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Postmodernanybody have a sensible definition?

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#31 Kate B

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 07:23 AM

I wrote my dissertation for my history degree from a postmodern perspective without fully understanding the arguments and got a First for my labours.

I'm glad you asked this question Mel, some people have given very good definitions and I think I understand it better now.

#32 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 09:03 AM

And I am now able to use the term far more comfortably than I had been before I asked this question. Thank everyone who contributed. I think I will use it in a rather restricted way, but at least it makes more sense to me now than before. :wink:

#33 Nanatchka


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Posted 27 November 2003 - 11:50 AM

"self-referential, reductionist, and ironic"

#34 Paul Parish

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 01:17 PM

Happy thanksgiving, EVERYBODY....


For "modern" -- once upon a time-- had very definite, and definitely challenging ring to it.

"ll faut etre absolument modern" was kind of a war cry iwhen TS Eliot quoted it -- was it La FOrgue who said it ? -- and it meant in the ENglish-speaking cultures opposition to sentimentality, warm-fuzzy thinking of all kinds, over-cushioning, and "skirting" in almost every sense -- they took the skirts off the tables and exposed their legs, shortened the skirts on ladies and exposed THEIR legs, took the skirts off the genteel....

In America, the genteel tradition was not very old, but the fantastic economic success of the country had created a considerable cushion of material well-being for a huge proportion of the population -- which had a numbing effect on the minds and spirit. Isadora Duncan wanted something much freer; the next generation of moderns, like Eliot, who'd seen World War I, were appalled by the complacency of hose who thought that "progress" would be just a steady advance of good and goods... There hadn't been a really big war in Europe since Napoleon was defeated, and modern scientific warfare was cataclysmic for their whole world-view. "The Waste Land," "The Rite of Spring" -- art like that concentrated on revealing the hidden forces at work behind pleasant surfaces, which could collapse to reveal violence in the abstract.

The challenge was to be intellectually honest, acknowledge the real forces at work. So modernism was a heroic movement; even when it was being ironic, it was using irony as a force of disillusionment. Graham wanted to show what was going on under the skirts -- without taking the skirts off, she wanted her performers to "dance from your vaginas."

One of the most frequent metaphors modernists used was "leanness" -- "a poem should be / clean as bone"; Balanchine wanted the bones to show. You should feel the art working, there needed to be a heroic penetration, beneath surface ornamentation, to the absolute essence and THAT is what the artist must reveal -- the inner workings, the idea itself. (Conceptualism is a last gasp of that, from an era when the divorce between vision and technique had become no longer something to feel sorry for but laughably complete.)

Post-modernism is not a heroic movement. If it's a movement at all, rather than just an attempt to find some kind of spirit to carry on, it's an acknowledgment that the times don't suit heroics. But I'm sure the situation is very different in different countries -- Joanna's situation in Poland is very different from ours in the United States -- where it seems to me the situation is (as they used to say in Vienna) "desperate but not serious."

Well this just came off the top of my head. I wonder if I'll agree with myself an hour from now. Gotta go get my green vegetables ready for the Thanksgiving feast.

#35 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 02:56 PM

"self-referential, reductionist, and ironic"

Sounds like my boss.

And Paul I'm not so sure that you've described "modern" but you certainly have nailed "moderne"!

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