Monday, April 28, 2014

Works Cited

Works Cited

Azmi, Amzi. "The Quandary of Human Minds in Post Modern Perspectives." Language in India 14.3 (March 2014): 93-115. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.

Martin, Michael. "Taking On Being: Getting Beyond Postmodern Criticism." Midwest Quarterly 51.1 (2009): 71. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Boston: Bedford/St.  Martin's, 2007. Print. 

What does all of this mean today?

Michael Martin hits the nail on the head in his article "Taking on Being: Getting Beyond Postmodern Criticism".

The entire concept of literary criticism is rather disgusting as it is thought of today.
It's judgmental. It's rather rude. Or it can be.

Martin, a critic himself, states that "My immediate inclination is to blame criticism's parasitic nature: That
it lives at the expense of another, or, more properly, "the other". But at best this is only a partial truth"
(Martin 71).

He then tries to define a term with no agreed upon definition: Postmodernism-
"Postmodernism is not a system of thought, not a philosophy, not a world view,  but an attitude"
(Martin 72).

Martin believes that postmodernism and the postmodern habit of literary criticism is fragmented, uncertain and ironic, much like the way Plato felt about art.

Once again, the same questions that Plato and Aristotle pondered are still being asked today.

The only thing that has changed is the time period and the art form that is being questioned.

Now, a lot of art and literature is digital. This not only changes the way we think and the kind of art that is produced, it changes the kind of criticism. Analysis of works and critiques are more easily completed because the works are more widely and readily available to the masses. Everyone is a critic.

Martin notes that Postmodernism's treatment of literature is quite disturbing, although depressingly accurate:

"The sad thing about this is that the people thus heroically scrutinizing and pimple squeezing, especially many of those in college and university literature departments, started out for the most part as kids who indeed wanted to forge the uncreated consciences of their races. They were kids who loved books and writers. Now they're grown-ups who deconstruct tests and believe the "author" is fiction's greatest fiction"
(Martin 75).

Human nature, emotion, the failure of the "American Dream", the desire for more, the urge to rise above adversity, and the negativity we feel towards people who wrote things we can not write. These plague modern literary criticism. Judgement, jealousy, inadequacies, failing education systems, pop culture, materialism, pollution, and a disconnect between man and nature.

What a depressing list.
But it's just a few of the problems present in today's society, which thus contaminates literature and the criticism thereof.


In his article "The Quandary of Human Minds in Post-Modern Perspectives" Amiz Azmi connects the post-modern concepts Jameson spoke of to today's literature. The focus of the article is on 
SELF ALIENATION and UNCERTAINTY, which he claims are the dominate themes of today's post-modern literature. 

One of the main focuses is on the the human existence. Azmi states that "in postmodern literature, human existence is showcased in a dramatic and metaphoric way with categorical traces of catastrophe, trauma, anguish and socio-psychological degeneration" (Azmi 95).  The writers who create postmodern literature are thus depicting human lives in an artistic way. 

He claims that"Postmodern literature criticizes the modern projects and evokes thoughtful questions against values, signs, and practices of modernist societies around the world" (Azmi 96). Because the literature questions society and values it can be seen as revolutionary. I believe that questioning is a major part of being a human. Questioning the present to create a better future is part of thriving and bettering the human condition. 

The greatest aspect of the postmodern perspective is its connection to humanity. Literature's finest accomplishment is evoking emotions and responses in the reader, and art and literature that presses these boundaries further from the stagnant ways of the past and digs into the essence of the individual is the epitome of a "good" work of art, if there is indeed "good art". 

What happened to the Individual?

Everything is changing.
The traditional is exchanged for the revolutionary.
Or at least a play on the traditional. A spin off.

We are past the time of modern art. We are in a world of Postmodernism.

Fredric Jameson's "Postmodernism and consumer Society" gives us a look into the confusing and debated world of Postmodernism.

Postmodernism is a reaction against the modern, whether it be art, architecture, music, literature, or life.

Jameson cites musicians such as Philip Glass, John Cage and Terry Riley as Postmodern musicians. At the time of their initial compositions and their introduction into the public eye they were very  revolutionary and misunderstood.
In today's society, they are just musicians. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just excellent composers who did some weird things a while back.

Postmodernism such as this emerged from "specific reactions against the established forms of high modernism, against this or that dominant high modernism which conquered the university, the museum, the art gallery network and the foundations" (Richter 1956).

But if the world is constantly evolving is it really that strange for people to react to the past and form a new future? I think not. It has been happening since day one. In this sense, everything is post-something else. As human beings our tastes, opinions and emotions are constantly changing. And this is a good thing.

But according to Jameson there are main features of postmodernism that contrast this view of emerging individuality.

