Aesthetic Universals in Neil Gaiman’s Post-Postmodern Mythmaking

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Abstract

Aesthetic theory, as reflected in both contemporary cognitive (Patrick Colm Hogan) and more traditional structuralist criticism (H.G. Widdowson), points to the dynamics between familiarity and surprise as the driving force behind the pleasure we derive from reading fiction. This paper explains how Neil Gaiman’s works, particularly his novel Neverwhere, utilize genre expectations and reinvent mythologies in order to captivate audiences in the current age of unprecedented access to information and a rather superficial intertextuality. The paper draws on Brian Attebery’s analyses of the literature of the fantastic to place Gaiman within the context of both modernist and postmodernist legacies, while proposing that his works could be best understood as representative of the current cultural paradigm, sometimes labelled as the pseudo-modern or post-postmodernism. The discussion of the shifting paradigm is used as a backdrop for the scrutiny of the devices employed in Gaiman’s writing: the pre-modern focus on storytelling, prototypicality, modernist “mythic principle”, postmodernist textual strategies, and utilization of current technologies and mass-communication media.

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