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Metamodernism is a post-postmodern movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries that both departs from and is informed by modernism and postmodernism. While divergent readings of the term in the arts and in criticism have been offered since the 1970s, a common feature of its usage is treatment of metamodernism as a mediation between important principles of modernism and postmodernism.



The word metamodern was first used by University of Oregon professor Mas'ud Zavarzadeh in the Journal of American Studies in his April 1975 article "The Apocalyptic Fact and the Eclipse of Fiction in Recent American Prose Narratives." Zavarzadeh described the metamodern as a "response to the emerging realities of a technetronic culture," specifically the "overwhelming actualities of contemporary America, which render all interpretations of 'reality' arbitrary and therefore simultaneously accurate and absurd." Zavarzadeh, quoting Alain Robbe-Grillet, described a body of literature in which daily experience was rendered as "neither significant nor absurd. It is, quite simply." According to Zavarzadeh, the "fusion of fact and fiction blurs the dichotomy between 'life' and 'art' and indeed such a sharp division between the two does not exist in the emerging aesthetics which I shall, for the lack of a better term, call 'Metamodernist.' As a result of these changes in the chemistry of contemporary reality, the fictive novel--a closed, self-sufficient set, independent of raw experiential life--is yielding to other forms of narrative which operate as an open set, combining such allegedly antithetical elements as the 'fictional' and the 'factual,' 'critical' and the 'creative,' 'art' and 'life.'"[1]

Literary critic Larry McCaffery credited Zavarzadeh with "provid[ing] a useful starting point for an understanding of metafiction in his discussion of various new literary tendencies..."[2] In 1992, World Literature Today called it "a radical oppositional critique as a means to uncover the social contradictions in writing. This dialectic proposes not to explicate a text but to implicate it in global frames of knowing...a new perspective on postmodern thought, a metatheoretical critique of contemporary theory in the context of its sociopolitical problematic."[3]

In a 2000 article in The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Moyo Okediji instead described the metamodern as a "extension of and challenge to modernism and postmodernism."[4] Okediji identified as metamodern a coterie of black American artists who expanded existing definitions of form while also aiming to "transcend, fracture, subvert, circumvent, interrogate and disrupt, hijack and appropriate modernity and postmodernity at nearly every available point."[5]

In 2003, Andre Furlani attempted to describe metamodernism as an intervention in the post-postmodernism debate in "Postmodern and After." Writing in Contemporary Literature, Furlani relied on the meaning of the preposition and prefix "meta-" to describe metamodernism as an literary paradigm in art that is "after yet by means of modernism...a departure as well as a perpetuation."[6]

In 2007, literary theorist Alexandra Dumitrescu, analyzing the poetry of William Blake, chose to describe metamodernism as partly a concurrence with, partly an emergence from, and partly a reaction to postmodernism.[7] To her, metamodernism is "a turn away from both modern individualism and postmodern fragmentarism" towards the story itself, not merely as a source of entertainment (as in postmodern literature) but "as meaningful narrative that involves the audience, and answers some of its quandaries, thus aiming to either coax or shock the reader into regaining their humanity of concern, care, and compassion."[7] In 2010, Dumitrescu published a study of Arundhati Roy entitled "Intimations of Metamodernism," which noted the "principle of polarity at the metamodern attempt to recover unity after fragmentation has become the norm and to integrate....intuition or emotion with what is thought of as 'masculine' reason."[8]

Vermeulen and van den Akker[edit]

In 2010, cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker wrote "Notes on Metamodernism" in which they described metamodernism as an intervention in the post-postmodernism debate. Theorizing changes in capitalism and politics as well as culture, they asserted that the 2000s were characterized by the return of typically modern positions that did not forfeit the postmodern mindsets of the 1980s and 1990s.[9] [10] As examples of the metamodern sensibility Vermeulen and van den Akker cite the 'informed naivety', 'pragmatic idealism' and 'moderate fanaticism' of the various cultural responses to, among others, climate change, the financial crisis, and (geo)political instability. The prefix "meta-" here referred not to a reflective stance or repeated rumination, but to Plato's metaxy, which denotes a movement between opposite poles as well as beyond them.[11]

According to Vermeulen and van den Akker, the architect Bjarke Ingels[12] and the firm Herzog de Meuron[13] offer examples of metamodernism. Vermeulen and van den Akker also believe that various actors and directors, including Wes Anderson,[14] Leos Carax,[15] and James Franco[16] represent metamodernism in the cinema. In literature, Vermeulen and van den Akker consider the works of Jonathan Franzen[17] to be examples of metamodernism.

