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Outline

 

General Definitions -- Postmodernism is seen as
  • making a radical break from High Modernism (abstract expressionism in painting, existentialism in philosophy, the final forms of representation in the novel). p. 62
quotes: "The case for its existence depends on the hypothesis of some radical break or coupure, generally traced back to the end of the 1950s or the early 1960s" (62)
  • a cultural dominant, but not a style.
  • Aesthetic Populism -- Jameson comments on the breaking of the boundaries between high art and popular culture in a critical way.  Pay attention to the negative terms he uses.
quotes:
    "The postmodernisms have, in fact, been fascinated precisely by this whole "degraded" landscape of schlock and kitsch, of TV series and Reader''s Digest culture, of advertising and motels, of the late show and the grade-B Hollywood film, of so-called paraliterature, with its airport paperback categories of the gothic and the romance, the popular biography, the murder mystery, and the science fiction or fantasy novel: materials they no longer simply "quote;'' as a Joyce or a Mahler might have done, but incorporate into their very substance." (63)
     
  • A Cultural Dominant --  Jameson here gives a good example of our historicity by showing the different receptions of modernism/postmodernism by people of different periods in history.
quotes: ". . . the social position of the older modernism, or better still, its passionate repudiation by an older Victorian and post- Victorian bourgeoisie, for whom its forms and ethos are recieved as being variously ugly, dissonant, obscure, scandalous, immoral, subversive and generally anti-social.  It will be argued here that a mutation in the sphere of culture has rendered such attitudes archaic.  . . . [Picasso and Joyce . . .now strike us . . . as rather ''realistic''; and this is the result of canonization and an academic institutionalization of the modern movement generally" (64-65).

I.  From the Waning of Affect to The Deconstruction of Expression

quotes: "The end of the bourgeois ego, or monad, no doubt brings with it the end of the psychopathologies of that ego--what I have been calling the waning of affect. But it means the end of much more--the end, for example, of style, in the sense of the unique and the personal, the end of the distinctive individual brush stroke (as symbolized by the emergent primacy of mechanical reproduction).  As for expression and feelings or emotions, the liberation, in contemporary society, from the older anomie of the centered subject may also mean not merely a liberation from anxiety but a liberation from every other kind of feeling as well, since there is no longer a self present to do the feeling. This is not to say that the cultural products of the postmodern era are utterly devoid of feeling, but rather that such feelings--which it may be better and more accurate, following J.-F. Lyotard, to call "intensities"--are now free-floating and impersonal and tend to be dominated by a peculiar kind of euphoria, a matter to which we will want to return later on." (72)
 

 five models of depth vs. three kinds of depthlessness  p. 70
1. interpretive/hermeneutic depth of inside and outside, essence and appearance  
2. Freudian''s  structure of consciousness (the latent and the manifest) lack of subjective depth
3. Existentialism
authenticity vs. inauthenticity
visual collage; simulacra
4. Hegelian Dialectics of History
--reconciliation, synthesis
 
5. structualism''s
opposition between the signifier and the signified 
poststructuralism''s breaking the signifying chain (schizophrenia); textual play
Modern --
individualist, symbolic, talent/auteur-centered, 
dominant sentiments: anxiety and alienation
Postmodern--
playfulness, pastiche  and lack of critical distance; fragmentation of the subject

 the so-called international style (Le Corbusier) (fju)
Wells Fargo Court (?) (fju)

Westin Bonaventure Hotel (fju)

painting of the peasant shoes (fju)
 (The "realist" pathos of Walker Evans) (fju)
Picasso''s Guernica

Andy Warhol''s Diamond Dust Shoes (fju)

Munch''s The Scream (fju)Sicueiros''s Echo
 Diego Rivera Man at the Crossroad (fju)

Monroe (fju)
Hanson (fju)