Pastiche and Parody are these main features, and are very similar.

Parody- "Capitalizes on the uniqueness of these styles and seizes on their idiosyncrasies and eccentricities to produce and imitation that mocks the original" (1957).

Pastiche- "is like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique style, the wearing of a stylistic mask, speech in a dead language; but it is a neutral practice of such mimicry, without parody's ulterior motive, without the satirical impulse, without laughter, without that still latent feeling that there exists something normal compared with which what is being imitated is rather comic" (1958).

Jameson brings up a topic which is generally called "death of the subject"; it is "the end of individualism".
There are two camps to this topic:

One believes that once upon a time there was individualism, but today it no longer exists.

The other believes that individualism never really existed in the first place.

Jameson's reaction to this? Pastiche. "In a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak though the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum." This means that postmodern art will be about art itself, and include messages about "the necessary failure of art and the aesthetic, the failure of the new, the imprisonment in the past" (1959).

This is all rather depressing. If art is a failure, why create? If there is no more individuality are we all drones? Have we ever been individual?

How? Why? When? Ugh.

Life is Literature

Michel de Certeau's "Walking in the City" opens up the world in a new light by comparing the world at large to the world of literature.

Looking down at "The City" in this case, New York City one sees many conflicting things:
"Ambition and degradation".
"Races and styles".
"Yesterday and today".

His view, and thus the spectators view from above the city shows a "universe that is constantly exploding".
And one can see "excess in both expendature and production".

This is very much like the literature of today's modern world.
All of the styles and topics are varying, and one forgets the glory of the past when pressing towards the future. The showy forms of "art", be it on a page, wall, or screen is much flashier and more expensive than ever before.

The city holds it's own space and is it's own subject, as is a work of literature.

"The walking of passerby offers a series of turns and detours that can be compared to "turns of phrase" or "stylistic figures". There is a rhetoric of walking."
 -Walking in the City, Michel de Certeau (Richter pg 1348-1349)

Walking through the city, one creates their own path and their own story. Walking manipulates space, as well as "creates shadows and ambiguities" (Richter 1349).

There is art everywhere one looks. Expression is art, and words on a page are not the only things that create a work of art or literature.

Discourse is what helps one express all of these things, but it is also the thing that takes away beliefs, according to de Certeau.

No matter where you look, from the highest tower to the lowest valley, discourse rules the world.


Hundreds of years later the world is much different.
Plato and Aristotle would not be pleased by the imitation they see now.
Everything is much different, but the critical questions are all the same.

We're still asking WHAT? HOW? and WHY?!?!?
Maybe even more so than they were asking before.

We're living in a world where everything is constructed by discourse.
But that discourse is given to us by the MEDIA.

We live in an overly-mediated world.
We are subjected to the media;
It is nearly impossible to separate oneself.

There are hundreds of new technologies.
Technology is now a part of the everyday world.
We become inseparable from technology.
And it is changing out brains.
It is changing how we think, what we think, and how much we can think.

It is compressing our knowledge, with the possibility of expanding it.
It is fragmenting, summarizing, and oversimplifying the concerns of everyday life.
But now everything is readily available in a way that was never thought of before,
At just the press of a button, and a search on the internet.

But it is unknown or undisclosed how this is effecting not only out minds, but our bodies as well.
And that is a scary thought.

The Original Critics

Some of the first people to judge were Plato and Aristotle.

Plato had an issue with what is real, and what is illusion.

Presentation vs. Representation.
     There is a difference between what is occurring in the present moment; the words coming out of ones mouth right now, and the written word, which is a REPRESENTATION of that speech.

Thoughts turn into Speech, which turns into Writing.

Plato also had an issue with the usefulness of art, or ART vs. USE.

Well, this is something that has never real been answered, because each individual has their own views-


Plato thought that art at times is merely IMITATION.
But at the same time, some people want to be decieved.

It is more than an artistic issue, it is a MORAL ISSUE.

Plato did not believe that the IDEAL can be made in this mortal, human world.
It only exists in heaven.
Well, at least to Plato.
We are not the ideal.
Heaven is the ideal.
Thus we are not real, Heaven is.

Plato valued the real ideal of Heaven, thus very few artistic creations were valued by Plato.

Aristotle was a little less narrow in his criticism and approvals.

He attempted to defend ART from Plato's dismissal.
He realized that art is not just "good art" or "bad art"
but art is CRAFT.

Aristotle was the foundation of formalist thought.

Everything is going to be imitated, so the best thing that
art can do is give good examples for the public to imitate.

Art should show good.

Not just random imitation.
Carefully thought out and constructed imitation of human action and experience.