16 June 2006

Postmodernism: Sublime, or Over?

is a posting of what was previously a comment. by request. some will have read this already, in which case, surf elsewhere.]

jeffrey, liberation, or a return to ethics, would be fabulous—would that it were so.... and as to your analogy with regard to definitions of beauty and sublime, i *do* have sublimely dark brown eyes....

and lance, with regard to _american book review_, yeah, jeffrey di leo in houston may take it over---if he did it would be in great hands---but i have heard *nothing* to indicate that this deal went through so i hesitate to name names (too late!).

but that's a side bar to jeffrey's interesting nudge. i like lance's seconding nudge to recall that with pomo sublime we

>put forward the unpresentable in presentation itself

terrific!, and just say no to "consensus of taste"; say yes to "openness"—it all sounds lovely. i don't think it's happening much, but it all sounds lovely.

should i say it's not happening much "any more?" are we ("we") going to grapple at some point with the ... consensus ... that pomo has come and gone and we should be investing in something known as "now what"? i love lytotard too and we need to be conscious of such constructs (is there a collapse that needs to happen between “next” and “now”? are we getting too linear?). presenting the unpresentable is certainly my goal, but we're also going to have to strike out a bit on our own. talk about "open"—unknown territory!—or so i HOPE. i feel like i'm seeing a lot of rehash, even DOING a lot of rehash—maybe all of that is even necessary—but what now? what next? beyond? please not between. to think that we are all writing between movements is just too disabling to me.

what comes beyond presenting the unpresentable? of course, some folks are telling me that the logical next step is presenting the presentable. duh. backwards much? where is *forward*? it's like i can't find the gears on the drive shaft. but forward could be too...linear. where is “the third way”? given a choice between forward or backwards, i would like to see what’s behind door # 3.

which door i do not intend to imply would be a hybrid of representation (realism) and nonrepresentation (the meta- stuff lance suggests). not a hybrid---a THIRD WAY.

sorry to get all buddhist on everybody’s asses. i’m not one, really, i just groove on some of the ways pomo can be very zen....

but what do we think? is pomo over, or what?




Trevor Dodge said...

Well, if Steve Shaviro is writing on aesthetics, that's a pretty good indication that we've moved beyond the postmodern moment. And I distinctly remember Curt White saying similar things in my Normal days, which were--golly--ten years ago now. "It ain't that hard to figure out," he once wrote me. "Get over it already."

This notion of "presenting the presentable" probably also turned Kathy Acker towards narrative in the early 1990s, so again it's fairly obvious we're through the looking glass of postmodernity.

Or, if Habermas is correct, it's more likely that we've never truly moved past the Modernist project, which might account for this re-emphasis on aesthetics.

It seems to me, though, that we're being teased into thinking way too linearly here, that there's something teleological at work. This blogspace is, after all, inherently begging the question that there is a progression in the first place. Knowledge is recursive, and so is language, and thus must be art (a perfectly flawed syllogism, if there ever was one, no?).

I guess what I'm driving at is these questions about movements beginning/ending become trite impositions at some point, and self-fulfilling half-truths at best. If we set out to create X, do we actually end up with Y? And who is to say what X is in the first place, or that Y is the logical next step? Furthermore, did we ever really exhaust W?

doug rice said...

as usual, without saying (much) i come.

a priori a bit late to this posting without knowing.

the origins. the sidebars off of Lance and Jeffrey. but here I AM lacking reference only with deference
look Lyotard named it a condition. like baudrillard. in fact, baudrillard was the condition. all they could do was naming; hence, the failure of postmodernism if in need there ever was a project so heralded. (think about it, but do so outside parenthesis. or , in fact, i f you tried to think the postmodern as a condition outside of the parenthesis there would not be a condition only a minor neurosis, one conditioned by the urge to name and of course the name of the condition was i need to say something in print, scripted, so that i can get tenure. that is all. over and out.)

put forward the unpresentable in presentation itself. what does this mean? so there is presentation? what is presentation? derridean presence without deleuzion? how can an experience be an experience if there is no langauge for utterance? the theorists who never once said postmodern are the only ones who even come close to speaking of that which is here or was there or was here to go. go. irigaray and barthes and deleuze. how can thinking avoid the slipping into paradigmatic structuring that makes any thinking impossible.

can there be an explosion after modernism? look. seriously . look.

so this third that walks beside. the one in ulysses. the one outside cixous' shadow language.

was postmodern over? was derek pell writing before the demise?

openness? the grammar of openness. how does grammar make possible utterance.

