Postmodernism and Place

Sarah briefly mentioned place in her blog post and that got me thinkin’. Since many folks out there have already weighed in on the Adams article, I decided I would go elsewhere with this post and try to make sense of place in some of the novels we have read.

The notion of place seems to be pretty flexible in postmodern texts. In gothic literature, for example, place is often easily described as antiquated. In genres like fantasy and sci-fi, place also fluctuates but tends to follow some basic rules (outer space, past feudal realms). Many people have posted about how difficult it is to place postmodernism within any strict walls or interpretive confines. I agree that this is tricky and as I’ve read books from The Crying of Lot 49 to House of Leaves to Tropic of Orange, I’ve noticed that there don’t seem to be any conventions that strictly define place in postmodernist writing.

As I looked closer I found that there is little overlap in location: Beloved occupies a small space in the rural South; The Crying of Lot 49 takes place in bustling, crowded cities across California. The size of the places also changes: there are the small confines of a house that can also grow to enormous proportions in House of Leaves; the small (but ever-changing) office where much of Lathe of Heaven occurs; Tropic of Orange sprawls all over LA and in Mexico too, across landscapes both vast (the urban ghetto, the highway systems) and localized (the house near Mazatlan). Places can occupy just about any form in postmodern texts, from rural to urban, small to large.

It’s how place feels to the reader and how it is handled by the characters in the stories that I think give many of the places we’ve read about a common characteristic: they are unreliable, sometimes to the point of becoming untrustworthy. Why do I see some of the places in this semesters novels as unreliable? How does this relate to postmodernism?

I don’t think anyone will disagree that the space in House of Leaves is unreliable. The house shifts, it changes, at times it attempts to trap people inside. However, the novel also takes place in the world of Johnny Truant. Johnny begins the novel with some forays into the city, but by the end, he is as shut-in as Zampano, with drapes over the windows and cardboard blocking the vents. Not only does he not trust his own space, he doesn’t trust the space outside.

In Crying of Lot 49, everything seems to be untrustworthy. Oedipa travels around to different cities, and as she does this, I never feel a strong sense of the location. Each city seems the same. What makes them important is that they conceal the hidden clues she so desperately seeks. Each place sends her to a new location, all another stopping point on a journey that leads pretty much nowhere. Those are some unreliable locales.

In Tropic of Orange place seems to be more reliable than these other two, but is it? Crabs in Mazatlan, located hours’ walk from the sea, signify that something isn’t right. Gun shots on the east side may be an every day part of life, but for Buzzworm, it can all be avoided, the space can be reclaimed–from the beuracrats, from the gangsters who do their best to claim it, from the vicious cycles that occupy that space and keep revolving and threatining to never let anyone out. Gabriel’s unreliable space takes the form of a two-headed monster: the quiet Mexico or the bustling LA where he can continue working as a journalist. These spaces all bring with them a strong sense of unreliability. This is not the house you grew up in or the bustling city that represents opportunity. No, these spaces, even when they’re at their best, are ever-changing, sometimes alien landscapes.

Manzanar seems to be one character who finds the space he occupies–highway corridors–to be reliable. However, upon closer expection, we see that they are only reliable as far as his music goes, but not reliable as a whole. Crashes occupy this wide-lane space and Manzanar also summons images of maps. Maps can be reliable, but for anyone who has used one knows they are subject to change. Unexpected, sudden change that leaves you at the end of a dead-end road, just miles from your ultimate destination in the middle of the night, wondering, “what do I do now?” The maps in this book also have layers–“for Manzanar they began with the very geology of the land…” (57). These multi-layered maps become so thick in their complexity and construction as to render them too numerous and too specific to serve much use at all. In chapter 13 Buzzworm thinks about maps and how little they really do to help. He sums this up with the early line, “if someone could put down all the layers of the real map, maybe he could get the real picture” (81). Only if all the layers are assembled can the maps provide a clear picture–and as the tone suggests, this will never happen. So even maps become unreliable in Tropic of Orange.

Some of the other novels we’ve covered also deal with unreliable places, but I felt that these were some of the shining examples. Places change, but their unreliability in postmodern texts seems to be relatively constant.

