Postmodern Japan Forum On Postmodernism

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Modern Japan


Earl
Jackson, Jr.


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Scene

Postmodern
Japan Forum Seven – What is Postmodern?


Matthew
Hauge and D. J. Anderson


From: Matthew Hauge

Sun, 28 Apr 2002 17:35:07


If I may ask… without self-deprecation

I am feeling lazy for my deficit of contributions to this
forum, though I am somewhat intimidated by the progress of some of the
some of the threads that have developed. It is like (insert favorite simile
here, preferably one related to merging onto a freeway on which the traffic
is moving absurdly fast, or perhaps some of you would be happier making
one up involving that by now horribly bloated and mangled equine carcass…
though how that would apply to whatever I’m babbling about is anyone’s
guess).

For example, I had an observation about political-correctness,
but when I did the homework of tracing that thread to its origins, I found
that someone, DJ I think, made that observation before me. And now anything
I have to add would not seem to me to be too different from a talk show
where people, who may or may not be as monstrous as those parading their
bathos (yes, bathos, did the dictionary mislead me?) on the stage, stand
up and bleat their one-and-a-half cents for all to hear. Although I would
like to think I would not be as belligerent or self-righteous as they.
Where am I going with this? Now I remember. I simply do not want to say
what has not already been said, and by the time I find out if it *has*
already been said, it’s just been said. That ’said‘, I now move on to the
purpose of this posting, which has nothing to do with the preceding paragraph.
It’s about time!


What
is post-modernism
? Granted I should have asked this weeks ago, but
given how I do not understand the term, I’ve not perceived any deficiencies
in my ability to follow what has been discussed except when, of course,
someone says „That’s very post-modern.“ So, again, what is post-modernism?
I imagine it may not be a question answered as simply as asked, but I am
hoping there are some of you who have an understanding, and can comprise
an answer with a level of ‚English‘ that even the horse, when it was still
alive and yet unbeaten, could understand. It would be interesting if my
question initiated a new thread, which could conceivably reveal, or synthesize,
a collective understanding of the term, but one or two responses will do.
As long as somebody can answer the question simply (and without telling
me what post-modernism is *not*), I will know that it *can* be understood
and answered and that ‚post-modernism‘ is not merely the theory-heads‘
or intellectuals‘ version of a catch phrase.


From: D. J. Anderson

To: Matthew Hauge

Re: What is Postmoderrnism?

At 02:34 PM 4/28/02 -0700, Matthew Hauge wrote:

>I am feeling lazy for my deficit
of contributions to this forum, though I


>am somewhat intimidated by
the progress of some of the some of the threads


>that have developed. 
It is like (insert favorite similie here, preferably


>one related to merging onto
a freeway on which the traffic is moving


>absurdly fast, or perhaps some
of you would be happier making one up


>involving that by now horribly
bloated and mangled equine carcass…


>though how that would apply
to whatever I’m babbling about is anyone’s guess).

It is like a vulture flying down to grab a morsel of horseflesh
only to


discover a swarm of vermin already digesting our poor
PoMo-Secretariat


(driven relentlessly into the ground, spurred on by reckless
riders arguing


Re: The ethics of reading our class books, left for dead
amidst numerous


postings of actual homework), and rather than swooping
into the middle of


mess and having to fight for scraps, deciding to begin
preemptively


circling over Strom Thurmond instead so as to get a prime
seat at the


upcoming feast…

 

>  For example, I had an
observation about political-correctness, but when


> I did the homework of tracing
that thread to its origins, I found that


> someone, DJ I think, made
that observation before me.  And now anything I


> have to add would not seem
to me to be too different from a talk show


> where people, who may or may
not be as monstrous as those parading their


> bathos (yes, bathos, did the
dictionary mislead me?)

O.E.D. sez:

     Bathos

     1. Depth; lowest phase, bottom.

     2. Rhet. Ludicrous descent from
the elevated to the commonplace in


writing or speech; anticlimax.

     3. Hence gen. A ‚come-down‘
in one’s career.

>  on the stage, stand up
and bleat their one-and-a-half cents for all to


> hear.  Although I would
like to think I would not be as belligerent or


> self-righteous as they. 
Where am I going with this?  Now I remember.  I


> simply do not want to say
what has not already been said, and by the time


> I find out if it *has* already
been said, it’s just been said.  That


> ’said‘, I now move on to the
purpose of this posting, which has nothing


> to do with the preceding paragraph. 
It’s about time!

