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sipra mukherjee west bengal state university - INDIA


 Modernism:

century (the fundamental elements of practice in the forms of art were rejected: form, melody, perspective, representation, traditional realism rejected. Emphasis on MAKE IT NEW)

From early 20th

1910 – 1930

 Postmodernism:

from the 1980‟s  Cuddon: characterized by “an eclectic approach, (a liking for) aleatory writing, (and for ) parody and pastiche.”  Very similar to Modernism in its inclinations – but a redefinition.

A term current

 While

the Modernist writing was marked by nostalgia for the continuity which was lost, the postmodernist writing finds the fragmentation exhilarating, liberating, “symptomatic of escape from the claustrophobic embrace of fixed systems of belief.” (Barry) .

Modernism marked by extreme asceticism. and welcomes what would be called vulgarity. rigorously sparse expressions.  .  Postmodernism rejects the distinction between high and popular culture. gaudiness. seen in their minimalism. bad taste.

 Disappearance of real  Foreground inter-textual elements. (parody. allusion)  Irony (regarding the metanarrative)  Challenge hierarchy of high and low culture. .

pp. University of Minnesota Press. ) .answering the question: what is postmodernism (Jean-Francois Lyotard. 71-82. 1984. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Minneapolis.

Lyotard .

Believing in one grand narrative becomes therefore an impossibility postmodernity . diversity.characterized by an abundance of micronarratives. the incompatibility of our aspirations. alert to difference.   . beliefs and desires.

a theory that tries to give a totalizing. comprehensive account to various historical events. . cultural phenomena based upon the appeal to universal truth or universal values. and social. experiences.

” .“Our working hypothesis is that the status of knowledge is altered as societies enter what is known as the postindustrial age and cultures enter what is known as the postmodern age.


. and particularly since World War II in Western post-industrial. The postmodern condition is the fundamentally different outlook on knowledge that has arisen after the Enlightenment. information-based society.

in the postmodern condition must be legitimated and made accessible in a just society. particularly computerized knowledge. Lyotard makes a variety of claims and recommendations about how knowledge. .In the Report.

" .the crisis of metanarratives John Stephens defines metanaratives as "a global or totalizing cultural narrative schema which orders and explains knowledge and experience.

It then produces a discourse of legitimation with respect to its own status.Science is a narrative. It is obliged to legitimate the rules of its own game. a discourse called philosophy .

the hermeneutics of meaning. such as the dialectics of Spirit. Lyotard uses the term „modern‟ to designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse of this kind making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative. or the creation of wealth. the emancipation of the rational or working subject. .

the Enlightenment narrative is a metanarrative – implying a unanimity between rational minds .

.universal peace. in the Enlightenment narrative. the hero of knowledge works toward a good ethico-political end -.


questions metanarratives .postmodernism interrupts. challenges.

To wait in heavy harness.  -rudyard kipling . Half-devil and half-child. Take up the White Man's burden-Send forth the best ye breed-Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives' need. On fluttered folk and wild-Your new-caught. To seek another's profit. Take up the White Man's burden-In patience to abide. …. sullen peoples. And work another's gain.



. her flowers to love. made aware. A dust whom England bore. A body of England's. breathing English air.If I should die. once. Gave. blest by suns of home. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed. Washed by the rivers. think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. shaped. her ways to roam.

… If you could hear. I saw him drowning. Obscene as cancer. the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs. If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in. guttering. bitter as the cud Of vile. drowning.g. In all my dreams. Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori. choking. before my helpless sight. The old Lie.e. He plunges at me. incurable sores on innocent tongues.  .1: As under a green sea.Wilfred Owen . you would not tell with such high zest(13) To children ardent for some desperate glory. at every jolt. My friend.



and void. no matter. God’s Holy Spirit. God starts it all up and WHAP! Stuff everywhere! The cosmos in chaos: no shape. no form. no time. The word on the street (The Street Bible) (2003): First off.. No light. . light floods the skies and ‘night’ is swept off the scene. from nowhere. no function– just darkness ..Translation of Genesis 1:1-3 King James Version (1611): In the beginning God created the heaven and earth. Second off. nothing. no substance. Let there be light: and there was light. ready to play. And floating above it all. Day one: Then God’s voice booms out. and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the earth was without form. And God said. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. ‘Lights!’ and. total.

