Now you can view this blog on your mobile phones! Give a try.

Friday, October 28, 2005

I FEP Notices


The following students should meet me before the End-semester examination.

Photograph :
05D2220 Rithika

Curriculum Vitae:

05D2266 Supriya

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What Postmodernism Means by Lawrence Cahoone

What Postmodern Means
Lawrence Cahoone

• Difficult to summaries postmodernism
– a. Disagreement among writers
– b. Postmodernists deny having any doctrine
• Idea of summary antithetical to Pm
• To understand - list
• Imp Ideas in pm works
• Different claims postmodernists make
• Issues dividing pms

Five prominent postmodern themes
Presence or presentation (vs representation or construction)
Origin (vs phenomenon)
Unity (vs plurality)
Transcendence or norms (vs their immanence)
Constitutive otherness

• =quality of immediate experience
• + the objects thereby immediately represented
• Traditionally presence contrasted with
– a, representation - sphere of linguistic signs
– b. construction – the products of human invention (hence whatever mediated by human factor)
• E.g.: Perception/sensation sense data – passage to reality, more reliable than mental contents subsequently modified, represented and altered by thought or language.
• Pm questions and denies it.
• Pm denies that anything is ‘immediately present’ hence independent of signs, language, interpretation, disagreement etc.
• Also presence presupposes representation
• Derrida- No thing as perception – immediate transparent reception of the given

• Postmodernists deny presence and analysis of representation
• Study The thing
• E.g. using intelligence systems in schools
• Postmodernists analyze use of term ‘intelligence’ by the tests proponents – implying the object or referent of the term never present
• It’s the history and political representations and their political use which is at issue
• We encounter the real world referents through texts, representations, mediation.
• We can never say what is independent of all sayings.

• = notion of the source of whatever under consideration
• A return to which is often considered the aim of rational enquiry.-
– An attempt to see beyond phenomena to their ultimate foundation.
• Modern philosophies of the self – existentialism, psycho-analysis, phenomenology, Marxism- attempt to discover self road to authenticity.
• Postmodernist argue – it’s not possible to have an access to self completely, it’s never available to us.
• No possibility of returning to, recapturing, representing the origin, source, deeper reality behind phenomena
• Casts doubts and denies existence
• Postmodernism is intentionally superficial. Surface of things, phenomenon don’t require any deeper reference.
• Author is dead - denies origin
• Because no meaning of text can be ‘authoritatively’ revealed through authorial intervention.
• They are not imp, have not privilege over other factors.

• Unity, single entity is plural
• Everything constituted by other elements
• Constitutive are plural
• Therefore individual plural
• Therefore no analysis is final
• E.g. Texts meaning are never complete/final
• Human self multiplicity of forces or elements.
• Not single unity, hierarchically composed, solid, self-controlled
• We have selves than self

Transcendence of norms X
• Norms- truth, goodness, beauty, rationality- not independent of the processes they serve to govern or judge
• They’re products of and immanent in those processes.
• Social justice product of social relations it serves to govern
• i.e. the idea was created at a certain time and place to serve certain interests and is dependent on certain intellectual and social contexts.
• Rejection of idealism
• Concept of ‘good’ and the act of calling something good not independent of the things we want to call ‘good’
• Therefore postmodernists show processes of thought, writing, negotiation and power which produced those normative claims

