Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Writing - PostModernism

Writing - PostModernism

I can think of a lot of uplifting or at least energizing rather than enervating postmodern fiction: e.g. If Upon a Winter's night a Traveler by Italo Calvino, Fight club by Palahniuk, virtually anything by Neil Gaiman, virtually anything by Alan Moore, figures like Hunter S, Thompson and Hakim Bey, and in the more mainstream and funny sense: the great postmodern sitcoms like Larry David's Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm and Louis C.K. and Tina Fey and the like.

I don't think that just because something like Seinfeld is ironic, self-referential and categorically against enlightenment and the lifting of the spirits like in the more conventional "Friends" ("no hugs" being Seinfeld internal slogan as the show was conceived), it is automatically desolate and hopeless, much less cruel.
Conversely, I can think of a ton of dour modernist works and classic novels (Bleak House, anyone?) Chekhov?

Postmodern thought is dismissive of high-minded notions of true beauty and ultimate meaning and such, but it pretty much embraces the trickster, free play, the willingness to survive and outmaneuver the terrible monolithic forces hedging our lives, to be a gadfly and a libertine and a force of and for pleasure.

Modernist absolute truth often came with a demand for heroism or sacrifice, while the postmodern absence of absolute truth comes with an injunction to make your own contingent but consistent meanings. Both are related models for existential validation in an uncaring universe, but one seeks to correct the other by minimizing the coersive and authoritarian elements implicit in its modeling of "truth".

People always blame postmodernism for the disillusionment with absolute values, but postmodernism merely described what was happening to the whole West after the traumas of the second world war and the holocaust, Postmodernists didn't hide the values everyone believed in and didn't destroy them, they just drew a suggestive image of the world as already disenchanted, complete with shreds of the shattered discourses that once validated everything and made everything seem simple.

The values of the Enlightenment project didn't crumble from postmodernism, they crumbled because the nation responsible for the most potent philosophy of the Enlightenment used those ideas to justify unprecedented atrocities, while the Ford assembly line model of efficiency through reason and productivity turned into the gas chamber. It is the modernist Adorno that declared that there can be no more poetry after Auschwitz, postmodernism has largely sought to prove Adorno wrong.

Postmodernism didn't hollow the grand narratives out, it pointed out that they were always already hollow.
Besides, if you can find something as soulcrushing as Chekhov's "In the Pit" /v Ovrage in all of postmodernism, Id love to see it. There is no lifting of the spirits in Chekhov and never was.