardes.

These models of experimental practice and group behavior are in some cases embraced by later literary experimentalists and adapted to their own uses, in other cases resisted, but they can rarely if ever be ignored. Conversely, it is just as easy to see how groups as diverse as the French New Novelists and the Tel Quel circle, the Lettrists and Situationists, and the OuLiPo group all defined themselves in opposition to their Surrealist and Existentialist predecessors see Marx-Scourras, Miller and Baetens, this volume. For better or worse, the life and work of the historical avant-gardes seem to have been incorporated into the very DNA of the experimental literature that has come after them.

The persistence of the historical avant-garde into the present guarantees a sort of family resemblance among the contemporary varieties of experimentalism. As with real families, resemblance here is not a matter of everyone possessing some essential feature common to all types of experimentalism; rather, it involves a series of overlapping similarities — common threads, some of which connect one subset of experimental practices, whiles others connect other subsets. Some of the common threads that we have detected among the experimental practices surveyed in this volume are outlined below; no doubt the reader will find others.

Postmodernism, whatever it may be — a period, style, literary movement, or cultural condition — is, by its very name, seen as a successor to the historical avant-gardes and, more specifically, to modernism. It is precisely this controversial topic that McHale raises in his essay for the volume, first recalling the unsettled dispute on the matter between philosopher J. Lyotard and architecture critic Charles Jencks, who advocated a postmodern experimentalism rooted in modernism and a postmodern eclecticism associated with the popular, respectively.

For McHale, there are two key tropes of postmodern literature that complicate each side of the argument: the process of world-modelling and the presentation of an unpresentable textual sublime. True to the spirit of postmodernism, McHale ultimately refuses to pit the experimental and the eclectic against each other in a straight dichotomy. Similarly, Elana Gomel in her discussion of popular genre fiction itself a progeny of the postmodern interrogates the absolute segregation between genre fiction as low art and the avant-garde as high art.


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  • Focusing on writing of the present, both Liam Connell in his discussion of the literature of globalization and Alison Gibbons in her account of altermodenist fiction suggest that contemporary experimental novels exhibit a heightened awareness of the value of commodities in the international market place. The concatenation of time and space is one of the commonalities shared by the literature of globalization and altermodernist fiction. Two years after the first appearance of the Internationale Situationiste the literary journal Tel Quel was founded by a group of relatively unknown French writers.

    Though the two journals differed in format and approach, they both played a crucial role in shaping French culture and politics in the tumultuous years leading to the uprisings of May As Marx-Scouras notes, however, this preoccupation with language was not an act of political disengagement; indeed quite the contrary. A focus on language and its ways of making meaning was also key in the s and s for another, disparate group of writers, based mainly in the U. Having traced this non-hierarchical, open-ended style to the modernist experiments of Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein, amongst others, Friedman claims that the female avant-garde becomes harder to identify in the late twentieth century, as experimental tropes and techniques are incorporated into the mainstream.

    Political subversion has indeed been a feature of recent experimental writing across the world. The experimental writing practices of Italian Futurism and Russian Cubo-Futurism were hardly isolated from the politics of the early twentieth century. Nevertheless, while the political was clearly one motivation for the Futurists, the technological was a central inspiration. The rapid advancement of science and technology at the turn of the century was heralded by founder F.

    Marinetti as an impetus for literary experimentation. Words-in-Freedom generated poems in which onomatopoeias abound, punctuation is replaced by mathematic symbols, and words themselves are dismantled. Contemporary electronic code poetry similarly explores the fabric of language. Code poetry, Tomasula explains, is highly self-conscious, and its aesthetics are concerned with revealing the mechanisms by which it is generated.

    Instead, such works exist as theatrical and engrossing hybrids of video, sound and music; they are often interactive; and they recast experimental literary art as multimedia experience. Code poetry, new media literature, and the Futurist impulse to experiment with typography all point towards the potentialities of the visual dimension of language, literature and narrative.