In postmodernism many aspects of life (language, morals, truth, etc.) are shown as constructs of society that we all end up buying into. In a postmodern novel, the author may investigate these constructs, and in so doing, help shed some light on their existence (the constructs’), which is usually enough to get people thinking. I can’t help but want to channel Saussure when thinking of place, who wrote about the signifier and signified in linguistics. I believe that while he mainly focuses on words, the same can be said for place. The signifier “home” or “city” will mean many different things to any number of different people (the signified). New York is the symbol of American freedom, LA of opportunity and fame, DC of power. However, to the people who visit and occupy these spaces year round, the cities become many different things. This may be part of the reason spaces seem so hard to trust in the works we’ve read. After all, when a space means something different to everyone occupying it, and seems ever-changing, there isn’t a lot to rely on. Just below the surface the labels we apply to certain locales (the peaceful setting of the South, the emblematic American cities) suddenly vanish. Each person takes something different away from their place. Each one views their place differently as well. I believe this root of unreliability is essentially postmodern becauyse it’s not only the observed that’s important, but who’s doing the observing, how they observe, and what that says about the unique spaces we all occupy and how they shape our unique perspectives.

Layering Signifiers, Space, and “Reality” in House of Leaves

Before I get into my fragmented points about signifiers, space, and “reality” (vs. simulation) in House of Leaves, I wanted to add to Sara’s point about absence in the book.  I noticed that the “narrator,” if we can call him that, is named “Truant” which can be used (in the noun form) to mean “one who is absent without permission” or “one who shirks off responsibility” (  Obviously, both definitions incite conversation (given Truant’s sometimes less-than-responsible behavior), but in terms of a conversation on absence, Truant serves as both the signifier and the signified: he conveys the message, and he himself is the message.  Truant tells Zampano’s story (which has Zampano telling Navidson’s story), so he serves as one signifer for another signifier.  Then, his name reflects the absence in the story he is telling; the message of absence is, ironically, present in the narrator’s name.

Along with several other posts, I was fascinated by the layering of this story; not only is the narrator telling Zampano’s story who’s telling Navidson’s story, but also, the story is a fragmented novel about a fragmented story about a fragmented film.  The layering of media, or signifiers, really strikes me as Postmodern.  Foucault explains in “Of Other Spaces” that a train “is something through which one goes,.. something by means of which one can go from one point to another, and then it is also something that goes by” (24).  In the same sense, House of Leaves presents, what Foucault calls “the curious property of being in relation with all the other sites, but in such a way to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror, or reflect” (24).  The multi-layered signifiers demonstrate the relationship between each story, but interweave to create a fragmentary and, at the same time, mirrored experience.  Truant becomes so engrossed in Zampano’s story (at least by p. 79, we know something of this) that he, too, becomes somewhat agoraphobic and paranoid; Zampano’s reality becomes Truant’s reality.  (We can speak of “reality” next, in relation to Baudrillard’s article.)  Even before the transference between the living Truant and the dead Zampano, we have reason to believe that Zampano has experienced some of the same obsession with space and reality that Navidson had.  As far as I am in the book, I feel ill-equipped to go further with the analysis of transference and multi-layered signifiers, but let me try to assess Baudrillard’s argument on “simulation” and “reality.”

Baudrillard writes, “Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible” and this: “Simulation is infinitely more dangerous [than transgression and violence] since it always suggests, over and above its object, that law and order themselves might really be nothing than a simulation” (177).  When I read that, I immediately considered what we know of the suddenly-appearing hallway in Navidson’s film.  (I say “film” because I think we must always consider that “reality” is mediated by a signifier, and thus may not be reality at all.)  I wondered whether, at page 79, whether we are right to question the reality of the story.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve already been terrified a few times by Danielewski’s story (let’s do give him a little credit since, really, it is his story, and not Navidson’s or Zampano’s or Truant’s), but it could be that we are really reading a “simulation” of reality.  This is, after all, someone’s film; dare we remember the “true” story that was The Blair Witch Project.  In any case, I think Baudrillard is relevant in reminding us, at this early stage of our reading, that there is no clear demarcation between what is real and what is imagined; in fact, there may be nothing that is “real” anymore.  Law and order have been lost in 1/4 of an inch, or whatever the measurement turns out to be.

And yet, the imagined space is terrifying.  We do not believe the “always” as little Daisy calls them could possibly open up and envelop Navidson as they do, and the “growl,” what is that?  A monster?  Come on now, Danielewski.  And yet, and yet, I am shakin’ in my boots.  The imagined has taken the place of the real, it has effectively inhabited multiple spaces through multiple signifiers, and it has done so in a positively disturbing way.

