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Essay on Postmodernism: Critical Analysis of Postmodernism

Introduction

❶Modernism appeared earlier and can be defined from two points of view.

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Tristram Shandy's wild flight from death across the pages of Volume VII in Sterne's novel provides the clearest paradigm for this general situation. In the two major novelists of our own century who magisterially combine the realist and self-conscious traditions of the novel, Joyce and Proust, it is again death and the decline of culture into ultimate incoherence that powerfully impel the writers to the supreme affirmation of art.

Petersburg, Virginia Woolf s London, and the invented lost realms of Nabokov; and that is why art is indispensable. Perhaps this may make every novel with self-conscious aspects sound like a version of Sartre's Nausea, but that is only because Sartre provides an emphatically defined, programmatic formulation of the general pattern. What I would like to stress is that even a novel worlds away from any intimation of existentialist views may tap this tension between the coherence of the artifice and the death and disorder implicit in real time outside the artifice.

The tension is present even in Fielding, with his fine old eighteenth-century confidence in the possibilities of coherent order and his meticulous preservation of the purity of the comic world. An example may be helpful here. In Book V, Chapter XII, of Tom Jones, after a bloody brawl in which Tom has laid Blifil low only to be vigorously battered by the redoubtable Thwackum, the narrator, surveying the bruised combatants, takes off on one of his so-called essayistic excursuses:.

Here we cannot suppress a pious wish, that all quarrels were to be decided by those weapons only with which Nature, knowing what is proper for us, hath supplied us; and that cold iron was to be used in digging no bowels but those of the earth. Then would war, the pastime of monarchs, be almost inoffensive, and battles between great armies might be fought at the particular desire of several ladies of quality; who, together with the kings themselves, might be actual spectators of the conflict.

Then might the field be this moment well strewed with human carcasses, and the next, the dead men, or infinitely the greatest part of them, might get up, like Mr. Bayes's troops, and march off either at the sound of a drum or fiddle, as should be previously agreed on.

The narrator spins out this fanciful hypothesis for another paragraph, then brings himself up short: I shall content myself, therefore, with this short hint, and return to my narrative. To dismiss it as mere casual banter or extraneous digression is to ignore the integrity of Fielding's art and of his vision of life.

The passage is a virtuoso aria set in the optative mode. It turns from The History of Tom Jones to history proper, but with a series of careful indications of a condition contrary to fact. It begins and ends with an explicit stress on "wish," and all the verbs are subjunctive or conditional.

The emphasis through anaphora on "then" "Then would war. This condition is underlined by likening the weaponless battles to those of a popular Restoration farce, The Rehearsal "Mr. Bayes's troops" , and by proposing that war should be conducted like theatrical convention, by previously agreed-upon signals. Within the comic frame of Tom Jones's fictional world, we know very well that no fate much worse than a bloodied nose will be allowed to befall any of the personages who matter.

Fielding, by proposing for the space of two paragraphs that this frame be extended into real historical time, is doing something more than make a suggestion for "reformation," as he pretends, or a satirical comment on historical man's irrationality, as is evident. What the excursion into optative history points up is that the whole comic world of the fiction is beautifully arranged, sanely humane in its essential playfulness—and ultimately unreal.

The age-old impulse of the storyteller bespeaks a basic human need to imagine out of history a fictional order of fulfillment, but when the narrative is a novel and not a fairy tale, one is also made aware of the terrible persistence of history as a murderous realm of chaos constantly challenging or violating the wholeness that art can imagine. By the time we arrive at the narrator's explicit signal for the end of the excursus, "I shall content myself.

I have chosen from many possible texts, old and new, an example from Fielding in order to emphasize certain underlying continuities of concern between the novelists of our own age and the early masters. A clearer recognition of such continuities, which more often than one would suspect manifest themselves even on the level of fictional technique, might make us less inclined to see ourselves at the decisive end of an era, our writers footnoting with fables a literary corpus that has used up all the possibilities of primary creation.

