Postmodernism and Transitional Society

This is an opening excerpt to Research Paper #1, Response to Critical Theory 1 Readings. To read the complete paper, please download a PDF file version of it here: Adams_Ren_RP1_CTR_Fall2013


Research Paper 1, Fall 2013, Response to Critical Theory 1 Readings:

Postmodernism and Transitional Society        

Fredric Jameson’s compelling essay “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” navigates uncertain conceptual waters, outlining the primary components of Postmodernism as a periodizing concept and related consumer behavioral response. General recognition of “Postmodernism” itself, as both term and movement, is heavily debatable, even among Jameson’s contemporaries—which complicates his model of it as cultural phenomenon and rewrite of Modernism.  For Jameson, Postmodernism functions across multiple fields, reacting against the canon by effacing boundaries between the elite and populous as it parallels an emerging social environment rooted in consumerism, media and spectacle. He identifies the use of pastiche and historicity, which (almost negatively) reflect a growing cultural dismissal of time, an escapist lack of engagement in the present moment and a humorless absorption of older styles. The great dilemma of the postmodern artist, then, is the question of what to do if everything has been done before. For Jameson, the answer is producing art about art (and the failings of art)—but he indirectly reveals a farther-reaching answer: pastiche actually functions as an interdisciplinary tool—a mode of remix culture that emphasizes context and arrangement over concern for style and stylistic “originality.” Pastiche is not a failure of Postmodernism, but a grapple with historicity itself—a way of acknowledging the death of styles[1] in favor of fresh contextual arrangement. As such, Jameson’s argument is still relevant to contemporary Post-Postmodern artists as we position ourselves in the 21st century. By investigating Jameson’s assertion of pastiche and schizophrenic time in Postmodernism, limitations in his argument  segue into newer modes of thinking and production.

[1]     Many scholars have referred to “the death of styles,” especially in relation to the point Jameson makes. If “stylistic innovation is no longer possible” (Jameson 132) style itself must somehow be abandoned or rethought. JD Jarvis is one such scholar who says, “today’s art world is so saturated with styles accumulated over the last 600 years of art making that we might have to consider things have run their course… perhaps we have entered an era where art is no longer a matter of this or that style, but instead a strong, thick murky brew of people and tools and diverse expression—an open field of creativity. From this point of view, style is just another tool of expression” (Jarvis). We can push a step further and acknowledge that style becomes method and not subject or methodology—thus any perceived “newness” would lie in the arrangement of elements and use of the tool, not a unified sense of style across an entire perceived movement.

(This is only an excerpt of the paper. You can download the whole paper above, or visit my “Papers” section).

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