The Signifier and Signified in The Lathe of Heaven

Let me start off by saying that I genuinely enjoyed The Lathe of Heaven.  I was trying to verbalize to a friend just what it was that attracted me about this particular book, and I found myself describing my fascination with Le Guin’s complex layering of new worlds, especially since these worlds are both purposefully and accidentally created.  This calls to mind the following excerpt in Harvey’s article:  “Whereas modernists had presupposed that there was a tight and identifiable relation between what was being said (the signified or ‘message’) and how it was being said (the signifier or ‘medium’), poststructuralist thinking sees these as ‘continually breaking apart and re-attaching in new combinations” (49).  Just as Haber attempts to control George Orr’s dreams and manipulate the present, he constantly fails (despite his confidence that he has succeeded) in creating a better world.  In “reality” (which sounds so out of place when a describing a book like this), Haber is attempting to exert power through his own message (or “signified”) which he mediates through Orr’s dreams (which act as the “signifier”), and yet, the outcome is never what Haber intends.  Postmodernism focuses on the continual “breaking apart” of what is intended and what is understood, and so does Le Guin’s story.  Haber believes he can make the world a better place, but it is his medium, Orr’s dreams, which no one can control. 

Orr himself realizes his own role in this complex re-working of past, present, and future.  After killing off billions of people in an attempt to rid the world of “overpopulation” (60) and stopping the war on Earth only to start another between humans and aliens, Orr says, “Out of the frying pan into the fire… Don’t you see, Dr. Haber, that’s all you’ll get from me?  Look, it’s not that I want to block you, to frustrate your plans… Your own ideas are sane and rational, but this is my unconscious you’re trying to use, not my rational mind.  Maybe rationally I could conceive of the human species not trying to kill each other off by nations, in fact rationally it’s easier to conceive of than the motives of war.  But you’re handling something outside of reason.  You’re trying to reach progressive, humanitarian goals with a tool that isn’t suited to the job” (86). 

The disconnect between the signified and the signifier is not the only important factor in this story; the fact is that the “new combinations” of what is meant to change about the world (the “problem”) and what actually changes (the “cure”) just creates another problem in its place.  Orr understands that his dreams serve as the medium for Haber’s ideas, and he is able to see that the repercussions are far too vast to continue on this downward slope.  In the end, Orr is able to settle happily into a much-adjusted world.  Heather Lalache says, “I thought you could change the world.  Is this the best that you could do—this mess?” (175), and though she is fairly unaware of how much worse it had been and how much worse it could get, the reader should sense that this is the best he could do.  Neither he nor Haber really could control the medium, as it is an irrational unconscious which has created these multiple worlds, and so this end to the nonsense, the aftermath of all the horror Haber has done, is actually a gift.  When postmodernism began to recognize a creator’s inability to control the received message, they also invited a whole slew of science fiction that toys with the more metaphorical meaning of a creator, its creation, and its reception in the world.  This is especially true in The Lathe of Heaven.

As a sidenote, I wanted to point out that after reading Harvey’s section on technology, in particular the “the proliferation of television use”(61) after having also read about postmodern art, I could not stop thinking about a piece I saw last year at the Smithsonian American Art Museum which combines television and art in a way I have never seen otherwise.  Nam June Paik’s “Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii” depicts each of the fifty state proportionally with various sized televisions which continuously roll representative footage of each state.  For example, “The Wizard of Oz” plays on the televisions that constitute Kansas and “Oklahoma” plays, obviously, on the Oklahoma screens.  This piece really forced me to question how television can serve as an art medium in a more abstract and meaningful way than just as the way we watch “Lost” or “American Idol.”  Check it out, either with this link or in person if you get the chance!