who is we? who is linear? the kids with their cellphones, jacked in to ipods talking to their friends who are only elsewhere. the patient has arisen, not like lazarus some guy with horrible breath. but dora and she is walking down the street forgetting to consume but consuming without knowing. certainly without naming or naming only in the space of desire without being able to know the naming of this. the moment.

there is more.

blonde said...

it's probably not over, but it quickly became a boring and used up way to speak of things (see my earlier post on SPEED as the dominant mode of high capitalism)...

i don't think it is boring and used up for academics, seems to have much play in graduate school still.

i do think it is boring and used up for other kinds of readers...

still others get turned on, turnned off, turned on, turned off at irregular intervals.

it may be (still stuck on some of my thoughts on speed, also on physics) that literary "movements" are not a useful way to articulate the motion of art any longer...you know, energy changing forms but not dying...and the digital age perhaps lessening the power of the old "literary period" mechanism of categorizing...i suppose i am personally inside this line of thinking--that we may be moving toward or we are already inside of a historical moment which cannot sustain regular methodologies of literary tracking...


Lance Olsen said...

I'm increasingly uncomfortable with terms like "next," "forward," "rehash," "beyond," and others that imply some sort of literary evolution, and hence the idea of some sort of qualitative "improvement." Writing doesn't evolve. It sometimes changes. More often than not over the last century and a half, writing just keeps writing.

Rather, my sense is that we're living, not in times where we seek to present the unpresentable in our language, but rather where the times themselves are unpresentable.

Where, that is, the postmodern sublime is both alive and dead, tomorrow happened yesterday, writing has never been simultaneously more radical and conservative, it's absolutely essential (as well as a doomed enterprise from the start) that the alterantive embraces an eternal recurrence of a literature of resistance, everything is always-already occurring, the most experimental impulses any of us can conjure were coopted by Levi's last month for their new ad campaign.

I wonder if the danger of this (non)situation may turn out to be a kind of intellectual/creative paralysis on the part of those of us who are committed to (re)creating a prose and politics of alternative(s).

And but why hasn't anyone wished everyone a happy Bloomsday yet, anyway?

doug rice said...

in part Lance I think you are absolutely right about the always forever idea about moving forward the new and so on. we are here and we need to be present and engaged. how? we cant of course simply retreat to nihilism and fall alseep in a kind of paralysis. and i do believe the times (and this new sense of what time is and what movement is) can be represented. ( i am somewhat troubled by the used of presenting in place of representing and worried about the notion of presence). how can the body be placed into speech? what is the body now? how has all the technologies of communication on the most banal level complicated our notion of body and desire?
spinning wheels.
maybe it is something as simple as we cant talk about it just do it. (i get royalties for saying that.)
and i want to stress that i agree this is not about improvement; it is about movement. how does narrative move now? where to? how to? so what i want to say is that along with deleuze and gass and sontag with their ideas of the experiment and what it means to be experimental (or what it is to develop a style), for me so that we do not merely return to the 70s adn merely return to dada, that we do more than simply sit down and say we are going to write experimentally. i believe that the writing has to demand this from us. that of course there are stories that insist on being told in linear fashion. and others not. at the same time even if held captive i do not think i could ever tell a linear story not because i am an experimental writer and feel politically that that is the way to get a story told in these times but because of who i am genetically and because of how hard i had to fight to tell stories at dinner time. now kids are fighting different fights to get through.

and yes i grew up in western pa. we dont wear helmets when we bike

Dimitri Anastasopoulos said...

How can we NOT be postmodern?

It seems to me a return to aesthetics is more like a return to consciousness. We were always doing aesthetics anyway, and many forms of postmodern thought (explicitly announced) acknowledged it. Thinking always has it aesthetic contours. As Blanchot puts it, "We always think inauthentically if we are to think at all."

The key question for me is how did PMod treat Kant's sublime? In other words, what's the difference, and is that difference still valuable?

I still teach a Postmodernism class and find the emphasis very valuable both in my reading and in my students' thinking.

As I said, I haven't figured out a way to NOT think about PMod when I read. Does that mean I've made the movement into a grounding concept for my reading. Well, that's always the danger, but it's not PMod's fault. That's on me.

Lance Olsen said...

In a sense, Dimitri, I couldn't agree with you more. The terms we're employing in this conversation, the theorists and writers we cite, the obsessions we convey are all proof that, although postmodernism may be dead, it is also thriving--and through us. Isn't it clear the postmodern is speaking through us all, whether we like it or not?