2. The Postmodern and the Past

  • Pastiche Eclipses Parody-- style becomes codes,
  • Nostalgia Film -- the past becomes a composite of stereotypes, spectacles; no stars (with ''personality'' in the older sense),
  • Loss of Radical Past (e.g. Doctorow)
3. Schizophrenia: the breakdown of time and the signifying chain
  • collage (e.g. the poem "China" by Bob Perelman
quotes: "I would like...to characterize the postmodernist experience of form with what will seem, I hope, a paradoxical slogan: namely the proposition that difference relates. Our own recent criticism, from Macherey on, has been concerned to stress the heterogeneity and profound discontinuities of the work of art, no longer unified or organic, but now virtual grab-bag or lumber room of disjointed sub-systems and random raw materials and impulses of all kinds. The former work of art, in other words, has now turned out to be a text, whose reading proceeds by differentiation rather than by unification. Theories of difference, however, have tended to stress disjuntion to the point at which the materials of the text, including its words and sentences, tend to fall apart into random and inert passivity, into a set of elements which entertain purely external separations from one another.

quotes: "In the most interesting postmodernist works, however, one can detect a more positive conception of relationship which restores its proper tension to the notion of difference itself. This new mode of relationship through difference may sometimes be an achieved new and original way of thinking and perceiving; more often it takes the form of an impossible imperative to achieve that new mutation in what can perhaps no longer by called consciousness." (Jameson 1984: 75)

4. Late Capitalism & High-Tech Paranoia (Anti-Utopianism)
quotes: Such machines are indeed machines of reproduction rather than of production, and they make very different demands on our capacity for aesthetic representation than did the relatively mimetic idolatry of the older machinery of the futurist moment, of some older speed-and-energy sculpture. Here we have less to do with kinetic energy than with all kinds of new reproductive processes; and in the weaker productions of postmodernism the aesthetic embodiment of such processes often tends to slip back more comfortably into a mere thematic representation of content-into narratives which are about the processes of reproduction and include movie cameras, video, tape recorders, the whole technology of the production and reproduction of the simulacrum.

5. Postmodernism and the City --

  • Bonadventure as a complete world, a mini city with no obvious entry; glass skin
quotes: "this disjunction from the surrounding city is different from that of the monuments of the International Style, in which the act of disjunction was violent, visible, and had a very real symbolic significance."
  • glass skin -- "the glass skin achieves a peculiar and placeless dissociation of the Bonaventure from its neighborhood: it is not even an exterior, inasmuch as when you seek to look at the hotels outer walls you cannot see the hotel itself but only the distorted images of everything that surrounds it. "
  •  the escalators and elevators -- "Here the narrative stroll has been underscored, symbolized, reified, and replaced by a transportation machine which becomes the allegorical signifier of that older promenade we are no longer allowed to conduct on our own: and this is a dialectical intensification of the autoreferentiality of all modern culture, which tends to turn upon itself and designate its own cultural production as its content. . . .  But even this vertical movement is contained: the elevator lifts you to one of those revolving cocktail lounges, in which, seated, you are again passively rotated about and offered a contemplative spectacle of the city itself, now transformed into its own images by the glass windows through which you view it. " (pp. 82-83) ". .  .this latest mutation in space--postmodern hyperspace--has finally succeeded in transcending the capacities of the individual human body to locate itself, to organize its immediate surroundings perceptually, and cognitively to map its position in a mappable external world" (83).
     
6. The Abolition of Critical Distance

quotes: the new political art (if it is possible at all) will have to hold to the truth of postmodernism, that is to say, to its fundamental object-the world space of multinational capital--at the same time at which it achieves a breakthrough to some as yet unimaginable new mode of representing this last, in which we may again begin to grasp our positioning as individual and collective subjects and regain a capacity to act and struggle which is at present neutralized by our spatial as well as our social confusion. The political form of postmodernism, if there ever is any, will have as its vocation the invention and projection of a global cognitive mapping, on a social as well as a spatial scale.

(made according to the version in Docherty, Thomas, ed. Postmodernism: A Reader. New York: Harvester, 1993.)

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