Constitutive otherness
• Complex application of the four themes
• Use of constitutive otherness in analyzing any cultural entity
• Cultural entities-human beings, words, meanings, ideas, philosophical systems, social organizations are maintained in their unity through active process of exclusion, opposition, opposition, and hierarchisation
• Other phenomena or units must be represented as foreign or ‘other’ representing hierarchical dualism in which a unit is ‘privileged’ or favoured and the other devalued in some way.
• Postmodernists find – privileged groups must actively produce and maintain their position by representing or picturing themselves- in thought, literature, in law, in art – as not having the properties ascribed to the underprivileged group
• Must represent those groups those groups as lacking the properties of the privileged groups.
• The self may feel compelled to represent itself as excluding sexual or aggressive feelings. They cannot be obliterated. So must be ascribed to chance situations E.g. “ I was not myself that day”
• Margins constitute texts
• Unities are constituted by repressing their dependency on and relations to others.
• Postmodernists analyse the excluded or ‘marginalised’ elements of a system or text.
• Pm in literature turn attention away from well known themes in text toward seldom mentioned, virtually absent, implicitly or explicitly devalued
• Presence constituted by absence.
• Real by appearance
• Ideal by mundane
• This apart from theme also applies to style.
• Postmodernist read metaphors with keen interest
• Process of exclusion false, unstable, immoral
• False= It’s a lie
• Unstable- Must be admitted some day
• Immoral- when becomes social oppression
• Repression in text when read carefully undermines its own message.
• Constitutive otherness shows the dependence of the privileged theme on the marginalized element.
• Social disenfranchisement, marginalization of sexual and racial group is moral and political case of this pattern.
• Some pm wish to remove such repressions, others admit no escape
• Render repressive forces more diverse and fluid- so none becomes monopolistic.

Types of postmodernism
• Three-part classification, overlapping
• Indicative of aims
– Methodological postmodernism
– Positive postmodernism

Methodological postmodernsim
• Rejects the possibility of establishing foundations, thus of ultimate reliability of knowledge.
• Shows that traditional philosophical distinctions b/w real and ideal, objective and subjective, reality and appearance fact and theory are problematic
• It problemetaises
– A. by criticizing the traditional theories of knowledge and linguistic meaning
– b. human interests evident in the construction of these distinctions
• It’s antirealist – claims knowledge is made valid not by its relation to its objects, but by its relation to our pragmatic interests, communal perspectives, needs, rhetoric
• Undercuts the philosophical attempt to justify realism
• Sometime undermines rational inquiry itself by subjecting notions of truth, rationality and meaning to critique.
• M pm is negative – claims or shows inadequacy or problematic nature of other forms of writing and talking and theorizing but offers no explicit alternative.

Positive pm
• Positive reinterpretation of any phenomenon
• It may reconceive the self or God or nature or knowledge or society or art given the critique of unity, origin, presence
• Refers to writing that applies general postmodern themes to particular subject matters in order to offer new vision or understanding.
• Offers alterative

Issues dividing postmodernist
• First
• Recognize whether pm is
– a. merely making a historical claim that modern ideas and methods are being superseded or abandoned in the present age
– b. questioning the validity of modern methods without making any explicit claims about their falsity or suggesting that they be abandoned
– c. claiming the inadequacy of the modern methods and inviting us to abandon them in favour of something else.
• Some postmodernists are wrongly accused of rejecting modern philosophy and society when they only question them.
• E.g. Derrida interpreted as undermining western thought.
• But he says there’s no alternative to ‘logo centrism’ or traditional foundationalism of West: It can’t be abandoned
• Result - tension b/w methodological and positive application of pm
• Most extreme case - Some postmodernists use elements of pm critique to reformulate fundamental conceptions of God and the universe
• This is in principle anathema to post-structuralism and antifounatinalism
• Second
• Pm may seem antithetical to recapturing any past. – not always true.
• While pm philosophers don’t have anything to do with those who wish to recreate past, such a return central to architectural pm.
• Pm architect incorporates ornamentation, banished by modernism.
• But its not premodernism pure, but pluralism.
• Uses premodern element in something that is completely modern
• Synthesizing, juxtaposing and ironically commenting on traditions is not traditional.
• To be traditionalist or premodernist is to be faithful to one tradition, not to all.
• E.g. pm= premodern, monogamy=many sex partners
• Pm and premodern share same enemy

• Third
• Question of political implication of pm.
• Its well-known political manifestation is the attempt to make contemporary culture acknowledge and respond to ‘difference’ or ‘otherness’ under the names of feminism very influential intellectual movement, multiculturalism, a phenomenon in the field of education.
• Both movements overlap with pm.
• Some feminists, multiculturalists are pm some are not
• Most poststructuralist, feminists and multiculturalists are associated with the left. Some others are not
• E.g. Richard Rorty- calls himself ‘postmodernist bourgeois liberal
• Leftists criticize pm opening reactionary forces blocking leftist political reforms.
• Habermas
• Political usefulness of pm is in criticizing any established authority.