For a more interactive site & information on the exhibit itself, look here:

For digital images, look here



Relating some features of Postmodernism to “The Crying of Lot 49”

While primarily focusing on Detective stories as a genre and briefly tracing its origins and characteristics, Michael Holquist’s essay “Whodunit and other questions: Metaphysical detective stories in post-war fiction” tackles the issue of the fusion between high and low art as a prominent characteristic of Postmodernism.   I think his argument about the “pattern of reassurance” as a sophisticated form of a happy ending is interesting.  From the way he describes it, it appears to be a common denominator in the different forms of literary kitsch.  Another tendency is the shortcut they take to the “catharsis,” by skipping the “pain” and “tragedy,” which denies the reader a full experience and possible meaning.  These features render such works as merely quick and easy crowed pleasers, as opposed to high art that may not be accessible to the majority.  Taking this into consideration, the “red herrings” that have been used in the “The Crying of 49” begin to make a little more sense to me. Similar to Oedipa’s confusion in her search for clues and their meaning, the novel suggests allusions that can be misleading to the reader who is expectant of an easy answer.  Also the toying of the author in his dealing with the relationship between signifier and signified is an effort to mislead the presumptuous reader; while the names can be telling of character as talked about in a few of this week’s posts, there are some names like “Dr. Hilarius” that seem to me sort of pointless, or maybe I’m being too cynical.

In “Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late capitalism,” Jameson describes the canonization and academic institutionalization of the modern movement as a plausible explanation of the emergence of postmodernism.  Postmodernism subsequently rejects the complete focus on what is thought to be high art by creating a bridge between high art and popular art, as Holquist mentions.  The inclusion of the polar opposites is evident in “The Crying of Lot 49” as we are introduced to “Paranoid,” a pot smoking band who write songs like, “Lonely girl in your lonely flat, well, that’s where it’s at, so hush your lonely cry,” and later an opposite representation is seen in the play Oedipa attends that causes her to visit a university professor for clarification on the play, which reinforces Jameson’s statement about the control of institutions on art.  

Jumbled thoughts on pynchon and being jumbled

A lot of really interesting points have been raised so far and I wish I’d posted earlier so that I might at least have the illusion of an original thought. Something I found most intriguing in Pynchon’s work was what drew me to Lethem’s short story in last week’s reading – the compatibility of form and function.

 Just as Lethem highlighted the banality of Super Goat Man’s world with an ultra-straight matter-of-fact narrative, Pynchon continuously builds an atmosphere of fracture, confusion, and ambiguity. It actually becomes a bit disorienting for the reader – something I always find quite impressive (like checking under your bed after a decent scare-flick, when a book can physically daze you a bit, it’s an accomplishment). In fact it reminded me of a bit of a cross between a few of Vonnegut’s novels and some short stories by Shirley Jackson – I think I have “The Tooth” in mind, if that’s the actual name.

 I want to quote Alyssa’s assertion, that “the more [Oedipa] uncovers the more she realizes how incoherent all of the narratives are” – I agree not just with the statement regarding Pynchon’s narrative, but also the comment it could potentially make about narrative in general (both literary and real…that is, real life you-and-me narrative).  I think there is a sense of authenticity in the fact, if we consider the proposed arbitrary nature of words and things, the signifier and signified, if you wish, or just the exponential implications of admitting a letter symbol (then the word symbol then the thing symbol then the idea symbol) is arbitrarily assigned, … that not each “thread” encountered, whether it be by a protagonist or by one’s self, always “ties-in” to the main schema of narrative.  Its been said that this text is full of contrasting, even contradictory ideas/names/actions/objects – this seems to be another. In some sense the absurd (I know that’s not the right word) and arbitrary lends itself to authenticity, realism.

  I suppose I’m trying to say, that perhaps, in a more “traditional” novel (again I doubt that’s the correct word I should use) the threads might be sewn up at the end, for catharsis’ sake, without any dangling “clues” or hints along the way; the symbols would become clear, and the meaning (or un-meaning) of character names, in a more Dickensian way, would make themselves known (or at least the deciphering pattern would be a consistent formula).  For Pynchon, there is room for untidiness. Of course this is not the first, nor last, novel to end without total closure, and that doesn’t make it a good or bad, an innovative or derivative text in itself, but I just think that the fracturing Pynchon shows us (that it isn’t healed but in a way, expands like a glass-crack in the winter) says more about difficulties in narrative, authenticity, language (symbolic and practical), POV, or whatever etcetera …what Prof. Sample called their “unknowability.”  

 Finally, there are pages and pages one could write about the names of people, places, bands, and so on. As someone pointed out, the differing “formulas” for cracking certain names, ie some are pre-fixed with negations or amplifiers, some are opposites some are contradictions, etc….anyway, so I won’t bother going into it now, but look forward to this conversation in class. ….sorry if this was all over the place. Pynchon’s in my head.

