John Gardner's On Moral Fiction (1977) presents one of the early humanistic critiques of postmodern literature - "a literature without qualities," as Warner Berthoff (1979) ironically calls American literary art after 1945. For both Gardner and Berthoff, though the latter seems more inclined to appreciate the implications of postmodern literature, contemporary fiction is marked by a lack of "moral concern" in the humanistic sense of the term. Or, to put it in a different way, Gardner and Berthoff each comment on the ways in which the postmodern novel (as well as other literary genres) have come to undermine conventional literary, cultural, and ideological codes. Gardner distinguishes what he calls "moral fiction" from postmodern fiction by saying that "moral fiction" is not immersed solely in the subversive aesthetic of "play" (5-6) - an aestheticism, in Gardner's opinion, that undermines the dimensions of fiction and of life he finds most compelling and necessary for the continuance of a humanistic conception of culture.
©1991 by the Board of Student Publications, University of Northern Iowa
McDaniel, James P.
"James's "Lady" in Postmodernity,"
Draftings In: Vol. 6:
3, Article 15.
Available at: https://scholarworks.uni.edu/draftings/vol6/iss3/15