Examining The Contrast From Modernism To Postmodernism Cultural Studies Essay

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By contrast to the crystal-clear polarization between successive schools, the nexus in the case of modernism and postmodernism is an epitome of inextricability. It is true that as a period postmodernism comes after modernism, but this "from/to" conjecture puts parties involved in a problematic catch-22. The relational debate and disposition of postmodernism as a sovereign movement still addresses the way and extent to which postmodernism contributes to, or refutes modernism. Much of the controversy also takes place in different critics in order to demarcate each of the two mercurial movements and outline their basic - autonomous - features. No matter how fervent are some of the voices that call for postmodernism's total rupture from the earlier modernism, nevertheless, the latter movement is still in dept to modernism for at least its verbal existence. "The term thus contains its enemy within, as the term romanticism and classicism, baroque and rococo, do not. Moreover, it denotes temporal linearity and connotes belatedness, even decadence, to which postmodernism would admit". [1] David Harvey admits as well that he once thought postmodernism "would disappear under the weight of its incoherence". [2] 

Postmodernism is modernism. To be modernist is to aspire to be (and to seem to be) modern above all else. This is the urge behind the notion of "a modern sensibility," which weighed so heavily with Eliot and other modernists. Now there have been of course many revolt against the influence of Eliot, but nothing so far as I can see, against the essential modernist notion that we need above all else "a modern sensibility." It has been taken somehow as beyond question that we should be preoccupied with our new age. Now, no doubt, we should be even more modern - and hence "postmodernism". [6] 

Linda Hutcheon believes that the "debate over the definition of both modernism and postmodernism has now been going on for years . . . There is little firm agreement on their limiting dates, their defining characteristics, even the players in the game". [7] The paradox for Huctheon is inaugurated by the name itself - postmodernism "signals its contradictory dependence upon and independence from the modernism that both historically preceded it and literally made it possible". [8] This is what Ihab Hassan calls "semantic instability", the reason of which he claims are postmodernism's relative youth" - although it is surpassing now its fiftieth anniversary - and its "semantic kinship" to other current unstable terms. [9] Thus, the points that differentiate or link both movements are more diverse than simply to be summarised in a direct chronological correlation.

Both modernism and postmodernism have a background of radical change and cataclysmic breakthrough. The launch, then, of the two movements fulfils certain historical, cultural and aesthetic needs. Modernism came to revolt against the 10th century literature and the whole of the Victorian frame of mind, and postmodernism riots against that particular modernism. A sense of ending on one hand and of a beginning on the other prevails in these two semicentennial domains. They crystallise the ages of prosperous urbanism, gross manufacturing and dazzling technology.

However, if modernism stands for the age of industrialization, then postmodernism embodies the age of postindustrialization - a phase of consumption. If modernism raps out the lack of communication and irrationality advocated by the avant-grade absurdists and Dadaists, then postmodernist represents the irrational silence brought by the overkilling communication. If modernism practises creating and designing new forms and merging art science, then postmodernism depends on contingent antiform and mixing art with commodity. If modernism is the theory of depth interpretations, then postmodernism canonizes the rhizomatous. If modernism exposes self-fragmentation - the fragmentation of the individual modern character that encounters worldwide wars and tumoural growth of Manhattanised societies, postmodernism nurtures multi-fragmentation - the pluralistic fragmentation of the whole society that faces dispersed local wars and the decline of human figure. While the latter modern societies lived in the shadows of grand political union that are based on the ideology and metanarratives of socioeconomic progress and liberty, the postmodern global village hosts the scattered polymorphous states, which congregate in the process of creating new coalitions more based on economic interest.

Marked as the fin de siècle, modernism witnessed the final years of the long history of the Victorians and the beginning of an age which the modernists wanted to make new with possible means. On the other hand, postmodernism leapt into the 21th century still accompanied by critical controversies and outlooks. A hundred-year span has thus accumulated the fluctuating modern/contemporary evolution of the human thought and has left a scene of much debate and doubt. Questions like "is modernism dead by now?", "when and how does postmodernism split from modernism?", "do we need a postmodernism?" or "do we have a postmodern theory now?" are still; therefore, of main significance to trace the trajectory of both trends.

