As our fearless leader said, once our class struggled through the conflicting definitions of post and modern isms, “We’re drinking from?the fire hose here.”

No doubt. I can’t digest it all without drowning in confusion. So, in order to quell the full rush of information down to a slow trickle, I turn my focus toward the differences between modern and postmodern text. (After all, this is an English class.)

In Malpas’ The Postmodern, according to literary critic Brian McHale:

Modern fiction asks about how a world can be interpreted and changed and is interested in questions of truth and knowledge, i.e. in epistemology 
Postmodern fiction confronts the reader with questions about what sort of world is being created at each moment in the text, and who or what in a text they can believe or rely on, i.e. questions of ontology. (24)

[Insert brilliant analysis here one day.] 

Of the postmodern/ontology connection, I find the argument between Jameson and Hutcheon (25-26) most interesting. They fully disagree with what value exists in the different ways we interrogate our human condition.

  • Jameson is ticked that the PoMo world refers to a history that never happened
  • Hutcheon is all for exploring concepts while illustrating that there is no guarantee of Truth in the history that Jameson cherishes.

AND, I love them both. I experienced each side while watching The Last King of Scotland. (Great movie, by the way.) The mix of history and fiction deeply disturbed me, only after I saw the movie, because I believed the entire story to be true. I explain in more detail on Misty s blog:

“I like your interpretation of a modern and postmodern “airing [of] dirty laundry.” I too find both appealing in that regard. I get all giddy when the drapery drops on the Great and Powerful Oz, revealing the wimpy, little wizard-punk he truly is.

My only concern with postmodernism comes into play when fiction mixes with history and truth is only relative to the elements contained within the story. Last night I watched The Last King of Scotland, a movie about the former Ugandan President and ruthless dictator, Idi Amin. The story follows a young Scottish doctor who becomes aid to the president and ensnared within his twisted world. Using Amin and his slaughter of 300,000 Ugandans from the late 60’s to the early 70’s as an historical backdrop, I was initially unaware that the doctor was a fictitious device. In fact, one of the most disturbing events in the movie involves the doctor and the president’s second wife, Kay. It was created by the film crew to “represent” the evil side of Amin. The event itself never occurred.

Why was this mix of fiction and reality troubling for me? Because the DVD extra features spoke of the children of Uganda and their lack of historical education. One Ugandan, an extra on location, said that his father, murdered by Amin’s army, had been buried in a mass grave. He knew, first hand, the problems associated with this vile and vicious government figure. He was glad that the children of Uganda could now learn of how Amin came to power and what it took to oust him so they wouldn’t ever let it happen again. If this movie is the only historical reference for uneducated children, how will they come to know which parts of this depiction are real or unreal?

So what IS the best way to educate the future citizens of the world? I have no idea. My head is spinning. I guess, in this case, I agree with Jameson that historical credibility is in danger of being lost thanks to postmodern representation. And then I’m in conflict with myself because I also agree with the value of Hutcheon’s “historiographic metafiction” where “[fiction’s] focus on history opens up problems about the access to a ‘true past’ as a way of denaturalizing present ideas and institutions” (26). Maybe the central ideas, and not necessarily the “facts,” are enough.”

Has anyone else seen this movie? Did you know that the Scotish doctor is a fictional device used to explore the myths surrounding the very real Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin? Until I watched the DVD special features, I thought he was a real guy. Like many Ugandans themselves, I am in the historical dark when it comes to African history.

So, how does this play into postmodern democratization? It doesn’t necessarily bring “history” to the people. Instead, doesn’t this illustrate that postmodern interplay requires a complex education in which techniques of storytelling are at work prior to understanding what is being told? I’m feeling the elitist vibe of “T.S. Eliot and Company” knocking at the door and can’t decide if I should open it. At the same time, I feel like the terrorizing essence of Idi Amin was better captured via the close relationship with the fictitious doctor and many Ugandans will learn about that man. In that case, are the exact details of such importance? Probably not.