Post-Modernism in Waterland

Andrew Kidd '91 (EL 32, 1990)

Waterland recognizes a connection between the reclamation of the Fens and the French Revolution. The individualist spirit that fueled both of these events has been given an intellectual label: Modernism. The birth of this movement is recognized in the declaration of Descartes (1596-1650), "I think, therefore I am." Rooted in an arrogance of self-assurance and in the conviction that life is no more than perception allows, Modernism advocates progress.

However, the structure of Waterland itself undermines linear progress. It is a text of self-reflection and cross-connection; it is Post-Modern. Employing a technique of deconstruction that was pioneered by Nietzsche (1844-1900), Waterland questions the sensibility of Descartes' declaration by suggesting levels of connection between "world" history and "personal" history that render "I think, therefore I am" overly simplistic. History is recognized as a cycle of progression, regression and constant, agonizing return.

United Kingdom