The Metamodernist Manifesto[edit]

In 2011, the artist Luke Turner published "The Metamodernist Manifesto," later credited to his collaborator Shia LaBeouf, based on the article by Vermeulen and Van den Akker, calling for an end to "the inertia resulting from a century of modernist ideological naivety and the cynical insincerity of its antonymous bastard child", and proposing instead "a pragmatic romanticism unhindered by ideological anchorage."[18][19][20]


Writing for The Huffington Post and Indiewire in 2013 and 2014, American poet and critic Seth Abramson proposed a definition of metamodernism that, according to J.T. Welsch, speaking at a conference of the British Association for Modernist Studies, "sees the 'meta-' prefix [of 'metamodernism'] as a means to transcend the burden of modernism and postmodernism's allegedly polarised intellectual heritage".[21] Abramson positions metamodernism as "much more than the implicit proclamation that postmodernism is dead...[but] an active and expanding poetics that makes positive submissions of a[n] historically idiosyncratic sort".[22][23] This new poetics, according to Web del Sol, submits "that the time for merely edifying America as to the realities of language is over; the time for speaking primarily in the language of realities is beginning".[24] Abramson now writes a regular column for Indiewire entitled "Metamericana," which focuses on the "film, television, drama, and comedy...[of] American metamodernism, a cultural paradigm that uses both fragmentary and contradictory data to produce new forms of coherence."[25][26]

Artists identified by Abramson as metamodernist in his articles for The Huffington Post and Indiewire include Reggie Watts,[27][28] Steve Roggenbuck,[29] James Franco,[30] Shia LaBeouf,[31] David Mitchell,[32] Steven Zultanski,[33] Girl Talk,[34] and Bo Burnham.[34][35]

James and Seshagiri[edit]

In a January 2014 article in PMLA, "Metamodernism: Narratives of Continuity and Revolution," David James and Urmila Seshagiri position metamodernism as a reaction to and expansion upon modernism. According to the two literary scholars, "Metamodernism regards modernism as an era, an aesthetic, and an archive that originated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries....metamodernist writing incorporates and adapts, reactivates and complicates the aesthetic prerogatives of an earlier cultural moment." Authors associated with metamodernism by James and Seshagiri include, among others, Tom McCarthy.[36]


In 2011, German newspapers Die Zeit and Der Tagesspiegel proclaimed metamodernism the new dominant paradigm in the arts.[37] In 2013, the artist Ankit Love created Mist, a magazine that juxtaposes fashion and science with an eye toward "the metamodern age."[38]

In November 2011, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York staged an exhibition entitled No More Modern: Notes on Metamodernism' based on the text by Velmeulen and Van Den Akker', featuring the work of Pilvi Takala, Guido van der Werve, Benjamin Martin and Mariechen Danz.[39]

In March 2012, Galerie Tanja Wagner in Berlin curated Discussing Metamodernism in collaboration with van den Akker and Vermeulen, billed as the first exhibition in Europe to be staged around the concept of metamodernism.[40][41][42] The show featured the work of Ulf Aminde, Yael Bartana, Monica Bonvicini, Mariechen Danz, Annabel Daou, Paula Doepfner, Olafur Eliasson, Mona Hatoum, Andy Holden, Sejla Kameric, Ragnar Kjartansson, Kris Lemsalu, Issa Sant, David Thorpe, Angelika J. Trojnarski, Luke Turner, and Nastja Rönkkö.[42]

In February of 2014, actor Shia LaBeouf self-identified himself as a metamodernist.[43] Others so identified by popular and scholarly media include Michel Gondry,[44] Spike Jonze,[45] Roberto Bolaño,[46] and David Foster Wallace.[47]