Moreover, the dispute among critics to define modernism is not fully concluded with a unanimous attitude that is able to recognise who the modernist is. A Dadaist is a modernist and so is a futurist. A imagist is also a modernist and so is a surrealist. This is also, not to mention that, these modernists could be Americans, French, German or Russians. "The immense variety of works in all the arts to which the term modernist has been applied constitutes a formidable challenge to any attempt at exactness". [10] 

Studying modernism, the, should focus initially on the name itself, for modernism is "variously argued to be a period, style, genre, or combination of these; it is first of all a word". [11] The term according to him can describe either a number of writers and artists at a given period, or a certain attitude towards the modern. This idea conjures up a similar argument by Maclolm Bradbury and James McFarlane, who find two different meaning for the dominant style of the age. It can be a form of thought which affects all the cultural creation of the age or a conscious mannerism acted by some artists. But they maintain that modernism can be hardly understood according to the second notion because of its internationally recognized and domineering status. [12] 

An obfuscating name; therefore, is an issue of modernist debate for Bradbury and McFarlane and causes almost a conflict similar to that of postmodernism. The word "modern", is generally analogous to the contemporary, an attribute that cannot be applied to postmodernism according to Hutcheon. [13] Marguerite Alexander illustrates Hutcheon's suggestion by saying:

[F]or many years readers of fiction - the common readers to whm the nineteenth-century novelists addressed their work - the very word carries a suspicious of trickery, for how can anything already acknowledged as existing, postdate the modern, if we can take the 'modern' to mean contemporary? [14] 

In this sense, art produced in any era can be considered modern in relation to its age. The contemporary, moreover, changes incessantly. "the notion of the 'modern' undergoes semantic shift much faster than similar term of comparable functions, like 'romantic' or 'neo-classical'" [15] , for these terms do not refer directly to a specific time or age but rather to artistic temper.

Here comes Bradbury and McFarlane's regret for "the inappropriateness of applying so semantically mobile and indeed febrile a term to historically phenomenon we now wish to root in time". [16] Although they believe it is the only art appropriate for the 20th century, "it is the one art that responds to the scenario of our chaos". [17] In this turn, Randall Stevenson considers the term "modernism" and "modernist" quite applicable to those artists who thought that modernity was the only solution to break away from the hefty traditions of the Victorian and reshape the new art of the new century. [18] 

Nevertheless, an assortment of terminology is adopted and expressionism like modernism, modernity, modernization, and the modern circulate and address the various aspects of the era roughly declaring a settlement for the issue of the name. However, the history, the essence and main characteristics of this body of thought called modernism needs further inspection. Bradbury and McFarlane, like most modernist researches, periodise the movement from 1890 to 1930 - the crucial years of reaping the Enlightenment scientific and technological findings and the economic welfare of the turn of the century, as Alan Bullock suggests, [19] along with the artists' deep rejection of the "outdated" cultural form and social styles of the 19th century.

[I]t can be said that the world of 1910 was felt to be much more complex that the world as it had been before, and especially more complex than the orderly world that had been presented to the reader in Victorian Literature. The war of 1914-1918 dramatically crystallized and hastened the change. The sense of complexity was to be the modernist writer's fundamental recognition. [20] 

This was the age when reason and science had a Messianic mission in modernising the world. These traditional years witnessed the rapid growth of the European central cities and the initiation of the metropolis built by emergent bourgeoisie (as compared and juxtaposed to the postmodern metropolis). "This was the shape of the twentieth-century European and American society: urbanized, industrialized, mechanized, its life shaped to the routine of factory or office". [21] Capitalism and imperialism became the social ideology that made people rejoice following the announcement of war.

In the wake of the shattering World War I, artistic and social views and consciousness changed towards a more rebellious yet domineering avant-gardism. It was hard in any case for European societies, witnessing the atrocities of war, to keep the strict Victorian morals and social systems. The urgency of change grew significantly for modernism.