Looking over the actual production of living novelists in both hemispheres, I find it hard to believe that it is inherently more difficult to write a good novel now than in earlier periods.

The realist mode of fiction that attained such splendid achievements in the nineteenth century may by now largely have run its course though that, too, might be a presumptuous conclusion , but the self-conscious novelistic dialectic between art and reality initiated by Cervantes seems abundantly alive with new possibilities of expression, perhaps even more than ever before as the self-consciousness of our whole culture becomes progressively more pronounced.

To write a good self-conscious novel today one does not have to be a unique "Thesean hero" finding a way out of some impossible labyrinth, but simply an intelligent writer with a serious sense both of the integrity of his craft and of the inevitably problematic relationship between fiction and life.

A case in point is Claude Mauriac's The Marquise Went Out at Five , one of the most interesting novels to come out of the fervor of fictional experiment in France during the past fifteen or so years. Mauriac's book might be especially instructive as a concluding example because in both its design and its execution it ties up many of the major themes we have been considering, and because Mauriac, a gifted writer but surely no Borgesian wonderworker defying the limits of nature, achieves what he does, not through impossible genius, but simply by an imaginative and keenly critical management of the self-conscious mode.

The title of the novel is taken from Breton's "First Surrealist Manifesto," the relevant passage appearing as the epigraph. The Marquise went out at five.

He is the fictional writer acting out his author's own literary impulse, in a contemporary version of the old quixotic pattern, by making a novel out of the world he inhabits:. Express the double brilliance, orangeish red bright yellow, of the bouquets, no, they're potted plants.

Add to these two patches of bright color the movement transporting them, not fast but jolting, and the black mass of that old lady carrying her nasturtiums—they are nasturtiums, I think. I'm no different as an author from all the authors who ever existed since men first began to write. Using other devices, but analogous ones. Making use just as fallaciously, as arbitrarily, of the world I claim—quite insanely—to possess.

At best I've tried to explain and justify the increasing presence, considered ridiculous by some people, of writer-heroes in the works of writers. The sense of the writer's predicament as a perennial, not peculiarly modern, difficulty is notable: All literary creation worthy of the name, now and in previous ages, is seen as a reaction against the inevitable falsity of antecedent literature, a restless devising of strategies to escape being "just" literature.

I think the idea is more historically accurate than the notion of a contemporary literature of exhaustion, and The Marquise Went Out at Five is a persuasive demonstration of its efficacy as a rationale for the continual renewal of literature. The evoked world of fiction, revealed as fiction, shrivels up, and, as at the end of many of Nabokov's novels, the fabricator of the fiction himself stands in its place.

Mauriac now describes precisely what he has given us: Cervantes' emblematic image of the mirror—it is of course also Nabokov's favorite—is complicated in Borgesian fashion by a labyrinth not because the old quixotic probing of reality through fiction has changed in nature, but only because our sense of the complexity of the enterprise has been many times multiplied by both historical and literary experience.

One might observe that as early as Andrey Biely was using the image of the labyrinth of mirrors in his St. Mauriac, it should be noted, does not in the end make the facile gesture of some contemporary novelists who simply shrug off their own fictions as, after all, mere fictions: After a paragraph of reflections on the Parisian square that has been the scene of the novel, Mauriac goes on to summarize and make even more explicit this baring of artifice as the basic procedure of his book: All this might be mere cleverness if the novel did not have the impelling sense it does of the urgency, the philosophical seriousness, of its enterprise.

The Marquise Went Out, set between five and six on one warm afternoon in a few thousand square feet of the Carrefour de Bucis, attempts to exhaust the human experience intersecting that carefully delimited time and place. Though Mauriac explicitly compares the achronological method of composition here through a long series of separate "takes" with the methods of a film-maker, the effect is precisely the opposite of cinematic composition in Robbe-Grillet because Mauriac accepts and works with the essentially time-soaked nature of language as a medium of art.

