A History. New York and London: Routledge, Hans Bertens, Professor of American Studies at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, has in the last few years become one of the most astute observers and judges of the phenomenon of postmodernism, a scholar most adept at organizing and classifying the many materials that fall under this rubric. In the first few chapters he follows step by step the separation or, even better, the individuation of the semantic field of the postmodern from the cluster of other meanings with which it was intermeshed in the s and s, such as modernism and anti-modernism themselves, as well as existentialism, the avant-garde and, eventually, deconstruction. Finally, the first part sketches the beginnings of the cultural-political debate that, though it did not seem particularly interesting before the s, was soon to dominate the discourse of postmodernism. I am somewhat less persuaded by this second part than by the first, which I think is exemplary and of great use.
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Start your review of The Idea of the Postmodern: A History Write a review Shelves: philosophy , literary-criticism Postmodernism has always been a slippery concept for me to get hold of. At one point, I had a simple equation where postmodernism equals relativism. Reading Hans Bertens intriguing The Idea of the Postmodern: A History provided both a wide-angle lens and a zoom feature to the movement, but also demonstrated in vivid fashion why I always felt inadequate when approaching the concept.
Part of my problem is that I often associated the movement with critics and observers, like Susan Sontag, who never Postmodernism has always been a slippery concept for me to get hold of. Part of my problem is that I often associated the movement with critics and observers, like Susan Sontag, who never actually used the word. Indeed, I was surprised to see that there were only 21 references to the word in major U. As Ibn Hassad argued, the postmodern disorder and attack on form in the arts and literature was an attempt to recover human innocence p.
Yet, this very ideal, so attractive to me in terms of art, literary analysis, and the consideration of truth I know postmodernists would argue against my usage here. This is probably necessary when the aesthetics of postmodernism can be described as both anti-psychological and anti-myth p.
The problem with destroying and denying the metanarrative, the centralizing truth or essence of life, is that it opens the gate to pure subjectivism and makes consensus and cooperation exceedingly difficult if not impossible. This is highlighted in the chapter on postmodernism and politics where Bertens observes that the breakdown of the idea of representation allows a more diverse and open approach to shape nearly anything, but the destruction of legitimation undermines the entire idea of a cohesive macro-politic p.
That is my warning about postmodernism as a perspective for social change. I believe it is doomed to failure. The rejection of myth in favor of objectness p. There is a certain refreshing quality to that perspective, but carried forward to its extreme extrapolation, it can engender a stilted equilibrium and defeatism.
Bertens reveals some of this when he speaks of the political implications. So, what then do I see as positive in the perspective? I think postmodernism has value because, unless extrapolated to its most extreme positions, it works against the complacency of the empirical-theoretical world as well as that of the mystical-spiritual world.
By resisting the idea of knowable Truth, postmodernism reminds humanity that everyone may be blind men touching different aspects of the elephant. No one can grasp all of the Truth enough to become satisfied.
One must keep exploring, experimenting and examining on the basis of logic and experience in order to get a fuller knowledge of what might be Truth. This is important to me because I am a Theist. But when they say that the real my emphasis can only be presented as it is not, since it is a priori not representable pp. In practice, we oscillate between universalist and particularist positions, in a dialectic, which, in the last twenty-five years, has not been unsuccessful in the field of concrete practical politics—at least where I live—but that theoretically cannot be resolved.
I feel like anyone who reads it will gain a better hold on the slippery subject, but like the subject itself, it will still remain slippery.
The Idea of the Postmodern: A History
The Idea Of The Postmodern A History