I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives” -Lyotard . “Simplifying to the extreme..


its great goal.  The narrative function is losing its functors. its great hero. . This incredulity is undoubtedly a product of progress in the sciences: but that progress in turn presupposes it. its great dangers. its great voyages.

Goldsmith. To give repentance to her lover. . And finds too late that men betray. What art can wash her guilt away? The only art her guilt to cover. Vicar of Wakefield (1766) . To hide her shame from every eye.When lovely woman stoops to folly. What charm can soothe her melancholy. And wring his bosom--is to die.

-Eliot. She smoothes her hair with automatic hand. 1922 .When lovely woman stoops to folly and Paces about her room again. The Wasteland. alone. And puts a record on the gramophone.

.The major question that interests Lyotard is how knowledge gets legitimated in cybernetic society. and the nature of the legitimation itself.

. education. and consequently government.He maintains that whatever principle society uses to legitimate knowledge must also be the principle that it uses to legitimate decision-making in society. and many other basic elements of society. laws.

Legitimation in the Enlightenment was tied to what Lyotard calls metanarratives. Meta-narratives roughly equate to the everyday notion of what principles a society is founded on. . They form the basis of the social bond. or grand narratives.

. and generally regulate decisionmaking and the adjudication of what is considered truth.Meta-narratives are total philosophies of history. which make ethical and political prescriptions for society.

The progressive liberation of humanity through science is a meta-narrative.The meta-narratives of the Enlightenment were about grand quests. . The quest for a universally valid philosophy for humanity is an example of a meta-narrative.

weapons of destruction legitimized by discourse of science = progress .

Marxism/Nationalism are classic cases of meta-narratives based on principles of equality. they seem to go disastrously awry. .The problem is that when metanarratives are concretely formulated and implemented. becomes domineering and repressive. emancipation and egalitarianism which. liberty. when implemented.

earlier discourses of childhood innocence and purity destroyed by proliferation of media 1 .

earlier discourses of joyful romances and weddings destroyed by proliferation of media 2 .

 earlier discourses of human mercy destroyed by proliferation of media 1 .

that the legitimating function that grand quests once played in society has lost all credibility. The question then becomes. what now forms the basis of legitimation in society if there is no overarching meta-narrative? .Lyotard claims that we have now lost the ability to believe in meta-narratives.

If we have rejected grand narratives. which analyzes the way sub-groups in society regulate their behavior through rules of linguistic conduct. . For Lyotard. the answer lies in the philosophy of Wittgenstein. then what we have fallen back on are little narratives.

. limited contexts in which there are clear. we have lots of smaller contexts which we act within. We no longer give credence to total philosophical contexts like Marxism which ostensibly would prescribe behavior in all aspects of life.Little narratives are Wittgenstein's "language games". rules for understanding and behavior. if not clearly defined. rather.

we avoid the need for meta-narratives. Our effectiveness is judged in the context of how well we perform in each of these many limited roles.We are employees. (performativity)  . each with their particular contexts for judging actions and knowledge. we are students. Each role legitimates knowledge and courses of action in their limited contexts. By fragmenting life into a thousand localized roles. This is the nature of the modern social bond.

beliefs and desires. the incompatibility of our aspirations. alert to difference. diversity.  .characterized by an abundance of micronarratives.  Believing in one grand narrative becomes therefore an impossibility postmodernity .

„My argument is that the modern project [of realising universality] has not been abandoned or forgotten but destroyed. -Lyotard. 1984 . liquidated‟.

the incompatibility of our aspirations. alert to difference.  . beliefs and desires.  Believing in one grand narrative becomes therefore an impossibility postmodernity . diversity.characterized by an abundance of micronarratives.