• Marguerite Alexander, Flights from Realism: Themes and Strategies in Postmodern British and American Fiction (London: Edward Arnold, 1990), vi+216 pp., £9.95 (paperback) • Jon Stratton, Writing Sites: A Genealogy of the Postmodern World (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990), viii+339 pp., £42.50 (hardback) • Gregory Ulmer, Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), xii+256 pp., £10.95 (paperback)
STEVEN CONNOR One might hazard the proposition that there are currently and habitually two modes of postmodern theory. The first takes the postmodern as a condition, a set of symptoms, a field of objects. It determines aetiology, proposes diagnosis and, sometimes, offers treatment and cure for the condition. Such criticism maintains a cool but concerned bedside manner, never allowing its sympathy for the patient to interfere with its understanding of the ailment. Of course, there are distinct modes of diagnosis and treatment-those opponents of postmodernism, for example, who would wish to excoriate the disease, as opposed to the mild apologists of postmodernism who see therapeutic value in allowing the condition to run its course. Because it speaks of the postmodern condition from outside rather than from within it, maintaining a professional composure in the face of its fitful fevering, this mode of theory could be called ‘theory-of-the-postmodern’. Included in this expanding category would therefore be polemics against postmodernism such as Christopher Norris’s What’s Wrong with Postmodernism or Uncritical Theory, handy bluffers’ guides to postmodernism, such as Steven Connor’s Postmodernist Culture or Margaret Rose’s The Post-Modern and the Post-Industrial, epidemiological critiques such as David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity, and more or less sympathetic taxonomies and surveys of postmodern effects in a number of different particular cultural areas.1 Marguerite Alexander’s investigation of what the subtitle of her Flights From Realism calls ‘themes and strategies in postmodernist British and American fiction’ belongs clearly to this category.