……….?

 

>What is post-modernism?

Paging Dr. Kevorkian…

Just thinking about this question makes me break out in
a cold sweat. If


Earl asked me to give a definition in class, I would
probably run out of


the room crying. I think it is one of those things where
you *know* if it


is or if it isn’t, kind of like the old judicial definition
of pornography.


That’s how I’ve been getting along in class so far; luckily
this class is


about post-modern works, so it isn’t very hard to say
something is „a


postmodern story“ when pretty much everything we read
is (by definition)


„post-modern.“ And I have wrote essays and read up on
what post-modernism


„is“ for other classes at other times, but I don’t think
I could give a


very satisfactory definition off the top of my head.
So I fired up Google


and went hunting, vowing not to return until I had Baudrillard’s
head on a


stake and the secret definition of post-modernism at
my fingertips.


 

>Granted I should have asked
this weeks ago, but given how I do not


>understand the term, I’ve not
perceived any deficiencies in my ability to


>follow what has been discussed
except when, of course, someone says


>“That’s very post-modern.“

>

>So, again, what is post-modernism? 
I imagine it may not be a question


>answered as simply as asked,
but I am hoping there are some of you who


>have an understanding, and
can comprise an answer with a level of


>’English‘ that even the horse,
when it was still alive and yet unbeaten,


>could understand.

I doubt that even the people who write about it for a
living can do that,


even ignoring issues of equinal comprehension.

>It would be interesting if my
question initiated a new thread, which could


>conceivably reveal, or synthesize,
a collective understanding of the term,


>but one or two responses will
do.  As long as somebody can answer the


>question simply (and without
telling me what post-modernism is *not*), I


>will know that it *can* be
understood and answered and that


>’post-modernism‘ is not merely
the theory-heads‘ or intellectuals‘ version


>of a catch phrase.

The thing about post-modernism is that is just might be
a „theory-heads‘ or


intellectuals‘ version of a catch phrase.“ Several different
versions,


really, depending on who you listen to. After spending
the last hour


looking at various essays, summaries, and dictionaries
with glazed-over


eyes, this is probably the simplest explanation. From
the Oxford Concise


Dictionary of Literary Terms:

„… a cultural condition prevailing in the advanced capitalist
societies


since the 1960s, characterized by a superabundance of
disconnected images


and styles – most noticeably in television, advertising,
commercial design,


and pop video. In this sense, promoted by Jean Baudrillard
and other


commentators, post-modernity is said to be a culture
of fragmentary


sensations, eclectic nostalgia, disposable simulacra,
and promiscuous


superficiality, in which the traditionally valued qualities
of depth,


coherence, meaning, originality and authenticity are
evacuated or dissolved


amid the random swirl of empty signals… Postmodernism
may be seen as a


continuation of modernism’s alienated mood and disorienting
techniques and


at the same time as an abandonment of its determined
quest for artistic


coherence in a fragmented world: in very crude terms,
where a modernist


artist would try to wrest a meaning from the world through
myth, symbol, or


formal complexity, the postmodernist greets the absurd
or meaningless


confusion of contemporary existence with a certain numbed
or flippant


indifference, favoring self-consciously ‚depthless‘ works
of fabulation,


pastiche, bricolage, or aleatory disconnection.“

Even a simple definition like that requires multiple searches
in


dictionaries…

  Aleatory – aleatoric writing involves an element
of randomness either in


composition, as in automatic writing and the cut-up,
or in the reader’s


selection and ordering of written fragments… (ibid)

Bricolage – to use something that is easy at hand for
a tool it was not


designed for.  A brick used for a hammer, for exaple,
is


bricolage.  Postmodern authors talk about the way
language grows by the


means of established terms being used as a kind of bricolage,
as a brick


might be used for a hammer. (http://www.california.com/~rathbone/local2.htm)

Fabulation – … a mode of modern fiction that openly
delights in its


self-conscious verbal artifice, thus departing from the
conventions of


realism… essentially comic and allegorical mode of
fiction that often


adopts the forms of romance or of the picaresque novel
– see also magic


realism, metafiction… (Oxford)

