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Notes on Creativity Revolutions: Key Aspects of Socio-Cultural and Literary Postmodernism

Notes on Creativity Revolutions: Key Aspects of Socio-Cultural and Literary Postmodernism

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Published by Ian Irvine (Hobson)
This article briefly outlines some of the key aspects of literary postmodernism as it relates to general postmodern society and culture. It functions rather as an overview or summary - a starting point for readings perhaps. Key literary techniques arising out of postmdoern culture are revisited. The article acts as a back-drop to an emerging outline of Transpersonal Relational Poetics.
This article briefly outlines some of the key aspects of literary postmodernism as it relates to general postmodern society and culture. It functions rather as an overview or summary - a starting point for readings perhaps. Key literary techniques arising out of postmdoern culture are revisited. The article acts as a back-drop to an emerging outline of Transpersonal Relational Poetics.

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Published by: Ian Irvine (Hobson) on Mar 26, 2013
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Notes on CreativityRevolutions: Key Aspects of Socio-cultural and LiteraryPostmodernism
By Ian Irvine (Hobson)
Copyright
Ian Irvine (Hobson), 2011-2013, all rights reserved. All quotes appearing in this article reproducedunder international Fair Usage provisions for the purposes of criticism and education. A version of this articlealso appeared athttp://www.authorsden.com/ianirvinein 2011.
Publisher
: Mercurius Press, Australia, 2013. NB: This article is published at Scribd as part of a series of articleson historical ‘Creativity Revolutions’ and contributes to Ian’s outline of a contemporary TranspersonalRelational Poetics.
Image:
Friedrich Nietzsche – considered by some to be the ‘Father of Postmodernism’ (in the Public Domain)
 
As a term, ‘Postmodernism’ is complex and probably has two distinct meanings relevant towould be writers and artists:1)A period in Western social and cultural history – probably post-1945 to the present - punctuated by significant historical events and socio-cultural trends (we shall listthese trends shortly).2)Various post-WW2 intellectual/cultural movements (philosophical and artistic)having as their epicenter the theories of certain mainly European intellectuals
1
butembracing also a large number of innovative writers, poets, etc.
2
In extending the first definition above we can list some of the key social and cultural trendsunique to the postmodern period.
3
1. Disbelief in the ‘progress’ narrative of the West due to the barbarity of colonialism, twoworld wars, the development (and use) of nuclear warheads, the horrors of the Nazi deathcamps, and the belated admittance among leftists that Communism had given birth to theauthoritarianism of the Stalinists.2. The rise of technocratic elites that make ordinary people feel constantly under surveillance(by the state and industry) i.e. ‘administered’ by impersonal experts/professionals. This stateof affairs, some have suggested, has led to a prevalent mood of helplessness, paranoia and passivity/apathy.3. The rise of hyper-consumerism and Neo-liberal economics such that more and more areasof subjectivity and the inter-relational support networks of societies (especially in the West)are turned into commodities to be traded in supposedly ‘free markets’. There is a tendency inthe postmodern period to make materialism the solution of choice to internal states of alienation that were formerly viewed as metaphysical or existential ‘problems of being’.4. The advent of a shared global worldview that exists side by side with multiple unique,locally evolved, understandings of the world. This has come about due to improvements inthe mechanical means of travel and also due to new communication technologies that makethe world seem smaller. The result is a world of many different
ontologies
(paradigms/realities), sometimes coexistent, sometimes clashing, that individuals somehow have to cometo terms with. This condition gives rise to a ‘literature of the
interstitium
’ (or the zone ‘in- between’) – i.e. created by writers who deliberately place themselves in the space betweenmonolithic (potentially hostile) ‘paradigms/worldviews’.
1
Particularly relevant are of course figures like Roland Barthes, Helene Cixous, Deleuze and Guattarri,Derrida, Foucault, Jurgen Habermas, Linda Hutcheon, Luce Irigaray, Jameson, Julia Kristeva, Lacan, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Richard Rorty and Patricia Waugh.
2
In terms of postmodern literature the following writers are often listed as key innovators: Thomas Pynchon,Kurt Vonnegut, Robert-Grillet, Nabokov, Robert Coover, John Barth, Italo Calvino, Jorge Borges, RichardBrautigan, William Burroughs, Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco and Don Delillo. Many leading Australianliterary figures are also described as having written postmodernist texts: e.g.. Janet Turner Hospital, DorothyPorter, Drusila Modjeska and Peter Carey.
3
The following list simplifies lists of defining characteristics as outlined in books and essays on the topic.For simplicities sake I’ll only mention some key overview works on postmodernism:
 Postmodernism
, edited by Patricia Waugh, particularly the extracts from works by Irving Howe, Ihab Hasan and William Spanos.
 Postmodern Culture
, edited by Hal Foster, particularly the extracts by Jameson, Habermas and Baudrillard..
 