Instead of the one period of modernism, it might be more accurate to speak of a number in which there have been preoccupations with modernity, and even . . . of a doomed and paradoxical need to reject the past that is an aspect of all writing. [22] 

The avant-grade campaign of total denunciation and revolution can be considered, therefore, as the official mission statement of the modern movement. For Terry Eagleton, it is this avant-gardism that postmodern art and culture parody. Aggressive as he always is, he pronounces postmodernism as "among other things a sick joke at the expense of such revolutionary avant-gardism". [23] Eagleton, according to David Lodge in his introduction to Eagleton's article in The Modern Literary Theory: A Reader, rejects postmodernism art because he is nostalgic to the achievements of the classical modernist art. [24] These achievements came in response to the social and cultural upheavals the years of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century witnessed. "What is parodied is not one of which it could be said to be particularly conscious. What is parodied by postmodernism, culture is nothing less than the revolutionary art of the twentieth century avant-garde". [25] 

The pace of life changed dramatically. Concepts of time and space started to take new forms while shrinking faster almost every day. A synchronized time was of a major importance during the war both in battle grounds and factories. "The regulative apparatus bound to each wrist began to dictate the organization and timing not only of work and leisure, but of death". [26] Greenwich Mean Time was introduced and it helped to set the parameters for an internationally scheduled repositioning of region and objects. Mechanical life produced stress and demanded thus a new life style. "The defining characteristic of Modernism was its insistence that the mind be subjected to this wholly new kind of stress". [27] The ordered life of the European civilised societies was soon to collapse during the war leaving modernists with the awareness of all the confusion, emptiness and nihilism lying beneath the shiny surface. All remains for some writers like Ernest Hemingway is to pray for "nada". [28] 

The alternative attempt for other writers was to create the new solid art in all the possible domains of life and culture that could defy contemporary void, chaos, havoc and the mechanised unification of the aspects of human society. Art came to replace religion, beliefs, ethical codes and ultimate faith in science and reason.

In its own way art also provided a kind of substitute faith or system of values at the time. Especially in the 1890s - and in the life and work of Oscar Wild in particular - aestheticism and the doctrine of art for art's sake offered a kind of alternative code of conduct, a substitute for conventional morality. [29] 

Modernist poets and novelists became, thus, the Nietzschean Supermen who could elevate art to the highest peaks of lofty aesthetics "ensuring that a work of art should be nothing but a work of art". [30] In this respect, one of the most notable manifestoes of the age is Oscar Wilde's preface to his masterpiece, The Picture of Dorian Gray, in which Wilde declares that the mission of art is merely creating art. Furthermore, the artist according to wild is a creator of Beauty which masks the artist and the background leaving the work of art as an established entity. This is what Bradbury and McFarlane call "Flaubertian dream" of writing "a book about nothing, a book without external attachments, which would hold itself together by itself through the internal force of its style". [31] Except for representing its own craft and style "in pursuit of a deeper penetration of life" and consciousness [32] "art is quite useless". [33] 

The modernists' mission, was t produce fresh ways of perception through the representation of their inner comprehension of it. All the streams of consciousness, impressionists, and cubist painting thus helped modernists to subjectively sketch how they see the surrounding world and its objects rather than merely depict what they see.

One of the word's [modernism] associated with is the coming of a new era of high aesthetic self-consciousness and non-representationalism, in which art turns from realism and humanistic representation towards style, technique, and spatial form in pursuit of a deeper penetration of life. 'No artist tolerate reality', Nietzsche tells us; the task is its own self-realization. [34] 

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce paints a gradually maturing portrait for his self-conscious character, Stephen Dedalus. This artistic bildungsroman traces fragments of Stephen's intimate feelings, memories and thoughts through different stages of his life from his early childhood to his adulthood. Form "Once upon a time" [35] , the most conventional beginning of a story narrative, Joyce suddenly breaks into the most unconventional narrative of an infant gibbering thoughts and sensations that seem like "a pure nonsense". [36] Words like "botheth", "moocow", "nicens" or "tuckoo" [37] definitely cannot be found in English dictionary but it is absolutely possible to find them in the mind of a small child "who, rather than trying to make order out of the world, presents the way he is besieged by numerous sensations and impulses. Thus, the first page of the novel is an attempt to reproduce faithfully a child's experience". [38] 

A revolution, hence, in the concept and the role of language engulfs modernism from Wilde's epigrammatic language to Joyce's enigmatic discourses and makes "language a central issue" for modernist writers. [39] 

Language, for some of the modernists, was resented in certain aspects . . . another until of the 'mechanical . . . materio-static' forces restricting or ravishing rather than truely representing life. In this way, words and language - the very medium of their art - became for some of the modernists, as Eugene Jolas suggests, a real problem. [40] 

