ANALYSIS PART I: I am the One Trick Pony

As I wrestle with what postmodernism means, how it functions, and what I’ve written about it, I’ve discovered that I am absolutely obsessed with limits. Reading through my blog I see frustration with and examination of:

  • language as limitation on thought
  • the subject’s limited ability to represent
  • limits on history as merely one version of truth
  • limits on context within postmodern fiction
  • and limits of form when representing the real.

Is this supposed to be therapeutic? I’m just asking. I suppose it’s cheaper than therapy, although I don’t recall seeing it on the ENG377 syllabus.


2007.09.02 Modern or Postmodern? That is the Question.
2007.09.06 So, What’s the Difference?
2007.09.07 Written WITH the Body
2007.09.09 ‘I’ – Thinking
2007.09.14 Where the Story Starts
2007.09.17 Post Modo Condition
2007.09.19 Fight Club – The Movie
2007.09.20  Futurism in Fight Club (add-on to previous post)
2007.09.25 Why Jameson’s Piece is Postmodern
2007.09.29 Life in Dying
2007.10.02 Fight Club Environmentalism
2007.10.05 Making Sense (???)
2007.10.08 Cindy Sherman
2007.10.10 Linda Hutcheon (expertise project)
2007.10.15 Nikki Lee

2007.09.01 To Esther on Post/Modern Stance
2007.09.01 To Misty on Post/Modern Stance
2007.09.07 To Kim H. on Winterson
2007.09.07 To Alex on Winterson
2007.09.17 To Michael on Winterson
2007.09.17 To Christine on Winterson
2007.09.23 To Marina on Fight Club, the film
2007.09.23 To the Class Experts on Lyotard
2007.09.29 To Hannah on Fight Club, the book
2007.09.29 To Esther on Jameson
2007.10.04 To Zena on Fight Club, the book
2007.10.04 To Tammy on Fight Club, the book
2007.10.15 To Aliya on Cindy Sherman
2007.10.15 To Melissa on Hutcheon

Postmodernism has revealed the ways in which I’m confined within the ideological prison of my own thought, AND it has simultaneously slipped me the key to freedom. Now that I understand how postmodernism functions, I see it in fiction, film, magazines and photography. It has become relevant in my other classes and has even jumped out at me while watching television. I love that ideology is being exploited all over the place, but still, I have one question burning deep within my soul. It’s the one that everyone in class either fully?understands or isn’t asking.

When Lyotard says:

“The artist and the writer , then, are working without rules in order to formulate the rules of what will have been done” (Lyotard, 81)

I still need to know… What the Hell does this mean?!?!

Moving on, the following passage from “‘I’-Thinking” shows my concern for the limits of language and subject:

I found what Winterson hasn’t written is most important. Where power exists and determines what is “acceptable,” or at least “attributable,” lies in our perception of how the masculine and feminine are defined by language. (Hello Saussure, my old friend.) Winterson’s brilliance demonstrates the subversive by using that very device. The notion of the free-“thinking I” is exposed for all its cultural baggage.

Here I refer to Cixous’ idea that language shapes our thoughts along problematic dichotomies such a masculine/feminine, strong/weak, etc. Winterson challenges the reader’s need to assign a male or female identity to her genderless narrator, pointing out the limitation of “thought dichotomies” in practice. Rereading this passage surprises me after just having just presented on Hutcheon. While my language here isn’t quite right, the idea of the self-reflexive operation is interesting. Both the power of language to define, and the limitations as it confines are revealed simultaneously. Perhaps we discussed this idea in class that day, but prior to reading Hutcheon (my hero) I didn’t think I understood. Apparently I did. Go me.

Don’t you worry. I’m not getting all high and mighty over this one small victory. I continually struggle with other issues, particularly the end result of mixing fact and fiction in historeographic metafiction. All across my blog and strewn about comments to classmates are references to the movie The Last King of Scotland. Apologies “for bringing it up once again” generally accompany the post because I can’t seem to let it go. In “Why Jameson’s Piece is Postmodern” it appears for the third time:

This movie is … about a very real Ugandan dictator, but his life is revealed through the perception of a fictional doctor… the main character with significant influence on very disturbing events within the film… Then, in the DVD special features, Ugandan extras said they are glad children can watch this film and finally learn about Ugandan history. (BIG) PROBLEM! This isn’t history!… Will Ugandan children know? I think not.

