It is worth noting that metamodernism, like postmodernism and modernism, is quite different than other “-isms” that have been applied to the arts – Cubism, Impressionism, Abstract Impressionism, Surrealism, etc. Those latter terms were used to understand and grasp the nature of artistic expressions – what the artists were doing, their subject matter, the materials they used, the relationship between their work and “reality.”

However, metamodernism, postmodernism, and modernism have been all that and more, because these three terms have been used to describe a wider cultural sensibility as well as artistic expression.  It could be, for example, that hundreds of artistic movements will come and go in the future, but that the trilogy of modernism, postmodernism, and metamodernism is permanent and complete – and that each of them, as our thinking continues to develop, is not particularly time-bound or era-bound. We already know that, but there is still a tendency to park modernism in the first half of the 20th century, postmodernism in the second half of the 20th century, and metamodernism in the 21st century. Seth Abramson is almost certainly correct (as is Alexandra Dumitrescu) that Blake and Wordsworth (and thousands of others) expressed sensibilities that are not time-bound, but that link across the ages to others who have had a particular balance of reason/emotion/spirituality. The real game, in the near future, might be to cross boundaries of time and geography to assess who among us has been inclined to the labels “modern,” “postmodern,” and “metamodern,” no matter when they lived or where they lived.

In support of this approach, it might be noted that the trilogy of modernism, postmodernism, and metamodernism has parallels in philosophy (Hegel), in religion (the holy trinity of a spiritual “father,” an earthly “son,” and an ethereal category-crossing eternal “spirit”), and in the innocence-experience-higher innocence/wisdom that Alexandra has posited. In other words, we may not be talking about the latest in a series of labels for cultural sensibilities – we may be on to something more profound and more simple – a trinity of varying approaches to cultural theory that accommodates the various combinations of reason/emotion/spirituality (or lack thereof) into one or another manner of living and seeing the world.

Watch this space!!

Gary Forrester

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