Anil Pinto
Dept of Media Studies

To Sum up Postmodernism

To Sum up Postmodernism ……
-Anil Pinto, Dept of Media Studies

According to Lyotard Postmodernism has to do with scepticism about Grand Narrative; it is about heterogeneity.

According to Jameson, it must involve a way of mapping the new and confusing contours of our late capitalistic times.

According to Baudrillard, postmodernism is a flow of ultra-technological images in a consumerist hyperreality across a mediascape or mindscreen to which we can only passively surrender.

According to cyberpunk it is a world dominated by multinational corporations and the data they control. Yet cyberpunks advocate a hacker ethic, tapping into and using such data for personal ends.

According to Charles Jencks all these thinkers are describing late capitalism or late modernism. According to him authentic postmodernism involves double coding the artistic representation of modernism with something else, some Other.

All postmodern thinkers agree the world is shrinking. There is no one dominant worldview. Pluralism rules: traditional, modern, late modern and postmodern all rub elbows in the same culture.

Encroachment by the other upon what had once been our private space is central here.: The Other may be individuals, Other groups, Other species, Other races, the Other of “male,” the Other of “the West,” the Other of “Europe,” the Other of the conscious mind, the Other of the rational mind, the Other of modernism, the Other of modernisms, the Other of “ourselves” or in “ourselves”.

Through double coding, postmodern architecture, art and literature represent the other and thus present heterogeneity; by looking backward to the past, or sideways to a local culture. Thus while using modernist techniques they include the Other, humorously, ironically and playfully, rather than excluding it.

Post-modern (with hyphen) for Jencks, because postmodern has hybrid identities. Some supermyth or messiah uniting everybody under one umbrella no more exists.

Postmodern people resist grand narratives. That god is Yahweh or Allah or the goddess, that moon is made of such and such mass, that western medicine better than oriental herbal, that feminine equals sugar and spice and everything nice or that the Caucasian race is the master race – all these are man-made notions. They are social constructs / inventions. There is no one way of explaining things.

The grand narratives are replaced by hodge-podge of little narratives. Postmodern people therefore instead of believing that world will be united one day under Marxism or Christianity or Science are more interested in seeing the world as a kind of carnival of cultures- a tribal gathering.

The shining sun of universal truth and meaning is eclipsed by the colourful display of little dances, little stories, that don’t project a utopia.

Postmodern audience don’t demand that all the heterogeneous stories add up to some grand global, universal total sense, instead they celebrate the fact that it’s ok to stop making so much sense. Because of explosion of cultural messages we are beginning to understand that not only through stories but also our rituals, religious dogmas, myths, gender roles, self concepts, beliefs histories, and theories are cultural, social inventions.

We enjoy the man-made symbols but don’t want to be its slaves. We are quasi fundamentalist Christian, Muslim. We go to temples, mosques despite the doubts.

We may participate in more than one grand narrative- Buddhist Christian
It has liberated the concerns of the other. E.g. unlike Conrad who thought you could speak for the other.

Postmodernisms emphasis on the other has allowed formerly silenced Others such as women, gays, blacks, Orientals, etc to express their own stories in their own voices.

Just as postmodern societies reject grand narratives there is also an attempt to create them through cults and sects.

As the grand narratives of Christianity, Islam and Judaism have a difficult time dealing with differences, there are two major traditions-Buddhism and Hinduism. Buddhism is democratic, cool, practical, inexpensive, and also politically correct. (Because Chinese occupation of Tibet).

Vedic tradition of India- Hinduism- also accommodates differences, which tolerates a great variety of forms of worship and ways of attaining enlightenment.

Powell, Jim. Postmodernism for Beginners. Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1998.

Modernism and postmodernism-MH Abrams

Following the the notes of my lectures on the essay by MH Abrams on Modernism and postmodernism.