In May of 2014, outlaw country artist Sturgill Simpson told Country Music Television that his album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music had been inspired in part by the reading of metamodernism offered by Seth Abramson.[48] According to Simpson, "Abramson homes in on the way everybody is obsessed with nostalgia, even though technology is moving faster than ever."[48] In lauding the album as "a vehicle for big, unwieldy ideas about human consciousness and the nature of life," Pitchfork referred to Metamodern Sounds in Country Music as "Ray Charles by way of Seth Abramson."[49] Metamodern Sounds in Country Music was subsequently nominated for the 2014 Americana Music Honors & Awards.[50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zavarzadeh, Mas'ud. "The Apocalyptic Fact and the Eclipse of Fiction in Recent American Prose Narratives". Journal of American Studies, Vol. 9, no. 1 (Apr. 1975). Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ McCaffery, Larry (1982). The Metafictional Muse: The Works of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, and William H. Cass. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 5. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Harris, Michael D., and Moyo Okediji. [1] The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 33, No. 3 (2000).
  5. ^ Okediji, Moyo. Transatlantic Dialogue: Contemporary Art In and Out of Africa. Oakland Museum of California. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  6. ^ Furlani, Andre. Guy Davenport: Postmodern and After. Northwestern University Press. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Dumitrescu, Alexandra. "Interconnections in Blakean and Metamodern Space". On Space. Deakin University. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  8. ^ Dumitrescu, Alexandra (June 30, 2010). Intimations of Metamodernism. Rodopi. Retrieved July 4, 2014. 
  9. ^ Vermeulen, Timotheus and Robin van den Akker. "Notes on Metamodernism", Journal of Aesthetics and Culture" 2 (2010): 1–14.
  10. ^ Moraru, Christian."[2]", "American Book Review" 34:4 (2013): 3-4.
  11. ^ Editorial, 'What meta- means and does not mean' Notes on metamodernism, Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  12. ^ "Bjarke Ingels Group". Notes on Metamodernism. Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  13. ^ "Herzog & de Meuron". Notes on Metamodernism. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  14. ^ "Wes Anderson, Tone, and the Quirky Sensibility". Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  15. ^ "New French Extremity: An Exigency for Reality". Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  16. ^ "James Franco". Notes on Metamodernism. Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  17. ^ "Jonathan Franzen’s post-postmodernism". Notes on Metamodernism. Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  18. ^ Turner, L. "Metamodernist Manifesto" Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  19. ^ McCahill, M. (12 February 2014). "Shia LaBeouf: Is there genius in his madness?". The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  20. ^ Swift, T. (19 May 2014). "An Interview with Luke Turner & Nastja Sade Ronkko". aqnb. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  21. ^ Welsch, J.T. "John Beer's The Waste Land and the Possibility of Metamodernism". British Association for Modernist Studies (June 26, 2014). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  22. ^ Pritchard, Daniel Evans. "Weekly Poetry Links". Boston Review (July 24, 2013). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  23. ^ Abramson, Seth. "On Literary Metamodernism". The Huffington Post (July 20, 2013). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  24. ^ Bowden, Rus. "Videos, Tickers, and Poetry News". Del Sol Press (July 23, 2013). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  25. ^ Abramson, Seth. "The Lego Movie: Metamodernism for Kids". Indiewire (February 14, 2014). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  26. ^ Abramson, Seth. "Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty Is Exactly That". Indiewire (February 28, 2014). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  27. ^ Abramson, Seth. "Ten Things You Need to Know About Metamodernism Right Now". The Huffington Post (July 22, 2013). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  28. ^ Foundation of Chicago, The Poetry. "A Blow-by-Blow Analysis of a Reggie Watts Performance". The Poetry Foundation (July 29, 2013). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  29. ^ Abramson, Seth. "On American Metamodernism". The Huffington Post (February 7, 2014). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  30. ^ Abramson, Seth. "Metamericana: Is James Franco a Creep? Thank God We'll Never Know". Indiewire (April 7, 2014). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  31. ^ Abramson, Seth. "Shia LaBeouf: Plagiarist or Genius?". Indiewire (January 10, 2014). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  32. ^ Abramson, Seth. "Talks on Metamodernism With Seth Abramson (Part 3)". As It Ought to Be (March 12, 2014). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  33. ^ Foundation of Chicago, The Poetry. "Animals Versus Normandy Sherwood, Steve Zultanski Is a Metamodernist, Ron Silliman Reveals All, & More". The Poetry Foundation (March 7, 2014). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  34. ^ a b Abramson, Seth. "Talks on Metamodernism With Seth Abramson (Part 3)". As It Ought to Be (March 12, 2014). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  35. ^ Abramson, Seth. "Shia LaBeouf: Plagiarist or Genius?". Indiewire (January 10, 2014). Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  36. ^ James, David and Urmila Seshagiri. "[3], PMLA" 129: 1 (January 2014): 87–100.
  37. ^ Meixner, C. 'Was Macht die Kunst in 2011?Die Zeit (3 January 2011)
  38. ^ Templar Lewis, Katherine (October 14, 2013). "MAKING SCIENCE SEXY?". Wild Culture. Retrieved January 21, 2014. 
  39. ^ 'No More Modern: Notes on Metamodernism' Museum of Arts and Design, Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  40. ^ 'The Metamodern Mindset' Berlin Art Journal, Retrieved June 26, 2014.
  41. ^ 'Discussing Metamodernism with Tanja Wagner and Timotheus Vermeulen' Blouin ARTINFO, Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  42. ^ a b 'Discussing Metamodernism' Galerie Tanja Wagner, Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  43. ^ "Shia LaBeouf: My Life Is Performance Art". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  44. ^ "Metamodernism As We Perceive It". European Scientific Journal. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  45. ^ "Review of Spike Jonze's 'Her'". Detroit Weekly. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  46. ^ "Notes Toward An Adaptation of Roberto Bolaño's '2666'". The American Reader. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  47. ^ "Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, and the Problems of 'Metamodernism'". C21 Literature: Journal of 21st Century Writings. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  48. ^ a b Hight, Jewly. "Sturgill Simpson's New Set is a Mind-expanding Take on Country Traditionalism". Country Music Television (May 8, 2014). Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  49. ^ Deusner, Stephen M. "Review of Sturgill Simpson's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music". Pitchfork (May 16, 2014). Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  50. ^ Strong, Danna. "Americana Honors & Awards 2014 Nominees Announced". Americana Music Honors & Awards (May 12, 2014). Retrieved July 6, 2014. 
  51. ^
  52. ^

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