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  Suggested Postmodern Writing Exercises  

Edited by DeWitt Henry

Since the spring of 2003, I have offered a graduate writing and literature seminar at Emerson College centered on the Norton anthology, POSTMODERN AMERICAN FICTION, edited by Paula Geyn, Fred G. Leebron, and Andrew Levy.  Though already dated (originally published in 1998, see www.wwnorton.com/pmaf for contents), and with the major drawback of presenting novel excerpts more often than stories, this anthology seemed a provocative attempt to present the theoretical arguments for postmodern fiction and to give a variety of examples that were organized to demonstrate six distinct strategies: breaking the frame; fact meets fiction; high culture and low culture collide; revisiting history; revising tradition; and technoculture.  I began the course with essays by critics debating the very term post-modern and asked the students what they were expecting.  Perhaps a third had read some of the writers in the anthology, but the class as a whole was curious and skeptical, “needing to be convinced,” as one student put it.  The term modernism was meaningful to most of the students, but none of them had ever read James Joyce’s Ulysses, let alone Finnegan’s Wake

We read through the anthology section by section, using one week to have the students discuss the works in the given section with each student in charge of a specific work for which she or he presented a response paper.  Students were also assigned to hand in two works of “fiction,” randomly corresponding to two different postmodern strategies being discussed.  In the second week for each section we discussed the student fictions thoroughly. 

Those works were the most rewarding product of the thirteen weeks.  Although post-modern works are notoriously difficult to publish, even in literary magazines, I encouraged the students to submit them to such print magazines as FISH STORIES, CONJUNCTIONS, PINDELDYBOZ, NEW LETTERS, and ANOTHER CHICAGO MAGAZINE , and such  on line magazines such as XCONNECT, TATLIN’S TOWER and BEYOND BAROQUE.  I hope their work finds print, but in the meantime it seems to me too good not to share.  So, with their permission, I am mounting samples at this website.    I also asked them, as writers, to suggest writing exercises related to post modern strategies, a sampling of which I present here.

Please contact the author, c/o DeWitt Henry (dewitt_henry@emerson.edu), if you are interested in considering her or his story for publication.