The documents reveal what in the poesy of a blurb one might call a "vivid panorama" of Parisian existence from medieval artisans to activists of the Revolution to the literary dinners of the Goncourt brothers. What is actually revealed, though, is the raw realm of chaos on the other side of Fielding's ironic observations about history—a long catalogue of rape, murder, torture, theft, perversion, brutality.

As he writes, he is rapidly, irrevocably, rushing toward the point where he will be no more than a few scratches on the historical record, like Mestre Giles the tile-maker and Richart the baker, listed as residents of the Rue de Bussy in the Tax-Book of Paris for the Year At the end, the author draws particular attention to this perception: Some readers may feel that Mauriac is too explicitly direct in the way he reveals these fundamental matters of motive and design in the making of his novel, but the fiction itself bears out in concrete detail what otherwise might seem portentous assertion.

A writer, about to vanish like every human being born, has only words to grasp with at some sort of tenuous, dubious permanence. Words console, words are the most wonderful of human evasions; but the writer, using them as truly as a writer of fiction can—which is to say, with a consciousness of how their enchantment transmutes reality into fiction—comes to perceive profoundly what words help us to evade.

The seriousness and the ultimate realism of the novel that mirrors itself could have no more vivid demonstration. Perhaps the most basic paradox of this mode of fiction, which functions through the display of paradoxes, is that as a kind of novel concentrating on art and the artist it should prove to be, even in many of its characteristically comic embodiments, a long meditation on death.

Myth, folktale, fable, and romance, all the archaic forms of storytelling from which the novel was a radical historical break, overleap or sidestep death as an immediate presence in the timeless cyclicality of divine lives or in the teleological arc from "once upon a time" to "lived happily ever after.

When the writer, on the other hand, places himself or some consciously perceived surrogate within the fiction's field of probing consideration, his own mortality is more likely to be an implicit or even explicit subject of the novel. It was Diderot who observed that one should tell stories because then time passes swiftly and the story of life comes to an end unnoticed. The novel as a genre begins when Don Quixote, approaching the grand climacteric or fiftieth year, which was old age in his time, realizes that his existence has amounted to nothing and proceeds before it is too late to make his life correspond to a book.

The knight's peculiarly literary quest is a revealing functional analogue to that of the novelist, the literary man who invented him, and so Cervantes is not merely mocking chivalric romances through the don's adventures but contemplating, in the most oblique and searching way, the unthinkable prospect posed by his own imminent end. I suspect that death in the novel might be a more useful focus for serious discussion of the genre than the death of the novel.

What I have in mind is of course not the novelistic rendering of deathbed scenes but how the novel manages to put us in touch with the imponderable implications of human mortality through the very celebration of life implicit in the building of vivid and various fictions.

This is the ultimate turn of the Copernican revolution in the making of fictions that Cervantes effected. The impulse of fabulation, which men had typically used to create an imaginary time beautifully insulated from the impinging presence of their own individual deaths, was turned back on itself, held up to a mirror of criticism as it reflected reality in its inevitably distortive glass. As a result it became possible, if not for the first time then surely for the first time on this scale of narrative amplitude and richness, to delight in the lifelike excitements of invented personages and adventures, and simultaneously to be reminded of that other world of ours, ruled by chance and given over to death.

The mirror held to the mirror of art held to nature, in Cervantes and in his countless progeny, proved to be not merely an ingenious trick but a necessary operation for a skeptical culture nevertheless addicted, as all cultures have been, to the pleasures and discoveries of fabulation. Ongoing literary history is always modifying our vision of earlier stages of literary development, and the course of the novel from Joyce to Nabokov and beyond may to some degree require a shift in perspective upon what happened in the novel during the three centuries before our own.

Today, as varieties of novelistic self-consciousness proliferate, the mode of fiction first defined when a certain aging hidalgo set out to imitate his books appears far from exhausted. On the contrary, in the hands of gifted writers it comes to seem increasingly our most precisely fashioned instrument for joining imagined acts and figures with real things.