[T]his "either/or" suggests a resolution of what I see as the resolvable contradiction within postmodernism. For example I would see it less as a case of postmodern play versus modernist purpose, as Hassan claims, than a case play with purpose. The same is true of all his oppositions: postmodernism is the process of making the product; it is absence within presence, it is dispersal that needs centring in order to be dispersal; it is idiolect that wants to be, but knows it cannot be, the master code; it is immanence denying yet yearning to be transcendence. [81] 

Similarly, Jim Powell believes that postmodernism does not preserve the concept of binary opposition. Instead, postmodernism deconstructs it, especially that "we are all cyborgs". [82] 

However, Hassan depicts the very differences that postmodernists concur with - the verticality of modernism and the horizontality of postmodernism. Modernism is generally associated with achievements deeply rooted in human consciousness and with the hierarchy of western tree-like thought which goes back to Plato. It is then the determinate language of the phallus. But Hassan claims that postmodernism champions dispersed surfaces and goes for a combination of androgynous words. In a novel like The Crying of Lot 49, for instance, the historical background of Oedipa Mass' puzzle is not the deep basis of the whole novel, but rather the ironical surface that connects different nodes of the story in a playful intertext. This is the postmodern world where almost all root-like institutions have given way to rhizomatous clubs.

Citing again the great shift of Lyotard's proposition of rejecting grand narratives, one can highlight, examining the many connotations of this notion, a palpable rupture between the movements. Eliminating the totality of the grand narratives means a breakthrough and a transformation of the previously held ideas on distinct locality, cultural identity, homogenous society and nuclear family to name just a few outcomes. Society and the state have changed in an age of gross capital dominance and multiculturalism. Modernism and postmodernism, therefore,

Would still remain utterly distinct in their meaning and social function, owing to the very different positioning of postmodernism in the economic system of late capital and, beyond that, to the transformation of the very sphere of cultural contemporary society. [83] 

It is because of this immense change that the world needed a concept to express the new situation and this was postmodernism.

The final "buzzword" in the debate will be for Dick Hedbige in his brilliant article "The Bottom Line on Planet One." In this article, Hedbige carries out a vital comparison between two magazines, two worlds and two movements. The model for his discussion is, consequently, Ten 8, an art and education magazine, and THE FACE, a pop culture and fashion one. The first magazine stands for the textual order of power and knowledge. It represents thus a world of historical and hierarchal evolution.

This world goes on turning, as it turns, its single essence is unfolded by time. Each moment - watched, argued over and recorded by the scripts - is a point on a line that links a past which is either known or potential knowable to a future which is eternally uncertain. Each moment is like a word in a sentence and this sentence is called history. [84] 

THE FACE, stands for a world of image. Truth and depth are not important in this world and language has a mirror role. Knowledge in this world "is assembled and dispensed to the Public by a motley gang of bricoleurs, ironists, designers, publicists, Image consultants, homes et femme fatales, market researchers, pirates, adventures, flaneurs and dandies". [85] Everything also in this second world is a commodity.

In this second - postmodern - world, called THE FACE by Hebdige, all the artistic, cultural, political and social boundaries and limitations are crossed and subverted. This world is floating on the surface of countless bunches of changing and renewed signifiers.

THE FACE a magazine which goes out of its way every month to blur the line between politics and parody and pastiche; the street, the stage, the screen; between purity and danger; the main stream and the 'margins': to flatten out the world. [86] 

This world of constant cruising movement is different from the first world on this particular level of involvement in the depth of things. "And this separation of pleasure/use value from any pledge/commitment to 'love honour and obey' the diktats of the text constitute the 'epistemological break' which divides Planet 1. from Planet 2." [87] 

The bottom lines for these two planets are also diverse and keep them apart thematically, theoretically and stylistically. In Planet 2. "nothing adds up to much anything anymore, where you live to be alive. Because flatness is the friend of death and Death is the Great Leveller. That's the bottom line on Planet Two". [88] For everything to be flat and smoothened with everything else is the perfect state of affairs in Face World. However,

this earth is round not flat, that there will never be an end to judgement, that the ghosts will go on gathering at the bitter line which separates truth from lies, justice from injustice, Chile, Biafra and all other avoidable disasters from all of us, whose order is built upon their chaos. And that . . . is the bottom line on Planet 1. [89]