1. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Postmodernism

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by jannert, Sep 5, 2015.

    Okay, I give up. What the hell is it, when applied to writing? Or anything else for that matter? I looked it up in the dictionary, but am still unsure what it gets used for. I see it a lot, but it's a meaningless term for me. Clues, please? Examples?
     
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  2. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I'd be out-of-my-depth to discuss in great detail, but I see it as a cynical backlash against the optimism that accompanies modernism. With industrialisation and new technology, people are initially amazed at the blissful convenience of modern life and assume that we'll soon be flying off in brightly-coloured rockets to go skating on Saturn's rings.

    Then postmodernists notice the drawbacks of technology and industry, and realise that no matter how fast we run, we won't outrun human nature. In my understanding, postmodern literature often leans heavily on sarcasm, irony, cognitive dissonance, etc to deconstruct traditionally popular tropes (of course, the deconstructions then become tropes in their own right: the nature of the beast). Instead of a hero, you have an anti-hero; instead of black-vs-white morality you have grey-vs-gray; campy 60s Batman vs the most recent incarnation (if you're familiar).

    My main gripe is the name. Whoever coined 'modernism' was not a forward-thinker, and calling the next movement 'postmodernism' didn't alleviate things. This might be a fairly postmodern point to make though ;)

    It's a term I'd use to describe style/tone/themes rather than an actual genre. I'm really no expert though, and may have it completely wrong. Someone better versed in the arts can feel free to correct me :)
     
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  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, thank you for that. It now makes sense to me. It's essentially a reality check, isn't it? What we thought was going to make a wonderful brave new world is just the same old same old, with new-looking trappings. Or ...new ways of doing things always create new problems to solve—ones that are just as awkward as the problems the new ways of doing things were created to solve! Can't argue with that.

    Troubleshooting. Troubleshooting. We need more troubleshooting!

    On the one hand, the term 'postmodernism' sounds horrendously pretentious. On the other hand, people whom I know are not pretentious use it. Now it makes sense. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2015
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  4. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    No worries :) I think your 'reality check' paragraph is a good summary.

    Reading back on it, my first post might make it sound too angsty. It can be dark and gritty, but it can also be flippant and comical, or as subtle as providing a grain of salt for something sweet and whimsical. There's probably always at least a slight bittersweet edge though, and the audience might feel judged (if they subscribe to the social norms in question). That bon mot about 'having more computing power in your pocket than they used for the moon landing' springs to mind.

    I think I've only ever used the term jokingly (probably to tease hipsters/self-deprecate), so I'm vaguely surprised I've got this far trying to explain! Glad I did though: the thought process has given me a few ideas. Thanks :D
     
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  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    For a great description of postmodernism, see here. It's a long read, but it's worth it if you really want to understand what postmodernism is about. Here's the first paragraph from the article:
     
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  6. rainy_summerday
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    The funny thing about postmodernism is that most people have fallen out of love with it. But there's not really a successor yet. Imagine that every era has built its own house. Right now, everything is still considered to be part of post-modernism, even if it is not really part of it, it will still be located in the garden around the house. Maybe in a tent. But those new ideas have not yet emancipated themselves. They have not left the postmodernist location to built their own house somewhere.. There have been different theories and themes in circulation, but nothing that marks the beginning of a glorious new era in any way. You get great terms like Literary Darwinism, or Ecocriticism, or even Magic Realism, but they cannot find a common denominator and reason to abandon their current housing.
     
  7. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    postmodernism is worthless bullshit. It's the art movement that brought you the piss-christ and Jackson Pollack, and that guy that brought his friends over to eat meatballs made of his fat. It's the reason the art world is a pathetic joke right now. The reason a talentless hack can string a bunch of pop cans on a piece of dental floss and call it "art".

    And it's the reason performance art exists, and for that alone should be condemned to hell for eternity.
     
  8. Bookster
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    It's also the pompous, narcissistic crap that brought us Thomas Pynchon and resulted in Roy Lichtenstein's amateurish 'parody' of a comic book panel, which any accomplished sixteen-year-old graphic novelist could have equaled in a weekend, selling for $44.8 million dollars. There is indeed a sucker born every minute.
     
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  9. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Justin Rocket 2
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    It is a bunch of "more enlightened than thou" people (I am loathe to call them "scholars") stringing polysyllabic words together (and arbitrarily creating deliberately vague portmanteaux in case you get too cocky and start thinking you know what the hell they're talking about) in an attempt to dazzle you with bullshit.

    If you need more information see this

    I had years of this nonsense beat into me in anthropology grad classes.

    The professor who dragged us through that junk no longer lists it in her bio.
     
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  11. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't understand giving such generalities to an entire genre of stories. I just finished Don Delillo's White Noise, and I didn't find it pretentious or as having any of the other negative qualities that have been listed here. I'd recommend it if you want to try out a postmodern novel. Fair warning, though: the second half of the 1st part of the book drags on. The rest of it is great.
     
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  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm with Jack on this one. Except my son is an avid Pynchon fan and the boy knows his literature. ;)

    This stuff though brings to mind a version of the Emperor's new clothes. Everyone agrees they see it. I see circular gobbledygook in the Wiki entry. Maybe I'm just not clever enough. :p
     
  13. Kingtype
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    Kingtype Always writing or thinking things XD Staff Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    POST MODERN!

     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, yikes. :eek: I clicked the link....

    I can't see myself ever using this term in either speech or written communication, but now at least I have a clue what it means. Thanks, folks.
     
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  15. GingerCoffee
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    Pretty much says it all, don't you think?
     
