The Use and Abuse of History   /   Summer 2022   /    Book Review

Toward a Serious Inquiry into Human Life

Riding the waves of metarealism.

Paul Nedelisky

Gliding (detail), 1930, by Paul Klee (1879–1940); private collection; photograph © Christie’s Images/Bridgeman Images; © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm’s new book, Metamodernism: The Future of Theory, begins as a death-or-glory charge into the postmodernism-bewitched human sciences. Storm, professor of religion and chair of science and technology studies at Williams College, challenges the fashionable befuddlements that have hobbled theory in the humanities and social sciences and proposes a different path forward. He calls it “metamodernism,” and he means it to be a comprehensive philosophical system that advances beyond postmodernism—without a return to modernism.

But after a promising, sometimes breath-taking start, the death-or-glory charge begins to lose steam. We begin to fraternize with the enemy, and the charge transmogrifies into an errand run, pursuing miscellaneous subsidiary goals. The errands start to proliferate, and their connection to the charge becomes unclear. One of them lasts so long, we forget all about the charge. In the end, we’re reminded that this was meant to be a death-or-glory charge. But if so, then why did we come back with groceries and dry cleaning? Why are there poststructuralists in the guest bedroom?

But enough preamble.

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