Yates and Irby New York: New Directions, , pp. Dutton, , pp. Richard Howard New York: George Braziller, , p. The postmodern tendency in literature and literary criticism has been characterized as a "breakthrough," a significant reversal of the dominant literary and sociocultural directions of the last two centuries.

Literary critics such as Leslie Fiedler, Susan Sontag, George Steiner, Richard Poirier, and Ihab Hassan have written about this reversal, differing in their assessments of its implications but generally agreeing in their descriptions of what is taking place.

What is taking place, these critics suggest, is the death of our traditional Western concept of art and literature, a concept which defined "high culture" as our most valuable repository of moral and spiritual wisdom. George Steiner draws attention to the disturbing implications of the fact that, in the Nazi regime, dedication to the highest "humanistic" interests was compatible with the acceptance of systematic murder.

Not only have the older social, moral, and epistemological claims for art seemingly been discredited, but art has come to be seen as a form of complicity, another manifestation of the lies and hypocrisy through which the ruling class has maintained its power. But concurrent with this loss of confidence in the older claims of the moral and interpretive authority of art is the advent of a new sensibility, bringing a fresh definition of the role of art and culture.

This new sensibility manifests itself in a variety of ways: I want here to raise some critical questions about the postmodern breakthrough in the arts and about the larger implications claimed for it in culture and society. I want in particular to challenge the standard description of postmodernism as an overturning of romantic and modernist traditions. To characterize postmodernism as a "breakthrough"—a cant term of our day—is to place a greater distance between current writers and their predecessors than is, I think, justified.

There are distinctions to be drawn, of course, and both here and in the final chapter of this book I shall try to draw them. But this [essay] argues that postmodernism should be seen not as a break with romantic and modernist assumptions but rather as a logical culmination of the premises of these earlier movements, premises not always clearly defined in discussions of these issues.

In the next chapter I question the Utopian social claims of the postmodernist sensibility by questioning the parallelism they assume between social and esthetic revolution. In its literary sense, postmodernism may be defined as the movement within contemporary literature and criticism that calls into question the traditional claims of literature and art to truth and human value.

As Richard Poirier has observed, "contemporary literature has come to register the dissolution of the ideas often evoked to justify its existence: Literature is now in the process of telling us how little it means. It is clear why we are tempted to feel that the contemporary popularity of anti-art and artistic self-parody represents a sharp break with the modernist past. For Rilke, as earlier for Shelley and other romantics, poetry was "a mouth which else Nature would lack," the great agency for the restitution of values in an inherently valueless world.

Romantic and modernist writing expressed a faith in the constitutive power of the imagination, a confidence in the ability of literature to impose order, value, and meaning on the chaos and fragmentation of industrial society. This faith seemed to have lapsed after World War II.

Literature increasingly adopted an ironic view of its traditional pretensions to truth, high seriousness, and the profundity of "meaning. Eliot, Faulkner, Joyce, and their imitators sometimes seemed to be deliberately providing occasions for the complex critical explications of the New Critics. In contrast, much of the literature of the last several decades has been marked by the desire to remain invulnerable to critical analysis.

In an essay that asks the question, "What Was Modernism? In Donald Barthelme's anti-novel, Snow White, a questionnaire poses for the reader such mock questions as, "9. Has the work, for you, a metaphysical dimension? What is it twenty-five words or less? It appears that the term "meaning" itself, as applied not only to art but to more general experience, has joined "truth" and "reality" in the class of words which can no longer be written unless apologized for by inverted commas.

Thus it is tempting to agree with Leslie Fiedler's conclusion that "the Culture Religion of Modernism" is now dead. The religion of art has been "demythologized. Examined more closely, both the modernist faith in literary meanings and the postmodern repudiation of these meanings prove to be highly ambivalent attitudes, much closer to one another than may at first appear. The equation of modernism with "uncompromising intellectuality" overlooks how much of this intellectuality devoted itself to calling its own authority into question.