Constructed Reality in The cRying of Lot 49

     An entire genre of fiction has been inspired by theories from postmodern philosophers such as Derrida, Lacan, and Sassure.  One of the theories proposed by postmodern philosophy is that human reality is linguistically constructed, a construction that is based on cultural narratives that are human products with human histories.  For example, Sassure went against the dominant language theory (correspondence theory) and stated that the signifier is not equivalent to the thing being signified.  Lacan also advocated the notion of the transcendental signified.  In Thomas Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49 the main character attempts to make sense out of the vast amount of cultural narratives, but she is left with less clarity then when she began.  Pynchon is specifically calling attention to narratives created by the global capital system.  In Oedipa’s case, the more information the she uncovers, the closer she moves to a fragmented consciousness.

      Pynchon’s text reacts to aspects of the global capital system, such as economic policy.  Adam Smith’s text “Natural Laws of Economics,” along with the “Wealth of Nations,” theorized that economic policy was guided by an “invisible hand.”  Pynchon deconstructs this narrative along with several others by parodying the system as Oedipa attempts to make sense of the connections within the Inveriarity Empire.  Inveriarity becomes a symbol for the global capital system, which is exemplified by the systems all encompassing power.  One of Oedipa’s first encounter’s with Metzger emphasizes this power: “What the hell didn’t he own?” (Pynchon 27).  Oedipa tries to find an underlying truth behind the system, but the more she uncovers the more she realizes how incoherent all of the narratives are.  When Oedipa describes her experience viewing the painting “Bordando el Manto Terrestre” the failure of her quest is foreshadowed.  Oedipa tries, like the painting, to embroider the tapestry of the world:

“…embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world.” (Pynchon 11)

     The painting calls attention to the fact that reality is a human construction.  Oedipa attempts to construct reality by tying together all of the narratives surrounding Inveriarity.  However, the more narratives she consumes, the more fragmented the story becomes, finally offering no closure.

       The end of Pynchon’s text parodies the global capital system by comparing economic theory to religion: “Passerine spread his arms in a gesture that seemed to belong to the priesthood of some remote culture; perhaps a descending angel” (Pynchon 152).  Pynchon wants to compare these two narratives because they are both human constructions of reality.  Adam Smith’s metaphor for an “invisible hand” compares to a metaphor for god.  They both describe an unknown being in control of events.  Oedipa continues to give into the hope that the narratives are cohesive, but she and the reader are left with no closure: “He stared at her, smiling, as if saying, I’m surprised you actually came” (152).  Pynchon establishes the end of Oedipa’s quest as a failure.  Instead of rejecting the narratives, she continues to believe that they will somehow tie together.

Signifiers, Oedipa/Oedipus, and Postmodernism…

When reading The Crying of Lot 49, I thought about what someone said in class in reference to signifiers in Foer’s story. The thing with signifiers, according to Ferdinand de Saussure, is that they’re arbitrary, at least, as far as its connection to the signified. So, Oedipa Maas is seemingly lost in this world of detached signifiers, struggling with clues and trying to seek meaning in symbols like the muted horn, or meaning in words like W.A.S.T.E. and the Trystero. She even says at one point, “Each clue that comes is supposed to have its own clarity,” as if she recognizes that the signifiers should have a signified. I’m not sure if this is a postmodern thing, insofar as having these detached signifiers; it was just a connection I made to the readings from last week.

I also thought about the names Pynchon picked for people and places in this novel, but considering the thing with the detached signifiers, I’m now wondering if he arbitrarily chose these names. Of course, when one see Oedipa written on the page, one thinks Oedipus. The only connection I can think of now, between Oedipa and Oedipus, is the blindness. This comes later in the book, when Oedipa is drinking bourbon and then “went out and drove on the freeway for a while with her lights out.” For those not familiar with Oedipus Rex, he blinds himself and says something like, “From now on, go in darkness!” So, maybe this is what Pynchon was thinking when naming her Oedipa (and maybe there’s more to it than the blindness), or maybe he was just “arbitrarily” naming her. If he did arbitrarily name everyone, you still have to wonder about the names. I mean: Mucho Maas (I think that means “a lot more” in Spanish), Dr. Hilarious, etc. These seem so telling. But maybe that’s just postmodernism: messing with what seems to be there, on the surface, or what should be there, according to what one expects. Or maybe I’m just making an unrelated mess out of all of this.