Pastiche – Similar to parody, but without a satirical
intent. It is a


„borrowing“ of „style“ from a certain source, with the
intent to reflect


that style  in one’s own writing, sometimes as flattery
or to pay tribute,


but usually just to work within a certain code. (me)

 

Post-modernism can be thought of in both a stylistic and/or

economic/historical „movement.“ Theorists like Frederic
Jameson place


post-modernism in relation to „late capitalism“; at some
point after WW2,


capitalist society began to change, and a new „society“
emerged, which goes


by many names (post-industrial society, multinational
capitalism, consumer


society, media society, etc.) New types of consumption
arose; planned


obsolescence, increasing rapidity in the frequency of
new fashion trends,


the intrusion of advertising, television, and the various
forms of media to


a previously unimagined degree, the replacement of the
city/country


opposition with the suburb and „universal standardization,“
and the growth


of the infrastructure and accompanying rise of the automobile
culture – in


short, the rise to power of the „culture industry“ as
we know it today.


Post-modernism is both a symptom and a response to this
new order. For a


somewhat longer explanation, check out this

(http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/jameson.htm)

excerpt from Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of
Late Capitalism, by


Jameson.

 

My favorite quote from the stuff I read is this: „In a
recent encyclical,


titled „Fides et Ratio,“ Pope John Paul II actually used
the word


postmodernism to condemn extreme relativism in values
and beliefs, acute


irony and skepticism toward reason, and the denial of
any possibility of


truth, human or divine.“ From

http://www.ihabhassan.com/postmodernism_to_postmodernity.htm
– which is


linked from Study
Guide 2
, a good place to look for more information, as is


the Internet Explorer-only page

http://www.anotherscene.com/postjapan/musepomo.html
– although most of the


articles there will make your head explode if you spend
too much time


looking at them.

One chart in particular kept on appearing in various pages,
and it


illustrates the difference between modernism and post-modernism,
though you


have to already know the jargon to understand it. You
can find it at


http://www.as.ua.edu/ant/Faculty/murphy/436/pomo.htm#Comments

Another table that lists various modern/post-modern oppositions
can be


found at

http://web.archive.org

and a quick list of postmodern attributes can be found
on another page from


that site,

http://web.archive.org

 

A dictionary of some post-modern terms can be found at

http://www.california.com/~rathbone/lexicon.htm
– a website dedicated to


„Postmodern Therapies.“ I think it is kind of anemic
but better than nothing.


 

There is no simple definition, really. Any simple definition
would rely on


prior knowledge, and I’m assuming that most of us don’t
have a lot (when it


comes to postmodernism). This is one of those things
where you just have to


sit down and read for hours before you can really say
much about it. Or


maybe I’m really just trying to cover up my own ignorance
with a cavalcade*


of links. I’ll leave that for the reader to decide. There
is nothing


outside the text, after all, and as an „author“ of this
email I’m as dead


as our poor pony, post glue factory.

 

That’s it for explanation, but there are a few interesting
sites that I


just want to put in here for fun. First is the Postmodernism
Generator, at


http://www.elsewhere.org/cgi-bin/postmodern/ – it randomly
generates


post-modern academic essays, name-dropping all sorts
of theories and


theorists in a jumble of almost-intelligible yet meaningless
phrases. Next


is Kid A in Alphabet Land

(http://www.freedonia.com/~carl/kida/kida_index.html),
a trading card


series dedicated mostly to Lacan but pertinent to this
discussion. Lastly


is the Panic Encyclopedia – „The Definitive Guide to
the Postmodern Scene.“


(http://freedonia.com/panic/)
Although it is over 10 years old, it is still


pretty neat – it gives little examples of postmodern
problems in our


society/world, such as the commodification of Elvis‘
death and the


postmodern implications of a group of pigeons in an abandoned
Canadian


brewery.

Was any of that useful? I know you were looking for a
small bite-size


answer, but this was the easiest way for me to say something
about it. In a


„postmodern“ way, too. Though I have the feeling I might
have bit off more


than I could chew.

D.J. Anderson

P.S. – I don’t know what the official spelling is, post-modern
or


postmodern, I see them both everywhere so I think either
one is acceptable.


I should probably be consistent in how I spell them,
but I’m too lazy for


that.

*I’m not one to let a running joke die, even if it should
mercifully be put


out to pasture (sorry) – a cavalcade is a procession
on horseback.


 

 


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