The nineteenth century's elevation of art to the status of a surrogate religion had rested on paradoxical foundations. Though in one sense the religion of art increased enormously the cultural prestige and importance of art, there was self-denigration implicit in the terms in which art was deified. Consider the following statement by Ortega y Gasset, contrasting the attitude of the avantgarde art of the mid-twenties, that art is "a thing of no consequence" and "of no transcendent importance," with the veneration art had compelled in the previous century:.

Poetry and music then were activities of an enormous caliber. In view of the downfall of religion and the inevitable relativism of science, art was expected to take upon itself nothing less than the salvation of mankind. Art was important for two reasons: Ortega attributes the prestige of art in the nineteenth century to the fact that art was expected to provide compensation for the "downfall of religion and the inevitable relativism of science.

Once these foundations had been shaken—and the sense of their precariousness was a condition of the romantic glorification of the creative imagination—art could scarcely lay claim to any firm authority for dealing with "the profoundest problems of humanity" and for endowing the species with "justification and dignity.

From its beginnings, the romantic religion of art manifested that self-conflict with its own impulses which Renato Poggioli, in The Theory of the Avant-Garde, identifies as a defining characteristic of avant-garde thought. The concept of an autonomous creative imagination, which fabricates the forms of order, meaning, and value which men no longer thought they could find in external nature, implicitly—if not necessarily intentionally—concedes that artistic meaning is a fiction, without any corresponding object in the extra-artistic world.

In this respect the doctrine of the creative imagination contained within itself the premises of its refutation. Recent literature forces us to recognize the precariousness of the earlier re The entire section is 37, words.

Andrew Hacker has said that we stand at "the end of the American era," 1 but the more sobering thought is that we stand at the end of the modern era, an era stretching back In his important work Human Understanding, Stephen Toulmin argues that the epistemological self-image of modern man inherited from the seventeenth century does not cohere with recent thinking in the sciences. Consequently, present-day lay views of man tend to make assumptions about time, substance, mind and body, causality, and so on, that have been left behind in contemporary scientific theory.

Toulmin's project is to bring epistemology up to date. This version of postmodernity is perhaps the least radical of the ten we will discuss, since Toulmin does not venture to question scientific rationality as such but rather tries to bring contemporary epistemology especially analytic philosophy into harmony with advanced scientific theory.

At the end of his first chapter, Toulmin pays homage to Descartes' quest for firm, verifiable knowledge, and he claims only to be trying to bring Descartes up to date—one might say to "demythologize" him. Yet Toulmin is important to the quest for a postmodern view of man because he is able, from within contemporary philosophy of science, to demonstrate the untenability of basic axioms of modern thought rooted in Descartes.

It is important and only fair to recognize that within contemporary science itself are modes of thought totally out of harmony with our inherited spatialized, perspectival awareness. Habermas follows Nietzsche in seeing all knowledge as shaped by certain overriding "interests," and insists that it is the task of philosophy to explore the connection between the shape of knowledge and the goals of knowledge.

In philosophy since Descartes and Bacon, and especially since Locke and Hume, the underlying goal has been to extricate thought from metaphysics—or, to use a more loaded term, "superstition.

And the obvious way to such a body of knowledge was to be a method that set up criteria for achieving it. Hume, then Kant, then Nietzsche took up the fight against "metaphysics. Perhaps nothing is more characteristic of modernity than the growth of science and technology.

In premodern times say, before , human calculative reason was rated as only one among the several capacities of man, and it was always kept "in its place. Perspective also separated the viewer of the world from what surrounded him, and by defining objects in terms of extension, of mass, perspective laid the foundations for the familiar Cartesian and modern dualism between a nonmaterial consciousness and a world of material The technophobia—if one may call it that—found in Heidegger, Slater, and Roszak is by no means the definitive characteristic of postmodernity—a consoling fact, since we seem fated to live in an electronic and technological world for the forseeable future.

Is it possible to articulate a perspective that does not uncritically surrender to either technophiles or technophobes? Ihab Hassan, an important literary theorist of postmodernism, believes that it is—that thought today is, under the influence of instantaneous electronic communication and other factors, moving toward a kind of gnosticism; but a "new gnosticism" appropriate to the postmodern age.

