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Less is a Bore

Less is a Bore



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Published by James Paul Cosgrove

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Published by: James Paul Cosgrove on May 30, 2007
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CosgroveJames Paul CosgroveMs. WilsonEnglish Comp. II25 February 2007Less is a BoreHow can one describe and analyze an artistic movement while it is going on?In the case of postmodernism, history offers no insight as to the scope of the movement because we are in its midst. The definition of postmodernism is so elusive because it is aset of complex concepts and abstract premises, not one central idea. What can bedefinitively said about the philosophy is that it emerged from the modernist movementduring the 1960’s and continues to this day. Postmodernism is one of the hardest philosophical and artistic movements to define; however, its many forms can be found invisual art, literature, and architecture.In order to understand postmodernism, it is necessary to study the movementfrom which it was born. Many scholars see postmodernism as nothing more than arevision of the principles of the modernist movement. It can be said that modernism isfundamentally about order: it seeks to reconcile high and low forms of art, smoothfragmentation, examine life from a grand perspective, and search for universal meaning.Modernism also values a love of knowledge and art for their own sake; in other words,modernism values purity (Klages). With the social upheaval of the 1960’s, modernism’sclaim to universal order was shattered, and a new philosophy was needed.Postmodernism involves many modernist principles, only its perception of them variesslightly. For example, where modernism wishes to smooth fragmentation, postmodernism1
Cosgroveembraces and celebrates it. Where modernism studies life on a grand scale, postmodernism studies it on a small scale. Postmodernism also differs from modernismin its approach to linguistics. Modernism holds that what is important is the idea or objecta word represents; postmodernism holds that what is most important is the actual worditself. Conversely, when dealing with the matter of knowledge, postmodernism assertsthat knowledge is only valuable if it can be put to use (Klages). It can also be said that postmodernism wishes to bring to fruit ideas of The Enlightenment that modernismrejected: divine meaning, the beauty of nature, and a focus on the human body(Witcombe). In other words, modernism values the “what” that is believed; postmodernism values the act of believing.As an application of its philosophical principles, postmodernism can beobserved in the visual arts. Postmodern art grew from the minimalist art movement of the1940’s and 1950’s, which was deemed elitist and unemotional. With the emergence of  pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, a new ironic mixture of high and lowart called Pop began to take hold (Hunter, Jacobus, and Wheeler 358). Pop art wasappealing because, unlike modern art, it integrated art with life, and drew from philosophy, poetry, and the natural world. Whereas modernism valued art for its ownsake, the new postmodernists examined the cultural environments of their works with an“art for ideology’s sake” dogma (359). With this new theory-over-practice outlook, postmodern art began to reflect many socio-political issues, namely neo-Marxism,feminism, and linguistics (359).In addition to visual art, postmodernism can also be observed in literature.Unlike visual art, where postmodernism simply revises modernist principles, literary2
Cosgrove postmodernism rejects the entire modern perspective. Postmodern literature includesliberal use of satire and irony and a sense of discontinuity, which is celebrated rather thanmourned (Lye). It also explores undesirable and marginal aspects of society, in keepingwith postmodernism’s concentration on the small-scale view of life. Like the visual arts, postmodern literature also draws heavily from pop culture. However, what critics findmost shocking about postmodern literature is its assertion that to think in novel ways, onemust violate apparent norms and morals of social decency. Only in this way can readers be taken outside their comfort zones enough to examine the social context in which thework was written (Lye). An example of this is Chuck Palahniuk’s novel
 Fight Club
, and popular film of the same name. This violation of norms is also accomplished be mixingstyles of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, and different genres (Lye).Postmodernism has had a significant impact on visual art and literature;however, nowhere is its effect more pronounced than in architecture. Modern architectureof the 1950’s was seen as a failure because it failed to consider the human need for aesthetics in its clean, simple structure and minimal ornamentation (Hunter, Jacobus, andWheeler 357). Published in 1966, architect Robert Venturi’s book 
Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
twisted modernism’s mantra “less is more” into “less is a bore” (Glancey 198). Venturi’s bold statement essentially sums up the postmodernmovement in architecture. In the new postmodern style, architects began to use layering,unnecessary ornament, and distortion in their works, where once this was consideredunstylish. These architects also added curves and arches to their buildings, and paintedthem with vastly contrasting colors (Barford 169). Where modernism favored clear-cut boundaries, postmodern architecture offered little distinction between spaces, which3

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