Spring/Summer 1993, Volume 10.2
Neila C. Seshachari
In her presidential address titled "Differences" given at the Modern Language Association in December 1990, Catharine R. Stimpson briefly, but succinctly, alluded to our postmodernist times: "[I] will note that we live in a rush of history. We have a congeries of names for this volatile moment, especially as it is experienced in the West: postindustrial, postmodern, poststructuralist, postcolonial, postfeminist, post-Marxist, post-Gutenberg. Commentators have mocked the repetitive use of post- as if these terms were Post-it notes from the pads of melodramatic, ineffectual intellectuals."
The "Post-it" analogy has stuck in my mind ever since (double entendre intended), especially since it captures the quilted montage of my work-desk and my day's fragmented routines tossed between teaching, editing, writing, and community involvement. The pale yellow Post-it notes are the stepping stones which enable me to make quick shifts without losing my cool.
The "Post-it" analogy is particularly apt for our lives, for it encompasses not only the fractured sense of reality that we are forced to live in-irreality, as John Barth once called it-but also the fragile, erstwhile nature of our engagements and the "gaps" or ruptures in continuity that we are forced to take in stride to make sense of our times. Postmodernism may get us only if we allow it to alienate us from art and emotion. I am with Jean-Francois Lyotard. The postmodern condition need not sever us from the emotional. I rather think it should be possible to hold these two seemingly contradictory realities within us by tempering the dry, abstract paradigms imposed upon us by our condition with a greater appreciation of the emotive.
This issue of Weber Studies may prove just that. It clusters around two topics, both closely linked-postmodernism and multiculturalism-without sacrificing the heart. David Kranes's scintillating play "Infrastructures" refers to one more "post-": post-Freudian Freudianism. In its sophisticated and fragmented postmodern elegance, it challenges readers to decide for themselves whether or not it ends in a post-humous situation. Ron Carlson's incisive interview with Kranes dwells on the "fierce and uncompromising" as well as the "sensitive and fostering" elements in his writing and teaching, which elicits Kranes's telling comment: "That shows how little we know ourselves."
Stimpson's essay in these pages explores how contemporary humanities and postmodernism have mutually rejuvenated and expanded their boundaries, even though postmodernism [as perhaps the humanities] has failed to install itself fully even in the American academy. Stimpson notes the extraordinary power and variety of "outsider" voices, of women of all races-African-Americans and the marginalized.
These so-called oppositional voices constitute the second cluster of articles in this issue. In "The Re-Making of a Leader: Martin Luther King's Last Phase," Candadai Seshachari illuminates the erstwhile eclipse of the civil rights leader as he enlarged the scope of his essentially regional civil rights movement into a more pressing and political national movement, to conclude that King, "the maker of history," is "larger in death than he was in life."
Kathryn Lee Seidel traces the portrayal of the archetypal Lilith figure in fiction-specifically Toni Morrison's Sula and Alice Walker's The Color Purple- to show how Lilith's ancient myth not only empowers women but provides a corrective to stereotypical female images, especially AfricanAmerican.
Both our fictions touch on human predicaments. Paul Michel Baepler's story, "Travel," takes the two protagonists, who "tell each other lies out of kindness," into perpetual postmodern uncertainties, while Darin Cozzens's protagonist in "New Boots". confronts similar dilemmas in El Salado, Ecuador.
Poems by Katie Kingston, John Hendrickson, Bruce Robinson, and Leigh Kirkland, and reviews of four books complete the rich fare.
Our next issue will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Weber Studies! Knowing the high mortality rate of little magazines, I can't help musing, My, how we've grown! We not only increased the number of pages but started publishing triquarterly this year. Among the blessings of this, our tenth year, I count my colleague Michael Wutz who fell into the team in September, and without whose shoulder to the wheel, I could not have sustained a triquarterly schedule. I welcome him warmly and heartily.
The tenth anniversary special issue will focus on "Tradition and the Individual Talent in Contemporary Mormon Literature." It will reflect the extraordinary vitality and variety of contemporary Mormon letters. Look also for the winner of the Dr. 0. Marvin Lewis Award for the best poetry appearing in Weber Studies, judged by Poet (Laureate) Mark Strand.