AN EXERCISE IN POSTMODERNISM The cursor on my computer screen is taunting me.

With each flash on the blank page it mocks me with its incompleteness.1 “Why haven’t you begun to write yet?” it says to me. “I’m waiting…put something here…..right here, I’ll move out of the way, don’t worry. Anything you want…a paragraph…sentence…word…just write something right here.” With Herculean effort a word is born; “A” Unimposing, small, new to the world; it smiles up at me with encouragement. The annoyance is not gone, though; it has only moved a few spaces to the right. “I’m still here”, it says, “waiting…where is it…put some more up…I’m tired of this place, I like those spaces down by the bottom of the page. Why are you so slow? It’s easy, the word goes right here. Right here here here here here here…” Slowly, from the depths of the creative subconscious arises yet another word in complement to the first. “STUDY”. A verb is born and trumpets blare as Heaven rejoices. Reflection, investigation, examination, inquisition; what am I studying… “Is there a problem,” the cursor, “what are you studying?” What am I studying? Postmodernism. I need a thesis to tie this subject together. There are no ties.2 Insulate,

“The truly imaginative consists in the recognition of the distance between self and other, of the unreconcilable nature of the other...” Richard Wasson. Notes on a New Sensibility. Partisan Review 460477. P. 465. 2 “’There is,’ Murdoch says, ‘no prefabricated harmony, no social totality, within which we can come to comprehend differences as placed and reconciled. We have only a segment of the circle…,’ and to try for the whole circle is to falsify human experience.” P. 466.


separate from myself and everything else, how does one write a conclusive paper on a subject that views unified themes with extreme skepticism?3 The flashing cursor waits for an answer. There are no bonds between the cursor and myself; the very tool that facilitated my typing has now become a brick wall for my creative process. “You shall not pass this mark.”4 What kind of simplification is needed in order to study this topic? How do I condense the essence of this school of thought into a seven to ten page paper? What right do I have to simplify it?5 A Study…analysis, rumination, reflection. The two words sit on the page in anticipation of completion, but they will not become a sentence. Instead these words are deleted and in their place rise two new words. “AN EXERCISE” An Exercise, activity, application, practice. Where is this going? What is the professor going to think about this? Will he read it and laugh like a father laughs at a child’s first attempt at philosophical insight? …Oh, the cardinal sin…it’s not my place to speculate.6 “An Exercise”. The words stare back at me as I add two more to complete the title, and the first line of the paper: AN EXERCISE IN POSTMODERNISM


“To try to ‘recover the distance which exists between man and things’ is to turn human experience into a perpetual failure, for self cannot be reconciled with indifferent things.” P. 465. 4 “[Postmodernists] strive, by different techniques and structures to create a literature which describes contingency, otherness, the distance and difference between self and the other, a literature which is rigorously aware of its limitations.” P. 467. 5 “The concern…is ethical; if one turns life into a symbolic drama, one not only deprives it of its specificity, its concreteness, but one also eliminates one’s sense of responsibility to others.” P. 468. 6 “The self and the selves of others are too complex, finally too mysterious, to allow for simple maskwearing and role-assignment.” P. 468.