5. The advent of the electronic mass media with its unprecedented capacity to beam ‘realities’(including ‘prejudices’ associated with given realities) into every home at breakfast has given birth to a new unease among many artists and thinkers about the capacity of elites tomanipulate mass sentiment. As a consequence the ‘sign systems’, most obviously ‘thelanguage codes’, that sustain ‘ideologies’, ‘religions’, etc. (i.e. ‘grand narratives’ to use a termcoined by Lyotard) need to be periodically interrogated for signs of authoritarianism andintolerance. The capacity of mere words and images to ‘oppress’ is studied as never before.6. The rise of an environmental consciousness due to signs in the post-war period that the life-sustaining capacity of the global ecosystem is under severe strain.7. Distrust of the scientific and Enlightenment heritages among large numbers of social criticsand writers/artists—we may even speak of a sustained assault on the objective truth-telling pretensions of ‘Enlightenment reason’. The collapse of Newtonian science at the hands of the physics of firstly Einstein and later Quantum Mechanics has fuelled this trend – especiallywith the realisation that at sub-atomic levels ‘uncertainty’ prevails i.e. the laws of Newtonian physics do not strictly speaking apply..8. A sustained critical attack on the concept of the ‘self’ (i.e. subjectivity) as constructed byEnlightenment influenced philosophy. Many postmodernists prefer to speak of our  plural/multiple and fragmented experience of subjectivity rather than the more individualistic,rational idea of subjectivity bequeathed to us by nineteenth and early twentieth centurythinkers. Some theorists argue that there is no real self at all and suggest that the self must beunderstood as socially constructed, others, however, prefer to point to a complex relational(that is: relationships dependent) self, as against the individualistic, separated self theorized by the various post-traditional ‘Grand Narratives’ of secularism.9. Some theorists have argued that the postmodern period has seen epidemics of certain pathologies of subjectivity, notably: unhealthy narcissism, depression/chronic ennui,schizophrenic de-realisation, psychopathic and borderline pathologies, and so on. Theseepidemics are in turn linked to postmodern social and cultural trends. Fragmentation, hyper-addiction and an ‘inability to feel’ have become emblematic of the ‘postmodern condition’.10. Many postmodernists have split with the seriousness of high modernist intellectual culture —lightness, comedy, absurdity, carnival, parody and love of popular culture are apparently‘in’.11. Questions about the validity of the literary ‘cannon’ have been asked by various excludedminorities.12. The advent of a ‘sexual revolution’ in the West initiated by firstly the Freudian revolution,secondly the development and easy availability of cheap contraception from the 60s on andthirdly the gay rights movement is also a feature of postmodern culture.13. The post-war development of various sophisticated forms of Feminism, firstly in theWest, and later globally. It is also important to note a willingness among many Westerneducated Feminist thinkers and activists to develop theoretical models that integrate femaleexperiences of oppression with many other forms of oppression and human rights abuses— i.e. racism, classism, etc. This model is termed ‘the intersectional model of oppression.’
Postmodern Literary Techniques: How to Create an ‘Ontological Scandal’

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