Cosmology and Divination

And all you wanted was a good ghost story…

imagesMy new novel will be ‘postmodern Gothic’.

Thus I must understand the nature of the beast.

Terror has been central to Gothic literature since it first emerged in the 18th century.  Although the goal of Gothic remains unchanged – to  give voice to societal fears and desires – the goal posts have shifted.

Instead of fearing loss of meaning as did our forefathers, post-moderns fear loss of connection with self and reality. Makes perfect sense in today’s world where entertainment, information, and communication technologies provide experiences more intense – and gratifying – than RL.

In the old days, terror was generated through encounters with various aspects of the supernatural with emphasis on the duality between good and evil. This was achieved through elements of the ‘sublime’  –  that quality in nature which inspires awe, reverence, and other high emotion (OED, noun. 1. b). Hence the emphasis on turbulent landscapes, sinister forests and darkening skies.

Postmodern gothic also centres on the sublime – but no longer is the emphasis on the representable characteristics of nature such as landscapes, forests and skies, but on that which we can conceive- but cannot represent.

Strange enough, herein lies the connection between the 18th century preoccupation with meaninglessness and the 21st century preoccupation with loss of connection with self and reality; regardless whether represented or not, the sublime bridges the boundaries between the visible and invisible.

We establish boundaries through cosmologies or systems of thought through which to order our world. The sublime requires a certain type of cosmology – a psychologically spatial orientation of that which is ‘me’ and that which is ‘other than me’. It is through the shift between the microcosm and macrocosm and back again that we enlarge our perspective and transcend the boundaries of our cosmology.

The unthinkable happens.

 Thought is paralysed.

 Through circumscribing the Idea by image, the Idea is negated.

We comprehend that which lies beyond the borders of our cosmology as ineffable – or perhaps even as God?

In The Idea of the Holy, Rudolph Otto reminds us that fear, shock, and panic are all reactions attributed to experiencing traditional gods like that worshipped in Christianity – attributes like ‘goodness’ and ‘benevolence’ being idealist after-the-fact add-ons.

But according the psychologist James Hillman (An Essay on Pan), more primitive gods – like the great god Pan – seize us not in words but in immediate psychic shock. According to Hillman, in order to grasp Pan as nature we must first be grasped by nature.

So where does this leave us with the postmodern Gothic?

Full circle to 18th century concepts of Gothic and the sublime as an aspect of nature – but – according to my new heroine, Harriet, this time around the stakes are much higher.

Harriet's new home in SN_001

Astrology

Elements of Postmodern Literature

Postmodern Literature
Postmodern Literature

While writing query letters to literary agents, I was forced to classify my  new novel, The Curve of Capricorn  as belonging to a particular genre.

For better or worse, I’ve chosen postmodern literature.

That might sound a bit presumptuous but here’s what I think it means:

1)   Postmodern literature attempts to depict the crisis of human identity (ethic, sexual, social, or cultural) and its struggle for legitimization in a hypocritical society.

I realize that’s a mouthful – but suffice it to say that answering the question “who am I?” has become a good deal harder by constantly being forced to sort ourselves into predetermined boxes – (TICK ONE PLEASE): native American, Asian- American,  Hispanic, agnostic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, white, gay, lesbian, …. or ‘other’ .

To allow both my readers and my characters maximum freedom in this regard, I’ve chosen to categorize or identify the characters in The Curve of Capricorn in a way that unless you’re an astrologer, won’t carry much baggage:

 

Greatest flaw Greatest Strength Greatest Fear Desires
ABBY

(Faithful)

Capricorn

Ambition Perseveres Inability to justify existence To be worthy daughter of a great man
JENNIFER

(Opportunist)

Gemini

Justifies everything Emotionally Detached To lose To ‘have it all’
CASSIE

(Earth Mother)

Taurus

Can’t

forgive and forget

Emotional strength To be a bad wife and mother Save her marriage
RICK

(‘nice guy’)

Leo

Pride Geniune To hurt others Not to be a failure
McCABE SR

(‘sugar daddy’)

Cancer

Can’t escape emotions Ability to amass followers To be forgotten Win love & respect of Abby’s mother
McCABE JR

(‘smart ass’)

Aquarius

Single-mindedness Strategy To be like his father Revenge on father for having ignored him
ALEX

(antihero)

Sagittarius

Lack of ambition Survivor To look into the mirror External stimulation and excitement
JACK

(hero)

Libra

 

Ability to see all sides Diplomat To be overcome by guilt Save the world
BELINDA

(princess)

Pisces

 

gullible Knows that to ‘err’ is to be ‘human’ To take charge Someone to take care of her

 

2)   In postmodern literary works, the idea of originality and authenticity is undermined and parodied – For example, when I first started writing this novel for NANORIMO 2012 using astrology as my superstructure I thought I was really on to something original.  I could have had no idea that Eleanor Catton in her Booker prize winning novel The Luminaries would beat me to it!

3)   Postmodern literature is closely connected with advances in technology. If Abby had lived in the days of snail mail, things would have turned out differently.

4)   Postmodern literature is also associated with the growing distrust that ‘reason’ can provide us with verifiable ‘truths’. Jennifer (Gemini = Opportunist) is the narrator in The Curve of Capricorn and trust me – her truth is most certainly not the same as mine or yours.

5)   Postmodern literature often questions its own fictional status thus becoming ‘metafictional’. This one’s a bit tricky – but how about ‘metafiction is a fiction about fiction’? In terms of The Curve of Capricorn, Jennifer and I always encourage you as the reader to imagine how things might have turned out differently if only, if only, if only…

6)   One of the most important aspects of a postmodern literary work is its intertextuality – suffice it to say that in The Curve of Capricorn, all those allusions to the heroines of Jane Austen are there for a reason.

7)   Another important aspect of postmodern literary works is the use of postmodern parody, which emphasizes the difference between past art forms and sensibilities.  My all-time hero is Henry James and while his novels exquisitely explore the psychology of their characters, poor Henry didn’t have the opportunity to study psychological astrology with Liz Greene as did I.

Postmodern Literature

8)   In postmodern literary works there is often an overlap between fiction, fantasy, dreams and sometime hallucinations in an attempt to demonstrate that unlike with modernist thinking, these spheres are not always distinguishable.  Jennifer covers that one in the preface where she explains her reasons for using Zen Ko-ans (along with astrology) as a structuring device.

%d bloggers like this: