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greatfish
03-06-2007, 12:10 PM
I've been trying to read up on Postmodernism, but I'm having a really hard time getting a grasp on it. I think one of the reasons is because postmodernists don't ascribe to any single value system. In fact, they often contradict each other. Does anyone have any good links or books that will help explain Postmodernism?

Higgins
03-06-2007, 07:23 PM
I've been trying to read up on Postmodernism, but I'm having a really hard time getting a grasp on it. I think one of the reasons is because postmodernists don't ascribe to any single value system. In fact, they often contradict each other. Does anyone have any good links or books that will help explain Postmodernism?

I would have assumed until a few weeks ago that I had a pretty good idea of what post modernism is or was. Now I think the term is even more misleading and confusing than the average big cultural term (such as "Existentialism"...which is much easier to define in cultural terms than POMO). The problem is that Modernism came to define such a diverse array (modern art, modern architecture ie High Culture art of the middle of the 20th century) that POMO is even more diverse and probably just as dated.
In some areas (for example History of Science), you can isolate some Post modern (or at least post positivist) developments and approaches and I have posted some reading suggestions in that area, but for many areas, POMO is not very clearly defined and is easily (and probably correctly) confused with Post-structuralism. But then you have to define structuralism.
In the near future, I plan to start some threads on narrative in the post-post-modern sense, and on Structuralism (and the Levi-Strauss to Lacan transition), and something about how and why New Criticism disappeared from the realm of serious academic methodologies. I could reassemble my pomo revolution in the History of Science suggested readings, but perhaps that is a bit irrelevent at the moment.

blacbird
03-06-2007, 08:23 PM
Every discussion of "postmodernism" I've ever encountered has quickly made my head hurt.

I need an aspirin . . .

caw

RG570
03-06-2007, 09:59 PM
Postmodernism is basically us giving up on life and submitting to the apathetic non-culture that must emerge from late capitalism.

Everything is a copy of everthing else, people think the cultural products they consume are different from one another but in the end they are all fundamentally the same and there really is no choice anymore. Nobody ought to try to change the world because you can't, might as well focus on what's going on in your neighborhood and stop caring about wider matters, because who do you think you are knowing what's best for everyone?

That's it, in a nutshell. Nobody knows anything, everyone knows everything, and you are powerless, and god help you if you've fallen in with that high-culture crowd.

veinglory
03-06-2007, 10:15 PM
I always felt postmodernism was basically the emphasis of perspective over "truth". It makes perfect sense as a reaction to modernism which made the perspective of a small elite group the "truth" everyone else had to live by.

Birol
03-06-2007, 10:20 PM
Veinglory has the right of it. Post-modernism challenges perceptions and beliefs of what is and what is not.

Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five is a post-modern work. In the end, the question of whether or not the narrator is reliable is left open to reader interpretation. There is evidence both ways. Andy Warhol is a post-modern artist. His famous painting of a Campbell's soup can makes us ask what is and what is not art. Where does the distinction, the difference lie?

RG570
03-06-2007, 10:43 PM
I think there was plenty of subjective art that emphasized perception over truth in modernism. I mean that's what the last few artistic movements before postmodernism came along were, right? The goal was to create the authentic, which doesn't have to mean they thought they knew "the truth" like critics of modernism often point out.

And then there's the argument that postmodernism is still just another stage of modernism. I don't know if I believe that though, perhaps I'm too biased; I read a lot of Adorno's work.

Also the avant-garde is basically dead, which is quite remarkable and unnerving.

ColoradoGuy
03-07-2007, 12:08 AM
For the written word, the post-modern viewpoint of the perceiver being at least as important as the perceived resolves to the signifier (the word) oftentimes trumping the signified (what the word purports to describe). The key notion to me is that language is an active thing, rather than a passive vehicle merely cataloging reality. It is the reading of the writing that makes the text Ė both author and reader participate.


Birol mentioned Vonnegut: here is a snippet from Cat's Cradle describing that process:
"Those words leapt from the page and into my mind, and they were welcomed there."

Higgins
03-07-2007, 01:33 AM
I think there was plenty of subjective art that emphasized perception over truth in modernism.


For the written word, the post-modern viewpoint of the perceiver being at least as important as the perceived resolves to the signifier (the word) oftentimes trumping the signified (what the word purports to describe). The key notion to me is that language is an active thing, rather than a passive vehicle merely cataloging reality. It is the reading of the writing that makes the text – both author and reader participate.



It seems to me that both modernism and post-modernism fail in dealing with narrative fiction. Modernism tends to posit a realm of value outside the narrative that the narrative is judged for its success in evoking. I know that does not sound like the Modernism we know, but if we take the word of New Criticism, that realm of value to be evoked is something along the lines of "intense, genuine, artistic, feeling etc. etc.". Post modernism has the opposite problem (but clearly is bounded by the same rules in terms of evaluating narrative success, it just inverts them): the narrative has its own internal, contengent logic, built out of the material of the signifier, the texture of the language and so on. The problem for both is the plot that the reader has to construct to account for the narrative logic. "Plot" is a shared ground between the reader and the author, but it is not a shared ground of truth or value, it is a shared construct using rules that can vary from work to work and genre to genre. POMO can't deal well with a rule-defined area outside the chain of narrative signifiers, outside of language, outside of the literal words and Modernism can't deal with a region of shared construction that is not a matter of any kind of artistic intensity or value.