For some, the way beyond modernity is the way outside Western forms of thought: In the modern era, these have all been in part subjected to "modernization" the movement toward centralized government, urbanization, secularization, the breakdown of kinship ties—a process well described by C. Black in relation to the "modernization" of Japan and other Asian countries But nonwestern viewpoints have penetrated the West as well. This is probably most notable in the vogue of Zen Buddhism and various forms of spiritual discipline from the East, such as yoga, transcendental meditation, and t'ai chi A way of thought is indicated by what it regards as axiomatic, and naturalism is axiomatic for the contemporary scientific view of the world.

Naturalism refers to the belief that the natural, material world, including the organic world of nature and our bodies, is an autonomous domain basically unaffected by consciousness—either one's own or that of higher or lower beings. In harmony with this naturalism is the modern view that diseases like cancer or arthritis have nothing to do with the mental state of their possessors. The mind is merely a monitor for pain and other messages from the body, and a receptor of stimuli from the external world.

Its powers do not extend to overcoming diseases directly nor to telepathic The most extreme form of transcending modernity is probably that of proposing a whole "new consciousness. The rebellion against the heritage of modernity in psychology has taken the form of an increasingly critical attitude toward the illusions of positivism. Greater methodological reflexivity in the discipline has suggested to psychologists in some quarters that the "objectively described" data have become objective only through an act of renouncing large blocks of subjective or otherwise nonobjectifiable reality.

Empirical seeing can be a form of empirical blindness to the nonobjectifiable sides of phenomena. Especially in counselling, psychologists have keenly felt the gap between data from the laboratory or from objective studies and, on the other hand, the kinds of inner struggle in which their patients are Paul Ricoeur observed at the beginning of his book on hermeneutics and Freud that the problem of language has become the corssroads of contemporary European thought.

No one concerned with the problem of language can ignore the tremendous ferment in French thought in the period since , in which perhaps the most colorful development was the vogue of structuralism. The offspring of linguistics and anthropology, more a method than a philosophical position, structuralism intoxicated contemporary intellectual circles like a new and heady wine. Roland Barthes is perhaps the figure who most fruitfully responded to the impetus of structuralist thought.

Yet structuralism in France was only one of several currents of One could define postmodern literary theory very loosely as theory that rebels against formalism—especially the New Criticism, with its roots in the aesthetics of Modernism and French Symbolism. One might see, then, already with Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism, a movement away from the aestheticism of the New Critics.

Nor are social criticism and eclecticism, as alternatives to New Criticism, radical alternatives that venture beyond modernity. They only modify the extremes of formalist-rhetorical criticism. If we want a hermeneutics that survives the transition to postmodernity, I think we need to renew our sense of the mythic meaning of Hermes.

Hermes was a boundarycrosser, the god of exchanges of all kinds, as well as messenger-mediator between the realm of the gods and that of man. In ancient Greece, altars to Hermes stood at crossroads and at borders, where exchanges most often took place. Persons of different languages and different countries often made their exchanges at the border.

So it is not strange that the term hermeneuein means to translate, to explain. The interpreters of Homer were "hermeneuts" even though their interpretation was not a translation or an explanation but a performance that brought Hermeneutics, then, is not an "ism. Hermeneutics is the discipline of bridging gaps and of theorizing about what is involved in this process.

For this reason it is open to the kinds of "reality" that come into view in Castaneda, or R. Laing, or James Hillman. Hermeneutics must go deeper than all merely methodological reflection about interpretation. In fact, it asks about the effects on interpretation caused by the methodological stance itself. It comprises a new reflexivity about interpretation—what What do these considerations mean for the teacher-interpreter of literature?

They mean that if a change in the conceptions of language, history, truth, myth, art, and understanding is involved, this is not a matter of changing a method of interpreting but the rules of the game; or perhaps, making it a new game.