And, so, Trevor, to Curt White's "Get over it already," I respond: "Get over it already."

And Doug, you say: "i do not think i could ever tell a linear story not because i am an experimental writer and feel politically that that is the way to get a story told in these times but because of who i am genetically and because of how hard i had to fight to tell stories at dinner time."

That strikes me intuitively as correct. I wonder how much of our theorizing comes after the fact to account for what always-already has been: namely that one of the things that binds those of us who care enough to write and/or read this blog (while nitpicking about what doesn't bind us) is that we're wired to resist and refuse and challenge; because of that, we look for language that explains what would happen, what is happening, whether or not we find the language.

Davis Schneiderman said...

Is is pomo that I have to type a weird code, today "pylue," to post this comment? Certainly interrupts Blonde's "speed" a bit..

Lance Olsen said...

Maybe, Davis. But it seems more pomo to me that you break the back of your phrasings by beginning the first with a verbal and ending the second with a punctuational mirror.

Steve Tomasula said...

Anyone see the editorial in the NY Times today (Sat.) titled The Art of the Deal? It talks about Cathy’s Book, “a novel for adolescent girls featuring a heroine who gives tips on makeup while the story unfolds. As it happens, the makeup she uses is by Cover Girl,” which of course promotes the novel in return. The editorial goes on to discuss the book as if it’s the cutting edge of narrative: “it captures the weird coalescence of the shape-shifting culture adolescent girls live in, where the borders between advertising and literature, podcast, and sitcom, novel and lipstick go unpatrolled.” Once again, Stendhal’s mirror traveling down the road of life is the gold standard and the only kind of experimental writing the NYT is capable of appreciating is the kind that finds creative ways to move product, a.k.a., novels, previously admiring, for example, a novel published by the character of a soap opera (not the actor who plays her) who is writing the novel as part of the soap opera story line. Or as the editorial puts it: “it’s almost ridiculous to speak of a ‘book’ or a ‘record’ or even a ‘movie’ [oh, no don’t tell me even movies have become commercial!] anymore. What we should be talking about is different states of the same cultural matrix…. Sure, there are writers out there [anyone on this blog know any?] intent on writing a ‘book,’ just as there are musicians intent on making a ‘record.’ But for projects of a certain ilk [maybe strip mall development?] –a much better word than genre, somehow—the real artistry lies in the elusive way so many cultural threads are tied into a single knot.”

There are so many assumptions wrapped up in this knot that it’s hard to know how to untangle them: e.g. gender expectations and commerce; e.g., any press that isn’t part of a entertainment portfolio with resources to blanket cover B&N, develop a theme-park ride, and happy-meal based on the book (let alone any poet) need not apply to the house of literature (Tom Clancey Inc. understands what kind of novel has the numbers to support this kind of investment). But I digress. What caught my eye about this editorial was reading it in light of the pomo dead or alive thread: on one hand it seems clear that postmodernism as driving force is very much with us (e.g., the leveling of high and low; aren’t blogs themselves evidence of the fragmentation, undermining of master narratives, etc. that characterize pm-ism?). What has ended is the ability to sell pomo itself as the latest fad; the moment of pomo as style, like the bellbottom, like MTV collage, has passed; it’s not cool, that is, it's too hard to market to the great bulge in the demographic curve the idea that it’s cool to speak French, read between the lines, simultaneously hold contradictory ideas, or even that some poems have to be read twice. And why should it be when pomo critics and NYT Reviewers have been saying for years that a Madonna song, a towel sold at K-Mart, or an episode of the Sopranos is as culturally intertextual—and more fun!—than those stuffy, obscure and difficult texts by Stein, Beckett, or any of their contemporary descendents. In seeming agreement with the artists of commerce that the NYT praises, they by effect if not intent, take part in the anti-intellectual backlash that seems to be defining the cultural landscape today (the latest fad?). In this, aesthetics, politics, what counts as literature, or music or movies (or anything 'mass' for that matter) all seem to be of a fabric. The other day I was at an ‘alternative space’ play in Chicago, which, in the midst of citing all the liberal pieties against the war in Iraq, managed to get in just as many digs at obscure, egg-head interests like “semiotics” and “gender studies” but never questioning, why, for example, the great bulge in the demographic/voting curve is unable to discern (or call it deconstruct) the resemblance between Bush taking a victory lap in an F-16 (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED) and Saddam Hussein shooting a rifle off a balcony. Thomas Jefferson couldn’t have said it better: You get the culture you deserve.