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Perry Anderson, The Origins of Post Modernity

Perry Anderson, The Origins of Post Modernity

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The Origins of Postmodernity
PERRY ANDERSONVERSOLondon New York -iii-Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity, London: Verso, 1998.VersoUK: 6 Meard Street, London W1V 3HR USA: 180 Varick Street, New York NY 10014-4606Verso is the imprint of New Left BooksISBN 1-85984-222-4 (pbk)ISBN 1-85984-864-8
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British LibraryLibrary of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataA catalog record for this book is available from the Library of CongressTypeset by SetSystems Ltd, Saffron WaldenPrinted by Biddles Ltd, Guildford and King's Lynn-iv-
ContentsForeword
1. Prodromes
3
2. Crystallization
3. Capture
4. After-effects
Index
139-v-1
 
Foreword
This essay started when I was asked to introduce a newcollection of writings by Fredric Jameson,
The Cultural Turn
.In the event, it became too long for the purpose. In publishingit as a text by itself, however, I have not wanted to alter itsform: it is best read in conjunction with the volume that inspiredit. Although I have never written about a body of work that Idid not, in one way or another, admire, an element of resistancewas in the past always an ingredient in the impulse to do so.Intellectual admiration is in any case one thing, political sym- pathy another. This short book tries do something else, which Ihave always found difficult: to express a sense of the achieve-ment of a thinker with whom, it might be said, I lack the safetyof sufficient distance. I have no assurance that I have succeeded.But some larger debate around Jameson's work in general isoverdue, and this attempt may at least help to encourage it.The title of the text has a two-fold reference. The principalaim of the essay is to offer a more historical account of theorigins of the idea of postmodernity than is currently available:one that tries to set its different sources more precisely in their spatial, political and intellectual settings, and with greater attention to temporal sequence -- also topical focus -- than has become customary. Only against this background, my argumentgoes, does the peculiar stamp of Jameson's contribution emergein full relief. A secondary purpose is to suggest, more tentatively,some of the conditions that may have released the postmodern-- not as idea, but as phenomenon. In part, these are commentsthat seek to revise an earlier attempt to sketch the premises of -vii-
1ProdromesLima -- Madrid -- London
'Postmodernism' as term and idea supposes the currency of 'modernism'. Contrary to conventional expectation, both were born in a distant periphery rather than at the centre of thecultural system of the time: they come not from Europe or theUnited States, but from Hispanic America. We owe the coinageof 'modernism' as an aesthetic movement to a Nicaraguan poet,writing in a Guatemalan journal, of a literary encounter in Peru.Rubén Darío's initiation in 1890 of a self-conscious current thattook the name of 
modernismo
drew on successive Frenchschools -- romantic, parnassian, symbolist -- for a 'declaration of cultural independence' from Spain that set in motion an eman-2
 
cipation from the past of Spanish letters themselves, in thecohort of the 1890's.
1
 Where in English the notion of 'modern-ism' scarcely entered general usage before mid-century, inSpanish it was canonical a generation earlier. Here the back-ward pioneered the terms of metropolitan advance -- much as inthe nineteenth century, 'liberalism' was an invention of theSpanish rising against French occupation in the epoch of  Napoleon, an exotic expression from Cádiz at home only muchlater in the drawing-rooms of Paris or London.So too the idea of a 'postmodernism' first surfaced in the ____________________ 
1
"'Ricardo Palma'",
Obras Completas
, Vol 2, Madrid 1950, p. 19: 'the new spiritthat animates a small, but proud and triumphant, group of writers and poets inSpanish America today: modernism'.-3-Hispanic inter-world of the 1930's, a generation before itsappearance in England or America. It was a friend of Unamunoand Ortega, Federico de Onís, who struck off the term
 postmod-ernismo
. He used it to describe a conservative reflux withinmodernism itself: one which sought refuge from its formidablelyrical challenge in a muted perfectionism of detail and ironichumour, whose most original feature was the newly authenticexpression it afforded women. De Onís contrasted this pattern-- short-lived, he thought -- with its sequel, an
ultramodernismo
 that intensified the radical impulses of modernism to a new pitch, in a series of avant-gardes that were now creating a'rigorously contemporary poetry' of universal reach.
2
 De Onís'sfamous anthology of Spanish-language poets, organized accord-ing to this schema, appeared in Madrid in 1934, as the Lefttook office in the Republic amid the count-down to the CivilWar. Dedicated to Antonio Machado, its panorama of 'ultra-modernism' ended with Lorca and Vallejo, Borges and Neruda.Minted by De Onís, the idea of a 'postmodern' style passed intothe vocabulary of Hispanophone criticism, if rarely used bysubsequent writers with his precision; 
3
  but it remained withoutwider echo. It was not until some twenty years later that theterm emerged in the Anglophone world, in a very different ____________________ 
2
Federico de Onís,
 Antología de la Poesía Española e Hispanoamericana(1882-1932)
, Madrid 1934, pp. xiii-xxiv. For De Onís's view of the specificity of Hispanophone modernism, whose representative thinkers he believed to be Martíand Unamuno, see "'
Sobre el Concepto del Modernismo
'", La Torre, April-June1953, pp. 95-103. There is a fine synthetic portrait of Darío himself in
 Antología, pp. 143-152. During the Civil War, friendship with Unamuno restrained De Onís,
3

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