If postmodernity brings this kind of fundamental change the hermeneutical task must take on a new shape. Obviously this new shape cannot be described in detail, and even my own image of it is but an interpretation, a construction. But I would look forward to a greater dignity for the teacher of literature. I find pale and thin the job-descriptions teachers carry in their minds No such word appears in the index of Ann Jefferson's book on the nouveau roman, 1 nor does it occur in the chapters that Christine Brooke-Rose devotes to contemporary French writing.

Yet Brooke-Rose's index 2 does give a number of page-references under "postmodern postmodernism, In recent years the term "postmodernism" has acquired considerable currency, but without there being much consensus as to its meaning or even its legitimacy. For the sake of convenience, I would like to propose three categories for dealing with different versions of postmodernism: Anglo-American New Criticism had nearly run its course by the end of the s.

What had started as an innovative method of reading literary works creatively had, in all too many instances, declined into a robotic and repetitious exercise in counting images and demonstrating paradoxes for their own sake. A clear signal that the end was at hand for the New Criticism was the proliferation of Educators have become increasingly aware that, far from being a sure means to attaining an accurate and "deep" understanding of the world and one's place within it, the ability to read and write may expose individuals and entire social groups to forms of Poststructuralist theorists, among others notably, feminists , have criticized educators for working within a discourse of critical rationalism which reifies the humanist subject—the rational, self-motivating, autonomous agent—as a subject of history, change, and resistance.

They maintain that what separates being an individual from being a subject is a linguistic membrane known as discourse. Discourses provide individuals with identifications which convert them into subjects.

By contrast, the rationalist position associated with the modern Enlightenment rests on a "metaphysics of presence" which constitutes the individual as a noncontradictory, rational, self-fashioning, autonomous being: Another major contribution of poststructuralist theory has been its revelation that texts need to be understood in their historical, political, and cultural specificity.

There are no texts which are meant in the same way by readers because readers occupy different subjective positions of articulation. The rhetorical claims of the text are integrated or transformed through the parallel rhetorics of common sense and the everyday against which they are read.

Poststructuralism has provided a necessary shift from a critical focus on text alone to the dynamics of culture and consumption reflected in the reader.

Bennett 24 cuts across the notion of the unitary experience of reading in suggesting Various other obstacles to a political agenda of justice and emancipation have been discerned within postmodern social theory. Barbara Christian's critique of postmodern discourse takes aim at the language of literary critical theory. She condemns this language on the grounds that it "mystifies rather than clarifies our condition, making it possible for a few people who know that particular language to control the critical scene—that language surfaced, interestingly enough, just when the literatures of peoples of color, of black women, of Latin Americans, of Africans, began to move to 'the center.

If feminists have advanced some of the more strident critiques of postmodern social theory on behalf of a politics of material engagement in the cause of freedom and justice, they have also given clear pointers to a way ahead. In resisting "the dangers inherent in a complete decentering of the historical and material" and in their task of "changing the power relationships that underlie women's oppression," feminists offer postmodernist discourse a way of dealing with contradictions which do not decenter their own categories of analysis in such a way that political reform is immobilized.

Feminist discourse can move analysis away from the word and toward the world, since, according to Mary Hawkesworth, "feminist Recent work by Larry Grossberg on the relationship between structure and agency offers valuable insights for further developing a critical poststructuralist agenda in literacy research and practice.

The structure-agency debate has haunted critical social theory for decades: Grossberg detects the carryover of an Althusserian view of subject formation into dominant strands of poststructuralism, resulting in an unwanted determinism. The subject becomes essentially a passive occupant of a particular discursive construction, although individuals are not all constructed equally.

Social groups are positioned The United States as global educator; constructing the "other". Monday, July 20, Postmodernism Essay. The concepts of postmodernism affected many disciplines including art, education, literature, film, sociology, and technology. To begin to understand postmodernism, one must first analyze the two movements prior. Purpose, unity, and totality were all crucial elements to the premodern vision of the world.