  16. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    I am actually amazed by the derisive comments, most of which seem to be based on "I don't know what it is, therefore it is a waste of time." It's alright not to be a fan of it, but should you not at least know exactly what you are disliking?

    Literary Postmodernism is not the same as postmodern art. Gothic literature is not the same as gothic architecture either.

    It's not like postmodernism only produced boring texts about other "isms" like structuralism.
    Catch-22, Burgess' Orange Clock Work, Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, basically everything written by Murakami and Nabokov, but some claim even Joyce's Ulysses could be seen as stereotypically postmodernist.

    Very broadly speaking, postmodernism is about rejecting truths. Nothing can be certain, there is no universal truth. Or rule. Due to this, many playful techniques were developed in order to question the narrator's reliability and the character's perception of the events.

    It's an umbrella term for books, but also for theories about how one could interpret said books. Butler's Gender Studies is probably the best-known example. It influenced how many people interpreted and wrote novels. Butler's idea of distinguishing between gender and sex questions the biological "truth" of one's body form. This very much appealed to the postmodernist movement. The feminist movement also left its traces. One of the more famous contemporary American dramas, Oleanna, was quite controversial, because it showed how a female student turned "male" weapons against her professor and reversed their roles.
    Some novels come into existence as a response to the current literary dialogue. If it is something writers read about, they will form an opinion, and this might influence their works. Then they participated in the discourse, as it is called. Now scholars can analyse this work to their heart's content and publish more on the subject.

    It's literary studies. Not everything is black and white, not everything is clear cut. All theories have their weak points, but also their strong points.

    I never thought I would write an entire post in defence of postmodernism, because, frankly, I am not that enarmoured with it myself. But it seems unfair to call it a pompous movement when nobody even stated any literary works or theories in this entire thread.
     
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  17. Bookster
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    Bookster Banned

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    I mentioned Thomas Pynchon, who, If I recall correctly, wrote some 'literary works', though to call them 'literature' would be a stretch.

    Postmodernist art may not be exactly the same thing as postmodernist literature, but it slithered from the same look-at-me-I'm-different hole and appeals to the same golly-I-want-to-be-so-very-special-too toadies.
     
  18. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Then, "postmodernism" means something very different in literature than it does in the social sciences. In the social sciences, it is about resistance to dominance and a constant focus on "text".
     
  19. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    So much hatred in this thread. :superthink: @rainy_summerday nailed it.
     
  20. Bookster
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    Insisting on mistaking legitimate negative opinion for hatred seems all too 'modernist' to me.
     
  21. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    But isn't hatred a sort of negative opinion? Just a more extreme sort of negative opinion?

    I think that many people will assume that if you call something 'pompous, narcissistic crap' that you don't just have a mild dislike for it.
    I admit I'm stereo-typically British in erring towards the understatement, but I interpreted that as a statement of hate.

    Just something for you to ponder on. Effectively conveying the intended level of emotion is an important writing skill to master. :) Though I admit I cheat a little on internet forums by using smilies. :D
     
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  22. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would hope you are able to see the difference between "I don't like romance stories" versus "Romance stories slithered from the same look-at-me-I'm-not-afraid-of-my-sexuality hole and appeals to the same golly-I-want-to-enjoy-my-sexuality-without-having-to-resort-to-the-evils-of-porn."

    Note: I don't think the latter statement is true, it's just an analogy.
     
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  23. Justin Rocket 2
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    But, when something IS devoid of scholastic merit (and I believe that was proven with the Sokal hoax and others like it), shouldn't it be called that? Else wise, we get into an "Emperor's new clothes*" situation only the boy is too polite to call it what it is.

    *For those who don't know, "the Emperor's new clothes" is a faerie tale where the Emperor was sold what he presumed to be clothing that only the best people could actually see. In fact, he was walking around nude. No one pointed it out because everybody was too worried about being thought of as not one of the best people if they did. Finally, a boy calls out from the street as the king passes by, pointing and laughing.
     
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  24. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I've only seen one person on this thread express ignorance of what postmodernism is. Everyone else seems to have a very good idea of what they don't like about it.

    I was responding to the bold section, because I happen to know quite a motherfucking lot about art, and the degeneracy of postmodern art in particular.

    Well that's just an expression of ignorance over the cultural movement paradigm as historians today understand it. The foundation of postmodernism is stuck up it's own ass to the same degree in art and literature.

    (and Ulysses is modernist. not postmodern. but it's still shit.)
     
  25. rainy_summerday
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    What about the Haruko Obokata scandal? The Japanese scientist who faked the results of her research. Does that make all stem cell research "devoid of scholastic merit?"

    I don't think it's justified to call all literary scholars pretenders based on the Sokal story. There are people who truly believe in what they have written about postmodernism, and who have spent a long time on their theses. Calling them pompous and narcissists is rather rude and disrespectful. At least they have tried.


    I know that Ulysses is considered modernist. If you re-read my sentence carefully, you will recognise the word "could." Which is subjunctive. Not indicative.
    I am not interested in fighting with anybody. I just noted that it was quite a one-sided thread. There is no need to get personal. And I agree with you that I don't know postmodernism as well as some people do. Because it's not my specialised subject, I chose Victorian Literature. But I dare say that I know enough to have the right to respond to this thread...

    By the way, your comment on social sciences and postmodernism was quite interesting. I am not familiar with this interpretation of the term, but it sounds to me like a form of "close reading." Could you elaborate on that rather than on how you perceive my knowledge or lack thereof?
     

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