About Postmodernism

The simplest way to understand is to break the underlying concepts to its simpler components. You might have come across more complex definitions/explanations but for a beginner it may be a little too confusing. So at the risk of being inaccurate (or even incorrect), I'll say this:

Post-modernism is a framework that could be used to identify the nature of something: literature, aesthetics (of a building, painting, sculpture etc.) and other forms of 'human expression'.

In sociology, modernity refers to a historical period (just like enlightenment), roughly from the 15th century to the age of industrial revolution (mid-late 19th century). Modernism may then be understood as rules and forms of expression that was common for this period. However, most scholars argue that specific, identifiable characteristics emerged or were prominent between the late 18th century and early 20th century.

What are these characteristics? It varies depending on the field of enquiry. Lets take fiction, for example: how was fiction written? Was it linear/non-linear? Did the protagonist always the one whose point of view guided the narrative? Did it reject the zeitgeist of the day? Did it ponder the wider realities of existence than those set within the teleological complexities of the then human society? etc.

(One can do some reading on exactly what those characteristics were for, say, literature. Similarly, you'll find a set of characteristics for modernist architecture.)

Again, we need to keep in mind that the time period where they became prominent is not all that relevant as much as the characteristics themselves. Some of Nietzsche's writings could be categorized as postmodern even though they were written in the 19th century. Nevertheless, postmodernism can also have a temporal identifier because of the particular time period when its (supposed) charcteristics became predominant.

So if you know what the modernist characteristics of literature are, you can then identify another as postmodernist or not by checking its non/conformity.

Where it becomes a bit more complex is when we try to apply the framework on works that may not fit the Western context. The general debate among 'local' scholars has been about identifying some of the contemporary works -- say, films -- as postmodern because of its relationship to the nature of most films in Tamil/India or whichever 'micro-context' one is talking about. Yes they reject the 'norm' but what is the norm? If the norm itself isn't modernist (more like victorian), how could its rejection be called postmodernist? Where are its reflexive nodes situated?

But there are also several instances where the framework seemingly fits in very well because of their conformity to the western characteristics of postmodernism. This complexity arises, among others things, from the dichotomous 'growth' that many post-colonial, less-industrialized societies have gone through. Where the life and living conditions' 'diversity' allows the materialist existences to operate in one level (in pre-modern and even medieval conditions) and the mind and quasi-materialist (such as books and music) to exist in another.

Regardless of what 'it is', what it's been made to be is less than interesting. In its current usage 'postmodern' may not necessarily be a worthwhile categorization at all. Because, many of what we do and perceive as good/bad aesthetically and otherwise is firmly rooted in modernism. This is why Giddens would rather call it late-modern. Besides, it's not even a label that makes something readily identifiable, even in the broadest terms (like calling something Marxist). But given its extensive usage by all kinds of wannabes, it is most likely to be understood as this: postmodern something = crap.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Waiting eagerly for your podcast on Endhiran!

Rama Lekshman said...

Most of the understandings on post-modern subject considered as deconstructionism. As you said, it is in search of human expressions. It's illimitable. I think Mahabharata is one of the best post-modern work from India. Because, we can find several dimensions of character values in one person. Each one contradict each other. For example, Krishna.

@Anonymous, Clown dance in crores.

Anonymous said...

shankar,
Endhiran is one of the worst movies ever made...make it as a lengthy podcast ..

Anonymous said...

Endhiran podcast please!!!!

iba said...

"The simplest way to understand is to break the underlying concepts to its simpler components."

do you see the irony here? :)

Suresh said...

Ram,

I know the it's not you who left 'those' comments. Thanks for reminding me to delete them.

Anonymous said...

Sunnik@B@l
B@st@rd you are
you are going to be killed if you do not ask for apology.

- Ramanna

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

Please put a podcast about Thalaivars film Endhiran. I hope you like the movie.

Ganesh.

Suresh said...

Ganesh,

I saw the film a week ago. It was total crap.

Anonymous said...

Endhiran is not crap. It had taken entite cinema world one step ahead.

ram said...

one step ahead ? In which direction ?

Anonymous said...

It is high time the "giants" of tamil cinema - Rasini and Komali retire or move on to character roles. I am tired of both of them trying to fake youth in their own different ways.

One act in certified crap movies all the time and the other steals scripts from old hollywood movies claiming to take tamil cinema to world level.

Anonymous said...

aaraniya kaandam is one of the post modernistic noir . . endhiran cant be accepted as a post modern film

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