The vision roots back to the times of myth and rituals. Many believed that the human self was essentially part of a greater and more sacred whole. The body and its senses were thought to be obstacles to the spiritual life. Individuals were overall dominated by tradition and strong solid institutions like the Roman Catholic Church.

The Renaissance was also full of superstitious beliefs and mystical powers. The Enlightenment, during the 17th century, marked a new era. People no longer relied on past obscure traditions. Logic, science, and reason were used to obtain concrete answers about nature and order. Rene Descartes, for example, questioned the blind memorizations imposed on students. He wanted to methodically understand why things were so. People became skeptical about set institutions and old traditions. They understood the overall notion about how the universe functioned and were ready to logically construct the world.

Protestants, as well as those involved in the French Revolution, rejected traditional authorities. The modern notion was that each individual was important and each individual had a choice about their position. The beginning of the French Revolution took place in the year The French questioned their oppression of the crown.

People were no longer socially, economically, or politically satisfied with the crown. The modern idea, that one can work to progress, was born. Modernism is a movement that explored unbounded possibilities. Although modernist attempted to return to the classical forms, uniqueness and individuality were very much celebrated.

There was a great emphasis on determinacy and the expression of emotions. People expressed their feelings and moved away from the established social norms. Nature and symbolism also played a great factor in modernism. Modernists believed in the order, or hierarchy, of things. Depth and creativity in thought, literature, and art were also very important. Eliot and prose seems more poetic as in Woolf or Joyce. Steam of consciousness, introduced by Stein, allowed writers to simply express their emotions through streams of thoughts and words.

Although modernism had many positive ideals, it came short to reaching its goal and many lost faith in it. After some chaotic events, like World War I and World War II, Nazism, and nuclear bomb threats, people did not believe that everything was logical and orderly. Foundations, as well as other definite ideas, were rejected. There was a shift of focus from logic to collective, anonymous, and random experiences. Although somewhat similar, postmodernism had some conflicting differences with modernism.

In actuality, there are divisions in theory even within postmodernists. Deconstructive postmodernist believe that the world is meaningless and that purpose, truth, and world views are all non-existant.

Constructive postmodernists do not entirely reject modernism. The concepts are similar to that of deconstructive postmodernists in that boundaries should not exist. Nonetheless, they reject the idea that only modern natural sciences structure the general worldview.

Although there are some contradictions in ideals within postmodernist, generally they would agree on some key ideas.

Who is to say that you are right or wrong? For example, in the phrase: Reality is not only perceived by the mind, rather, it is constructed by it.

Postmodernists believe that if reality is defined as one certain element, it becomes oppressive. They are anti-foundationalism and anti-worldview because they deny any existence of universal truth.

Postmodernists do not believe in defined standards or symbols.


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[In the following essay, Palmer defends his postulation that postmodernism is an aesthetic movement of limited duration, and that modernity indicates the era beginning with the Renaissance and.

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The Transition to Postmodernism - The Transition to Postmodernism Works Cited Not Included Postmodernism is a difficult term to define, as it is evident in many different disciplines, such as art, literature, architecture, technology, and, the precise emerging moment of .

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Free Essays from Bartleby | ‘Why did postmodernism threaten to end History, and why did fail?’ This question poses two clear questions, why postmodernism. ADVERTISEMENTS: One of the most outspoken critics of postmodern theory has been the German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas. Reacting specifically to the argument about a legitiniation crisis (the collapse of our grand narratives) in Lyotard’s philosophical critique of Enlightenment, Habermas’ most frequently cited critique of postmodernism, ‘Modernity: An Incomplete Project’, initiates.

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- In this essay, I will be exploring how some critics and argument that postmodernism has become a break in a modernist notion that architecture should be technologically rational, austere, and functional. What is "Postmodernism"? Paul V. Hartman "Modernity" is that period - nearly a century - beginning well before WW2 and ending well after it, in which science established facts, political theory established the social state, secularism overcame religious opinion, and the notion of shame was denied or explained away with various social conventions.