31 may 2009

I had barely heard of postmodernism when i entered grad school in 1981. I tended to see Levertov, Olson, Creeley, O'Hara, or Ginsberg as continuers of a tradition. Didn't they admire William Carlos Williams? Didn't Williams, Pound, and Stevens really come into their own, reputationally speaking, in the 1960s? I felt we were still living in the modernist period. I still feel that way.

I remember a fellow grad student glibly rattling off the differences between modernism and postmodernism. I wasn't having any of it. In part, it was my own ignorance, but I also think I was intuiting something. Sorrentino's attitude toward Williams, Joyce, or Blanchot was wholly reverential, wholly unironic.

Though people like Olson invented the term "postmodernism," the term took on a different meaning after Lyotard and Jameson. Basically, the word was hijacked as a term for "poststructuralism" or for "late capitalism," respectively. It became just that much more useless as a term for literary studies.

3 comentarios:

Thomas dijo...

I like this project. I think also of Borges. Too often treated as a postmodernist, but obviously still living in the modern period with the rest of us.

I'm not sure this is what you mean, but I like the idea that postmodernism is a kind of reverence for modernism, an unironic doting on the great modernist writers. Modernism itself is always wholly irreverent.

Examples of reverence in the case of Borges: taking the Library of Babel as an allegory. Or reading him as a metaphysician. The irony is lost on such readers.

Jordan dijo...

Olson's UB colleague Leslie Fiedler invented the term, or anyway, has the first cite. (I don't believe he stole it from Olson, but who knows.)

Reverence, rebellion, samo samo. I see postmodernism as an attempt to sneak auctoritee back into the worldview. The people who managed it seem to have been split whether it was a powergrab or a comedy of the commons. This may account for postmodernism's somewhat confusing quality.

Oh, I wish it was the weekend again.

Ross Brighton dijo...

Cf. Perloff's "21st Century Modernism: the "New" Poetic".
In my experience too many people waste time arguing over the relative postmodernism of this or that, when generally the two sides will be working from different definitions of the term (ie one subscribes to Jameson, on to Lyotard, one to their undergrad lecturer). It has no use as a descriptor, except maybe at times on the visual arts, or architecture, and then simply as another historicised subset of modernism along with Vulgar Modernism, etc etc.