Postmodernism: Reading Absurdity
In Donald Barthelme's "The Glass Mountain"
In Jeremy Hawthorn's Concise Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory, Hawthorne says "...postmodernism gave great prominence to fragmentation, [blurring genres], and collages as features of twentieth-century art and literature...and postmodernists use fragmentations to liberate from the embrace of fixed systems of belief." (Barry, 80-81).1 In "The Glass Mountain," Donald Barthelme used fragmentations, blurring genres, and collages which were three obvious characteristics of literary postmodernism to write people liberate from the embrace of the fixed system and belief. Paradoxically, when seeing people liberate from fixed system and belief, readers also could see the absurdity of the society simultaneously.
Barthelme had said "fragmentation are the only forms [he] trusts" (Whinsnant, Engl 4300); thus, the using of fragmentation was the most obvious reasons that made "The Glass Mountain" a postmodern short fiction. Not only could readers see Batrthelme numbered each fragmentation, but readers also found the peculiarity of the short fiction's structure which readers did not see before. The second obvious characteristic of literary postmodernism in "The Glass Mountain" was blurring genres. Barthelme mixed medieval chivalric romance and fairy tales together; therefore, readers could not tell that the accurate genres of "The Glass Mountain." For example, Barthelme adapted a Polish fairy tales which was collected by Hermann Kletke and then Barthelme mixed the medieval "knight in full armor--one horse's hoof strike fiery sparks from the sides of the mountain" and "a beautiful princess" (SS, 65) together to create the blurring genres of "The Glass Mountain." The third obvious reason that "The Glass Mountain" was a postmodern fiction was because readers could see collages in a fragmentation. Barthelme composed a fragmentation by mixing two elements together; therefore, Readers...