In some ways this notion that modernism and post-modernism are just minor variations in where you place your positive and negative signs in evaluating such things as plot....in some ways this just seems to add to the confusion, but it might clarify several things:
1) lots of what seems to be post-modernism is just modernism with a few evaluative gestures flipped from postive to negative or vice-versa
2) post-modernism is not necessarily any more self-conscious than modernism
3) post-modernism is a designation inherently more confusing than modernism (modernism is just the modern incarnation of Romanticism and post-modernism is just a series of variations on that theme)
4) BUT there are areas of active research (eg. history of science) where postmodern (or at least post-positivist) methods have made fundamental positive contributions (and paradoxically by placing the problem of plot and narrative in the methodological foreground)
5) BUT even in the case of 4) the break between modernism or positivism and post modernism is more apparent than real.
6) So post modernism is confusing partly because it is not really anywhere near as radical a change as it claims to be.
7) which means that a lot of what is confusing about pomo is in a sense buried or inherent in Modernism and Romanticism.
8) so it would have been a bit confusing had it come up in the context of Modernism or Romanticism, but it is doubly confusing masquerading as post modernism.

pconsidine
03-07-2007, 02:35 AM
I'm with blacbird.

Ouch.


Seriously, though, I've always thought that a great deal of post-modernism related to its self-reference. Stories about authors writing stories about authors, where the main character is named after the author, but isn't the author. Franky, it always smacked of a spoiled child taking is ball and going home when he realized he couldn't win the game the way it was being played. If you can't win, just change the rules.

But don't even get me started on Warhol. It will only lead to Jeff Koons, and that will put me over the edge.

Seriously.

Vincent
03-07-2007, 02:44 AM
I’M SO POST MODERN
BY THE BEDROOM PHILOSOPHER

I’m so postmodern that I just don’t talk anymore, I wear different coloured t-shirts according to my mood.

I’m so postmodern that I work from home as a surf life saving consumer hotline.

I’m so postmodern all my clothes are made out of sleeping bags, I don’t need pockets, I’m a pocket myself.

I’m so postmodern I go to parties I’m not invited to and locate the vegemite and write my name on everyone.

I’m so postmodern that I write reviews for funerals, and heckle at weddings from inside a suitcase.

I’m so postmodern I’m going to adopt a child, and teach him how to knit, and call him Adolf Diggler.

I’m so postmodern that I break dance in waiting rooms, play Yahtzee in nightclubs, at three in the afternoon.

I’m so postmodern I only go on dates that last thirteen minutes, via walky talky, while hiding under the bed.

I’m so postmodern I invite strangers to my house, and put on a slide show of other people’s Nans.

I’m so postmodern I went home and typed up everything you said and printed it out in wingdings and gave it back to you.

I’m so postmodern I held an art exhibition - a Chuppa Chup stuck to a swimming cap, and no one was invited.

I’m so postmodern I make alphabet soup, and dye it purple, and pour it on the lawn.

I’m so postmodern I request Hey Mona on karaoke, then sing my life story to the tune of My Sharona.

I’m so postmodern I only think in palindromic haikus – “Madam, I, Glenelg, I’m Adam!”

I’m so postmodern that I sit down to wee, and stand up to poo, at job interviews.

I’m so postmodern that I dress up as Santa, in the middle of August, and haunt golf courses.

I’m so postmodern that I cut off all my hair, and knitted it into a beanie, and threw it off a bridge.

I’m so postmodern that I stole everyone’s mail, and cut them up into a ransom note and hid it in a thermos.

I’m so postmodern I take my lego to the supermarket and build my own shopping trolley, and only buy one nut.

I’m so postmodern I wrote a letter to the council - .I think it was ‘M.’

I’m so postmodern I bought a round the world plane ticket, and stuffed my clothes with eggplant and pretended it was me.

I’m so postmodern I’ve got a tattoo of my pin number in hieroglyphics on my neighbour’s guide
dog.

I’m so postmodern I fought my way into parliament and made a law banning Nuttelex, and then moved to Spain.

I’m so postmodern that I iron all my lettuce leaves, put my shirts in the crisper - they’re real crisp.

I’m so postmodern I give live mice to buskers, dirty tea towels to the Mormons, and pavlova to crabs.

I’m so postmodern that I live in a tent, on a platform of skateboards that’s tied to a tram.

I’m so postmodern I write four thousand-word essays on the cultural significance of party pies.

I’m so postmodern I recite Shakespeare at KFC drive thru, through a megaphone, in sign language.

I’m so postmodern I’m going to watch the Olympics on a black & white TV, with the sound down.

I’m so postmodern I go to the gym after hours, push up against the door, then cry myself to sleep.

I’m so postmodern I wrote a trilogy of novels from the perspective of a possum that Jesus patted once.

I’m so postmodern that I marry all my friends, soak myself in metho, and tell them that they’ve changed.

I’m so postmodern I bought every book written in 1963 as a reading challenge, and clogged up a waterslide.

I’m so postmodern I think I might be a god in my undies rolling in sugar, in the carpark of a rodeo.

I’m so postmodern I prerecorded this song, and laced a message subliminally telling Shane Porteous to buy a smock.

http://www.bedroomphilosopher.com/2006/01/10/im-so-postmodern-lyrics/

Higgins
03-07-2007, 03:39 AM
IíM SO POST MODERN
BY THE BEDROOM PHILOSOPHER


Iím so postmodern I make alphabet soup, and dye it purple, and pour it on the lawn.



I'm so over everyone being postmodern that I wonder why there's no lyrics about New Criticism.

LaceWing
03-07-2007, 03:50 AM
Two references that are insightful, imo:

Introducing Postmodernism by Richard Appignanesi and Chris Garratt - a slim volume with comics to illustrate the restrained yet challenging verbiage.

http://www.brocku.ca/english/courses/2F55/post-mod-attrib.html - extensive but blessedly brief, concise but not simple.

The code words I keep in mind are interpersonal and pastiche.