Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Postmodernism and Me

I came to the startling conclusion the other day--I enjoy learning about Postmodernism. Yes, that's right, the dreaded Po'Mo' (as the boyfriend calls it) has found a place in my heart. Perhaps most of my distaste stemmed from only knowing a minute bit about the subject and knowing all the critiques of it (relativism, etc.), but now that I've read some theory and books and discussed it in class, I've come to see it differently.

You see, according to Fredric Jameson, there is the Postmodern culture and then there is the style known as Postmodernism. (It's often distinguished by using Postmodernity to refer to the historical period). Postmodernity is the era that we now live in, and the marks of it are all around us and evident in our cultural consciousness. The continued trend of urbanization, the effects of consumerist capitalism, and our attitudes toward the world around us emerge from living in Postmodernity. This point is what resonated with me--examining our own culture and analyzing the traits of the world currently around us as a historical movement.

Of course, that idea of history is one that Jameson seems to think we've lost our ability to comprehend. The rise of the bourgeoisie brought with it the idea of a historical narrative--that history is the result of a process, and the present is connected with past events leading toward a future. It helped them demonstrate that their rise to power was not an aberration, but rather part of the inevitable flow of history. Before, history simply chronicled events instead of trying to make sense of them as a connected narrative. Thus, along with this idea of history, the idea of the realist novel was born. Postmodernism rejects the idea of one historical narrative to demonstrate that the dominant, "grand metanarrative" is simply one discourse among many. This leads to a fracturing of the historical sense, a schizophrenia, according to Jameson, because we can no longer see history as a flow of connected realities. The idea of the novel also shifts along with it until it resembles works such as Beckett's Malloy or Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, which are fragmented, end without closure, and do not operate under the rules of the realist work.

Postmodernity should be distinguished from Postmodernism, which is the artistic style that most people critique and attack or the ideas that some possess, such as the infamous relativism. This is open to the possibility of criticism and moral judgment unlike Postmodernity, or so Jameson notes.

For some reason, this distinction that emerged for me while I read Jameson's Postmodernism: or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism was the turning point in my attitude toward it. I enjoy reading about it now and delving into it, looking for traits of it in all around me. Especially the discourse of captialism that was drilled into me through the public education system since I was small.

Look forward to a post coming soon on Postmodernism and the graphic novel. Or perhaps more reflections on the subjects touched on in this one.

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