    Concrete poetry explores not only the visuality of language but also of the page, which becomes a canvas, with white space as much a part of the literary work as words themselves. In his essay, Joe Bray outlines the history of concrete prose and poetry.

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    While the origins of concrete prose can be found in early novelists such as Laurence Sterne and Henry Fielding, Bray argues that the fascination with visual form has not abated in twentieth and twenty-first century novels, pointing to modernist, postmodernist, and contemporary writers for whom the page is still very much an experimental surface.

    Although graphic novels are certainly multimodal, Gibbons chooses not to discuss them, preferring instead to view such works as a genre in their own right. In her chapter on graphic narrative, Hilary Chute considers the relationship of comics to literary experimentation. In support of her argument, Chute invites readers on a tour of experimental comic practice starting in the early twentieth century, continuing into the late twentieth century and concluding with the comics of today.

    While literature has incorporated the visual in experimental practices, art has assimilated the verbal. Consequently, Prinz intimates, the boundaries between art and literature are blurring and dissipating. The literary and the artistic are no longer necessarily distinct types of aesthetic artefact. From the beginning of the twentieth century right down to the present, experimental literature has had to find ways to coexist with other, competing media — visual art, music in a range of genres, performance, photography, film, television, digital media — competitors that have expanded in number, power, appeal and market-share over the course of the century.

    A common thread uniting several of the chapters in this volume is experimentation with these other, adjacent media. In some cases this experimentation has taken the form of collaboration across media, or even co-optation of one medium by another; in other cases, it has been more akin to baiting a threatening competitor, poking at this dangerous beast through the bars of its cage to stir it up and see how it reacts. According to Ben Lee, in his chapter on postwar avant-garde poetry in the U.

    Crucial to the aesthetic formation of this generation of poets was their encounter with experimental, collaborative cross-media practices, which some experienced in the New York artworld while others encountered it at Black Mountain College in rural North Carolina, an incubator of mid-twentieth-century avant-gardism. A similar cross-fertilization among the arts is explored by Aldon Nielsen in his chapter on the experimental strain in African-American poetry, which he seeks to recover through case studies of two pivotal but undervalued figures: Melvin Tolson and Lorenzo Thomas.

    Cross-media experimentation and the poaching of models from adjacent media, features of both the New American Poetry and the African-American avant-garde, become defining characteristics of the Avant-Pop tendency in contemporary literature. It has much in common with jazz, readymade art, collage and montage practices, and sound sampling and mashup in popular music, and its aesthetics are perfectly suited to the newer digital media. Robert McLaughlin discerns quite a different relation to contemporary popular culture, a much more adversarial one, in the tendency that he calls not without reservations post-postmodernism.

    The elements of plot. Ancient Greece is not just ancient history. What Greek tragedy can teach us about sympathy and responsibility. Greek tragedy was a popular and influential form of drama performed in theatres across ancient Greece from the late 6th century BCE. They didn't choose tragedy. Kitto argues that in spite of dealing with big moral and intellectual questions, the Greek dramatist is above all an artist and the key to understanding classical Greek drama is to try and understand the tragic conception of each play.

    Where as with Greek tragedy, the main character is someone important and noble, such as a king or queen. It is the very essence of Tragedy that a hero or heroine should become, step by step, separated from other people. Greek Tragedy.

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    Lesson 9—Three Greek Tragedies. Aesychylus added a second actor to plays. Comedy - The first comedies were mainly satirical and mocked men in power for their vanity and foolishness. Greek tragedy was performed as part of a religious festival like a church christmas play - so the stories were already known to the audience, and everyone knew what was going to happen next.

    Greek theatre: from the 6th century BC: The origins of Greek theatre lie in the revels of the followers of Dionysus, a god of fertility and wine. Not all tragedy is tragic and not all comedy is necessarily funny. Greek tragedies draw their plots from much longer Greek myths. Aristotle divides the dramatic narrative into two parts, story and plot. Greek theatre began in the 6th century BCE in Athens with the performance of tragedy plays at religious festivals. The schemes and plots of the gods and goddesses often entangled mortals.