Here is where I get stuck between Jameson and Hutcheon. Like Jameson, I have this engrained notion that context is important. As I say later in the same post, I attribute my discomfort with this specific historical fiction to the fact that this film will likely be the only access Ugandan children have to their country’s history. Since they have no background in postmodern analysis, they will surely mistake this representation (one portrayed through the lens of white culture) for the real. This is the result of Third World, culture consuming capitalism that Jameson talks about.

On the other hand, when it comes to my personal consumption of the postmodern, I want the veil lifted from the powerful ideology that orders my world. To understand that there is no one absolute truth, as far as I can see, is the only way to open the door to new ideas… without limitation (ha!). Hutcheon, with her positive spin on the postmodern and its power to reveal, is – quite frankly- my hero, as I’ve already stated above. I’m not sure if I will ever resolve this internal conflict. I fully believe there is value to both sides of this coin.

From the argument above, my question becomes, what is real or contextual anyway? Hutcheon says that “history” has only ever been a representation and access to “reality” has only ever been an assumption. To follow this thought into the realm of photography, as I understate when summing up my “Cindy Sherman” post:

Interestingly, using a doll as an unrealistic representation of a human being, although it seems to be a drastic difference of subject/object from the first [human] pictured above, is no different in concept. Sherman brilliantly exposes photographic “realism” as equally flawed in all.

Sherman offers a quick and dirty example of Hutcheon’s self-reflexive form. Her photography is used to demonstrate the power of historic photo documentation and realism as it influences our perception of reality, to subvert it using the very form we trust to be real, and to reveal the ways in which photography fails to grant access to the real at all. By subverting or turning the medium in on itself, the limitations of ideology implode. Sherman is at once artist/actress, subject/object, woman/cliche. When I see this mental back flip in action, it makes my heart soar. I want to scream “THAT’S A PERFECT TEN!”

And yet… there is still The Last King of Scotland playing to children in Ugandan theaters. Thanks to Hutcheon and Sherman I’m left to wonder whether concepts are more or less important than the events that actually happened. Is the insertion of a fictional narrator within an historical setting really any different than the history written by a textbook author with an eye toward patriotism? The more I grasp how little we’ve learned from a history we’ve assumed was real, perhaps this fictionalized account of a real dictator bears less negative impact than the lessons learned from such a story. I suppose the best we can do is handle postmodernism with care, limiting its political and capitalist consumption of culture in the Third World… whatever that means.

PART II: Old Tricks, New Tricks

And the award for best posts to date goes to:

  • Life in Dying
    I felt I made a new connection in Fight Club between body, as the limited modern form striving to achieve a real experience, and the soul or idea of legend as postmodern form struggling to break free from the limitations of form. I spent FAR more time on this than any other post, engaging with the narrative as well as narrative- through- the- lens- of- theory, and organizing these thoughts into essay form. Yeah, I was home alone for two days.
  • Making Sense (???)
    Here I was able to follow several significant threads discussed in class, applying one aspect of a particular theory to every text. Addressing issues from the complication of all our narrators, to the problematic concept of gender, I was able to beat these topics into submission, taming my unruly, jumbled thoughts.

The award for best comment to date:

  • To Zena on Butt- Wipe
    This comment engaged with Zena’s question, recounted a class comment, brought in textual evidence, and also taught me a thing or two in writing it.

The award for best classmate post goes to:

  • Esther’s “I Can Spell Jameson, So It’s Not a Bad Start”
    This post came along right when I needed it, particularly since Esther posts early, if not on time. She summarizes the highlights of Jameson’s theory, adds visuals to demonstrate her argument of lacking historical reference in architecture against Jameson’s need for context, and poses a few questions for comment. You just can’t ask for more.

Based on my previous accomplishments, these next three goals?are what I plan to strive toward for the remainder of my blogging career:

  • Increased engagement with comments
  • I should get over my need to be original and address some class topics already. I’m always pushing so hard to move beyond what has already been discussed. The alternative would be to “go deep.” Wait, I do that.
  • More humor. I used to be funny.
  • More silly pictures. That used to be fun too.
  • Oddly, perhaps I need to spend LESS time banging out these marathon posts and more time on other classwork – or just living life.

How to achieve these things? I could just relax. The problem is that I find this class so darn interesting. Yeah. I happen to like taking our shiny, new information out for a spin through the informal blog, particularly where a little misjudgment and hitting the guard rail is allowed. Sue me.