Estonian Literature after Postmodernism: The Challenge of “New Sincerity”

Piret Viires (Tallinn University / Estonian Literary Museum)

Several researchers have stated, in describing the cultural situation of the early 21st century, that the heyday of postmodernism has passed. Postmodernist theory has exhausted itself and has failed to describe the contemporary world adequately in the early 21st century.

So, the present question is: what comes after postmodernism? The umbrella term “post-postmodernism” is generally used to describe the cultural situation following postmodernism. There are also more specific terms: neomodernism, metamodernism, hypermodernity, automodernity, digimodernism, performatism, critical realism, etc. Most of the new definitions are characterised by their attempt to oppose postmodernism, i.e. postmodernist cynicism, playfulness and irony. Instead, they try to offer something new to replace the existing clichés, such as truth, simplicity, clarity and beauty: all values that postmodernism had abolished.

Similar theoretical treatments are supported by cultural phenomena called “new simplicity” and “new sincerity”. The question that is addressed in this paper is whether we can find “new sincerity” in contemporary Estonian literature. I will argue that “new sincerity” is not an altogether alien concept in Estonian literature, and there are writers who write “new sincere” texts.

In conclusion, we can declare that the postmodernist “age of irony” is over and literature that values truth and beauty is on the rise. At the same time, we are currently in a transitional period. One era, the postmodern, has ended, and the next has not quite started. What actually happened in our era will only be established afterwards, when we will be able to look back at the current moment.

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