If put on the spot about why The Crying of Lot 49 is postmodern, I’d probably say that it’s because you can’t figure it out, at least, not right away and not in one way. This explanation would hardly win me an A in this class, but it seems like a right explanation for this text. If written in a modern manner, it would leave nothing unexplained at the end and would have an apt conclusion—maybe not a satisfying conclusion, but a plausible one. All the little threads would form some sort of picture, and the reader wouldn’t be left hanging. But postmodernism seems to always have the reader questioning if what he/she read indeed happened or if what was presented as reality wasn’t actually reality at all.


“I like stuff that isn’t the same every time you look at it”

“I like stuff that isn’t the same every time you look at it” (spoken by Carly in “Some Zombie Contingency Plans”): It seems that this observation sums up a primary characteristic of postmodern literature and rhetoric, one which is evident in most of the short stories and passages assigned this week.

I enjoyed the short stories, particularly the pieces by Foer, Lethem, and Link. Foer’s piece was especially moving because it recounts experiences and emotions that are common to the human experience, yet are usually unexpressed. I wonder whether these emotions are untold because language as we know it fails to convey them, or because these emotions are not necessarily meant to be expressed, and should simply lurk in a person’s mind until other emotions take their place? Either way, Foer’s use of symbols and characters in place of incommunicable emotions effectively illustrates that language is significantly less sophisticated than we may think. Foer’s piece also displays another recognizable characteristic of postmodern texts: its focus on signifiers and the absence of a constant “signified.” If I understand it correctly, this characteristic resonates with Carly’s statement. Foer shows that though these symbols encapsulate unspoken emotions, these emotions are dependent on specific circumstances. Therefore, their meanings are fluid, changing every time they’re felt in a different context.

Link’s piece, “Some Zombie Contingency Plan,” does not have the easiest plot to follow, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. I’m not usually a fan of fantasy fiction, but I enjoy stories that have enigmatic and thought-provoking metaphors intertwined in the text. In response to Jennifer’s earlier post, I think the zombie metaphor is one that concerns the ambiguity and fluidity of identity. The main characters, Soap and Carly, repeatedly camouflage and change their identity throughout the story. Though Soap constantly presents the hypothetical situation of zombies invading as a fear-inducing scenario, I think Link wants the reader to think of Soap as a potential zombie, in a metaphorical sense. In other words, maybe Link is making the point that metaphorical zombies—individuals who are not necessarily dead on the outside, but are void on the inside—are to be feared more than the actual, fictional zombies. While attempting to escape from an “actual” zombie is certainly frightening, Link hints that individuals who themselves morph into metaphorical zombies can find no escape route (you cannot escape from yourself). Again, the postmodern statement above about things appearing differently in various situations also fits this storyline. The indistinctness of the characters’ backgrounds and personalities as well as the overall elusiveness of the plot collectively point to this postmodern notion of perpetual ambiguity and malleability of meaning within the text.

Finally, I found Cage’s “Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)” an engaging piece to read as well. Though I found it initially difficult to immediately identify the theme or purpose of the piece, I was able to deduce a pattern in the text after a second read. Obviously, the structure of the piece is meant to be avant-garde, in order to capture the reader’s attention or unsettle the reader in some way. The title’s ironic humor has significant bearing on the meaning of the piece as a whole (I think): it seems that Cage is implying that human intervention—any attempts by humans to “improve the world”—usually fail and result in the opposite. Aside from technological advances, which are acclaimed in this piece (“Success for humanity lies in technology…), almost all other human attempts to change the world are useless or harmful. Among many other themes that I couldn’t decipher, Cage calls for the removal of government and politics (anarchy), the eradication of environmental pollutants, and the obliteration of “arthritic” language that is structured and lacks fluidity. Though no one can deny that there are meaningful messages within this text, they are still open for interpretation.

With Cage’s text as well as all the others assigned, the meaning of the text is never the same every time you read it. This indeterminacy is what makes postmodern, avant-garde texts unique—if they do nothing else, they will NOT fail to make you think. When the reader is given a chance to think, the result will likely be fruitful change. As Hassan points out in “POSTmodernism,” “What the avant-garde probably still needs to do for a time is serve as the agent of change, which is recognizable when still newer change is in progress.”