Modernism and Postmodernism
-Anil Pinto, Dept of Media Studies


• Term used to identify new and distinctive features in the subjects, forms, concepts and styles of literature and the other arts in the early decades of the last century (20th) esp. after WWI(1914-1918)
• Features: Involves a deliberate and radical break with some of the traditional bases not only of Western art but of Western culture in general.
• Important Precursors: Friedrich Nietzsche (1890-1915) Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, James G. Frazer. (His Golden Bough stressed the correspondence between central Christian tenets and pagan, often barbaric myths and rituals.
• Location: Some locate it in 1890’s. High modernism came after WWI.
• 1922 appearance of modernist innovations – James Joyce’s Ulysses, Ezra Pound’s Cantos, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Virginia Wolf’s Jacob’s Room + other experimental works.
• Reason: War had shaken faith in the continuity of Western civilization and raised doubts about the adequacy of traditional literary modes to represent the harsh and dissonant realities of the postwar world. ‘The inherited mode of ordering a literary work, which assumed a relatively coherent and stable social order could not accord the “immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.”
• Eliot experimented with new forms and a new style that would render contemporary disorder, often contrasting with the lost order and integration that had been based on the religion and myths of the cultural past.
• In Waste Land (1922) Eliot replaced the standard flow of poetic language by fragmented utterances and substituted for the traditional coherence of poetic structure a deliberate dislocation of parts in which very diverse components are related by connections that are left to the reader to discover or invent.
• Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) & more radical Finnegans Wake (1939) subvert the basic conventions of earlier prose fiction by breaking up the narrative continuity, departing from the standard ways of representing characters and violating the traditional continuity, departing from the standard ways of representing characters and violating the traditional syntax and coherence of narrative language by the use of stream of consciousness and other innovative modes of narration.
• Gertrude Stein –experimented with writing that achieved its effects by violating the norms of Standard English syntax and sentence structure.
• Parallel experiments in Literature : Expressionism and surrealism
• Modernist paintings and sculpture: Cubism, Futurism and Abstract Expressionism
• Music: Violations of standard conventions of melody, harmony and rhythm by the modernist musical composers Stravinsky and Schoenberg et al.
• Prominent feature of modernism – avant-garde- a small self-conscious group of artists and authors who deliberately undertake, in Ezra Pound’s phrase, to “make it new”.
• By violating the accepted conventions and proprieties, not only of art but of social discourse, they set out to crate ever-new forbidden, subject matters. Frequently avant-garde artists represent themselves as “alienated" from the established order, against which they assert their own autonomy; a prominent aim is to shock the sensibilities of the conversional reader and to challenge the norms and pieties of the dominant bourgeois culture.


• Term applied to the literature and art after WW II (1939-45)
• Effects on Western morale of the first war were greatly exacerbated by the experience of Nazi totalitarianism and mass extermination, the threat of total destruction by the atomic bomb the progressive devastation of the natural environment and the ominous fact of overpopulation.
• Postmodernism: 1. Experiments of extreme modernism 2. Diverse attempts to break away form modernist forms which had become conventional, 3. Overthrow elitism of modernist “high art” by recourse to the models of “mass culture” in films, television, newspaper cartoon and popular music.
• Postmodern literatures by Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Pynchon, Roland Barthes blend literary genres, cultural and stylistic levels, the serious and the playful that they resist classification according to traditional literary rubrics.
• Parallels in art: pop art, op art, musical compositions of John Cage and the films of Jean-Luc Godard
• Purpose : At times to subvert the foundations of our accepted modes of thought and experience so as to reveal the “meaninglessness” of existence and the underlying “abyss” or “void “ or “nothingness” on which any supposed security is conceived to be precariously suspended.
• Parallel in linguistics and literary theory- post structuralism
• Poststructuralists undertake to subvert the foundations of language in order to show that its seeming meaningfulness dissipates, for a rigorous inquirer into a play of conflicting indeterminacies, or else to show that all forms of cultural discourse are manifestations of the ideology or of the relations and constructions of power in contemporary society.


• Abrams, MH. A Glossary of Literary Terms, VI Ed. Bangalore: Prism Books, 1993, pp 118-121.