What Is Metamodernism?


What comes next? If this is the question then the answer is prologue. It isn’t technology, not yet, because we’re still learning how to feel comfortable with substituting new processes for old. It isn’t to repeat what was done a hundred years ago, or fifty years ago. It’s to go even farther back, to understand that we come at the turn of a millennium, and that we have not just a hundred, but a few thousand years of tradition to appreciate.

Our formal techniques may echo Joyce and Pynchon, Woolf and Wallace, but the stories we tell in our era have to go even farther back. They have to revert to the first true novel: Plato’s Dialogues. The reason this was first is because it told a story in the way man first moved to abstraction: metaphor. Or allegory, if you prefer. Metaphor is what myth is based on because in it man anthropomorphizes God.

After the Dialogues, philosophy became too abstract and literature became too self-conscious. Let us fix this by offering a simple premise, say good versus evil, and carrying the story through with allegory until its logical conclusion. This, to me, is the metamodern novel, and it is how metamodern fiction will read.

Because in a society where hardly any one is religious, we need to return to what makes us human– stories. From the articles on the first page of Google to last year’s Pulitzer winning novel, we seek stories we can apply to our own lives with metaphors about life’s challenges and illusions.

I could go on with examples but I would only be spinning my wheels. Let’s have brevity. Already I feel too postmodern with such a disclaimer, but then, we are only on the cusp of this putative metamodernism.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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