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A pastiche is a literary or other artistic genre that is a "hodge-podge" or an imitation. The word is also a linguistic term used to describe an early stage in the development of a pidgin language.

Hodge-podge[edit | edit source]

In this usage, a work is called pastiche if it is cobbled together in imitation of several original works. As the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, a pastiche in this sense is "a medley of various ingredients; a hotchpotch, farrago, jumble." This meaning accords with etymology: pastiche is the French version of the Greco-Roman dish pastitsio or pasticcio, a kind of pie made of many different ingredients.

Some works of art are pastiche in both senses of the term; for example, the David Lodge novel and the Star Wars series mentioned below appreciatively imitate work from multiple sources.

Mass (music)[edit | edit source]

A pastiche mass is a mass where the constituent movements are from different Mass settings.

Masses are composed by classical composers as a set of movements: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei. (Examples: the Missa Solemnis by Beethoven and the Messe de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut.) In a pastiche mass, the performers may choose a Kyrie from one composer, and a Gloria from another, or, choose a Kyrie from one setting of an individual composer, and a Gloria from another.

Most often this convention is chosen for concert performances, particularly by early music ensembles.

Imitation[edit | edit source]

In this usage, the term denotes a literary technique employing a generally light-hearted tongue-in-cheek imitation of another's style; although jocular, it is usually respectful.

For example, many stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, originally created by Arthur Conan Doyle, have been written as pastiches since the author's time.[1][2] Ellery Queen and Nero Wolfe are other popular subjects of mystery parodies and pastiches.[3][4]

A similar example of pastiche is the posthumous continuations of the Robert E. Howard stories, written by other writers without Howard's authorization. This includes the Conan stories of L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. David Lodge's novel The British Museum Is Falling Down (1965) is a pastiche of works by Joyce, Kafka, and Virginia Woolf.

Pastiche is also found in non-literary works, including art and music. For instance, Charles Rosen has characterized Mozart's various works in imitation of Baroque style as pastiche, and Edvard Grieg's Holberg Suite was written as a conscious homage to the music of an earlier age. Perhaps one of the best examples of pastiche in modern music is the that of George Rochberg, who used the technique in his String Quartet No. 3 of 1972 and Music for the Magic Theater. Rochberg turned to pastiche from serialism after the death of his son in 1963.

Many of "Weird Al" Yankovic's original songs are pastiches: for example, "Dare to Be Stupid" is a Devo pastiche, and "Bob" from the album Poodle Hat is a pastiche of Bob Dylan. Another example is a 1979 recording by Ray Stevens titled "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow" where the song's intro is reminiscent of Manilow's hit, "I Write the Songs" and the vocal performance, melody, and name-dropping of Manilow song titles is a pastiche of Barry Manilow.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen is unusual as it is a pastiche in both senses of the word, as there are many distinct styles imitated in the song, all 'hodge-podged' together to create one piece of music.[5] A similar earlier example is "Happiness is a Warm Gun" by The Beatles.

Pastiche is prominent in popular culture. Many genre writings, particularly in fantasy, are essentially pastiches. The Star Wars series of films by George Lucas is often considered to be a pastiche of traditional science fiction television serials (or radio shows). The fact that Lucas's films have been influential (spawning their own pastiches - vis the 1983 3D film Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn) can be regarded as a function of postmodernity.

Pastiche can also be a cinematic device wherein the creator of the film pays homage to another filmmaker's style and use of cinematography, including camera angles, lighting, and mise en scène. A film's writer may also offer a pastiche based on the works of other writers (this is especially evident in historical films and documentaries but can be found in non-fiction drama, comedy and horror films as well).

Well-known academic Fredric Jameson has a somewhat more critical view of pastiche, describing it as "blank parody" (Jameson, 1991), especially with reference to the postmodern parodic practices of self-reflexivity and intertextuality. By this is meant that rather than being a jocular but still respectful imitation of another style, pastiche in the postmodern era has become a "dead language", without any political or historical content, and so has also become unable to satirize in any effective way. Whereas pastiche used to be a humorous literary style, it has, in postmodernism, become "devoid of laughter" (Jameson, 1991).

In urban planning, a pastiche is used to refer to neighborhoods as imitations of building styles as conceived by major planners. Many post-war European neighborhoods can in this way be described as pastiches from planners like Le Corbusier or Ebenezer Howard. Alain de Botton describes pastiche as "an unconvincing reproduction of the styles of the past."[6]

Postmodern art, media and literature can be characterized by intertextuality as the narrative mode, and the postmodern period can be characterized by the death of the grand narratives as proclaimed by Jean-François Lyotard in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979). The grand narratives such as religions, ideologies and the enlightenment project have been substituted by the small, local narratives, e.g. love of one’s family. Pastiche is intertextual in its very form as it is a recreation of an earlier text. In the postmodern pastiche the older text (the hypotext) may reflect one of the bygone grand narratives, yet its new postmodern version may reflect a local narrative, so that the two enter into a dialogue in the pastiche. This is for instance the case with Francis Glebas’ "Pomp and Circumstance"- the seventh segment in Fantasia 2000 from 1999, in which the grand religious narrative of the Deluge is merged with the local narrative of personal love, personified in Donald Duck and Daisy. Though the grand narratives may be dead as ontological frames, they can here in the pastiche narrative regain some of their ontological strength when the local narratives are confronted by them in this narrative way.

See also[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]


  • Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991.
  • Jameson, Fredric. "Postmodernism and Consumer Society" in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Post-Modern Culture, Hal Foster (ed), Seattle: Bay Press, 1989, pp. 111 – 125
  • Hoesterey, Ingeborg. Pastiche: Cultural Memory in Art, Film, Literature Indiana University Press, 2001. (ISBN 0-253-33880-8)
  • Christensen, Jørgen Riber, "Diplopia, or Ontological Intertextuality in Pastiche" in Culture, Media, Theory, Practice: Perspectives, ed. Ben Dorfman, Aalborg University Press, 2004, pp. 234–246

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lopresti, Rob (2009-08-12). "Pastiche Nuts". Tune It Or Die!. Criminal Brief. http://criminalbrief.com/?p=8047. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  2. Lundin, Leigh (2007-07-15). "When Good Characters Go Bad". ADD Detective. Criminal Brief. http://criminalbrief.com/?p=125. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  3. Andrews, Dale (2008-10-28). "The Pastiche". Mystery Masterclass. Criminal Brief. http://criminalbrief.com/?p=3561. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  4. Ritchie, James; Tog; Gleason, Bill; Lopresti, Rob; Andrews, Dale; Baker, Jeff (2009-12-29). "Pastiche vs. fan fiction. Dividing line?". The Mystery Place. New York: Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchock, Dell Magazines. http://www.themysteryplace.com/forum/messages.aspx?TopicID=241. Retrieved 2010-01-10. 
  5. Baker, Roy Thomas (1995-10). "AN INVITATION TO THE OPERA". Sound on Sound. http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/1995_articles/oct95/queen.html. Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  6. Alain de Botton on architecture

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