Author Archives : Seth Abramson


Situating Zavarzadean Metamodernism, #5: Reading Frederic Jameson Against Mas’ud Zavarzadeh

In the fifth of six ruminations on recent developments in metamodernism, I address the reading of Jameson (and Jamesonian postmodernism) that seems to animate the outlier metamodernism of Vermeulen and van den Akker. I use my (re-)reading of Jameson as a means of showing that Jameson’s timeline for the evolution of postmodernism is not, in fact, much at odds with Zavarzadeh’s until we reach the late 1990s—the same period of time at which Vermeulen and van den Akker begin to diverge in their thinking from Jameson. I address, too, how the Vermeulen/van den Akker misreading of Zavarzadeh is in fact a much graver and more consequential misreading of Jameson himself, as the former has in fact substantially complicated the latter’s model of postmodernism’s evolution rather than merely parroting it. The previous rumination in the series can be read here: #4: What Zavarzadean Metamodernism Is and Is Not

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“If postmodernism would come to be aligned with “neoliberalism,” Zavarzadeh in 1975 explicitly aligned metamodernism with “post-liberalism,””

In 1983, Frederic Jameson, the quintessential postmodern scholar, began writing an article for The New Left Review. The article aimed to crystallize “postmodernism” as a discrete cultural paradigm which, in Jameson’s view,

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Situating Zavarzadean Metamodernism, #4: What Zavarzadean Metamodernism Is and Is Not

In the fourth of six ruminations on recent developments in metamodernism, I forcefully rebut misperceptions of Zavarzadean metamodernism and attempt to remedy these misperceptions by close-reading Zavarzadeh’s seminal text. This reading emphasizes how closely interconnected Zavarzadean metamodernism is to other writings on metamodernism that have appeared through the years. The previous rumination in the series can be read here: #3: Developing a Guiding Metaphor for the Metamodern

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“…the “snap-back” quality of metamodernism described by Vermeulen and van den Akker is merely a re-entrenchment of postmodern philosophy by way of confirming that opposing positions are in fact irreconcilable.”

It must now be stated rather baldly that Vermeulen and van den Akker’s circumscription of Mas’ud Zavarzadeh’s metamodernism bears no obvious relation to either the views of the man or the manner in which he articulated those views in “The Apocalyptic Fact” in 1975.

For instance, Zavarzadeh’s clearest and most oft-repeated circumscription of his own reading of metamodernism is that the term denotes creative and cultural phenomena that contain “zero degree of interpretation”; yet in dismissing Zavarzadeh as an only slightly idiosyncratic postmodernist, Vermeulen and van den Akker attribute to him a diametrically opposite usage of the “meta-” prefix:


Situating Zavarzadean Metamodernism, #3: Developing a Guiding Metaphor for the Metamodern

In the third of six ruminations on recent developments in metamodernism, I address more directly a recent essay on the topic by cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker—an essay that both points toward a possible resolution with Zavarzadean metamodernism, offers a way forward for metamodern discourse, and posits a new trope for the scholarly description of metamodern operations. This new trope highlights the ways in which metamodernists always run the risk of merely re-entrenching postmodern principles—perhaps the worst thing a metamodernist can do. The previous rumination in the series can be read here: #2: Metamodernism Across the Disciplines

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“…this idea of being constantly pulled between poles—regardless of the inclusion that, too, one prefers one pole more than another—is “classic” postmodernism.”

In their most recent essay on metamodernism, Vermeulen and van den Akker analogize metamodernism to a man or woman who has been thrown overboard roughly equidistant from a large number of disparate and discrete islands. These islands in many instances represent opposing forces like irony and sincerity, cynicism and optimism, or knowingness and naiveté. In this view, the metamodernist’s inclination is to swim toward one island on the basis of it being (seen

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Situating Zavarzadean Metamodernism, #2: Metamodernism Across the Disciplines 1

In the second of six ruminations on recent developments in metamodernism, I distinguish between different disciplinary approaches to metamodernism and briefly introduce an approach endemic to Literary Studies—that of American professor Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, the man who coined the term “metamodernism” in 1975. In contrasting metamodernism to previous cultural paradigms, I insist that the failure to account metamodernism a “movement” is at the heart of an error that now threatens ongoing metamodern research. The previous rumination in the series can be read here: #1: What Is Metamodernism?

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“Metamodernism is, like Modernism and postmodernism, a cultural paradigm. This means that, like Modernism and postmodernism, it can be construed as a movement, a philosophy, a system of logic, a structure of feeling, and a cultural dominant that both is reflected in existing cultural activities and can be channeled into new creative endeavors.”

Much of the disconnect between Vermeulen and van den Akker and their peers in metamodern scholarship may be attributable to disciplinary pathologies. That is, Vermeulen and van den Akker, as cultural theorists, are looking at temporally elongated phenomena which can in fact exhibit discernible signs of “metaxic” oscillation. For instance, one might find a sort of oscillation


Situating Zavarzadean Metamodernism, #1: What Is Metamodernism?

In the first of six ruminations on recent developments in metamodernism, I address the question of whether and how metamodernists can come to an agreement on the basic principles of the philosophy. I develop a rudimentary outline for metamodernism and begin the process of distinguishing between different readings of the term. The current choke-point in the discipline—a single, narrow reading of the term proposed by a specific cadre of individuals—is introduced.

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“I think the term “metamodernism” offers ample room for spirited debate and disagreement among peers—including, importantly, over how to read the “meta-” prefix itself.”

Recent years have seen metamodernists from around the world struggling to create an international dialogue around the topic due to disagreements over what the term “metamodernism” could or does signify. In some respects this is no different a state of affairs from that faced by early postmodernists in the mid-twentieth century, and is endemic to any dialogue about an emerging cultural paradigm. In other respects, the persistent fragmentation of metamodern discourse is an unnecessary and damaging condition that remains—for a little while longer, at least—capable of redress. If there are, going forward, to be international convocations of metamodern scholars at conferences

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