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April 12, 2007

Blog Carnival ver. 2 - Three Amigos Edition

Our wonderful and always hilarious host Kevin Hinton felt it necessary to discuss the wonders of post-modern teachings in this course. While I agree with Mr. Hinton on a large number of issues, I think he's narrowed his pitch down just a little too much; instead of focusing on this class and how post-modernism has changed our views, why don't we examine our lives and everything around us?

The teachings of post-modernism, as we were shown, proclaim that there are essentially no clear cut answers to anything anymore. As a personal note, I always felt as though I had been more of a "modern" thinker, or at least one who knew there were great fractures within the world. As we began to discuss post-modernism, though, I felt the ground begin to shift around me.

Was I really a modernist displaced in a new age or was I a post-modernist who just didn't know it yet? This presents the classical philosophical loop - nothing can be known for sure as ambiguity is your nightly cloak in post-modern teachings, but to know you are a post-modernist goes against those beliefs, even if you agree with them.

Where does the line begin or end, some will ask? Others will point out that simply there is no line, just as "there is no spoon."

Dr. Jerz has even pointed out that I, more than most, are quick to identify pop-culture references and intertextual occurances in literature as well as other forms of media. He also pointed out that my "wit" (if we can call it that) has also become so jaded and emphatically ironic that it errs on the side of being in a perpetual state of sardonic mockery and cynicism.

I have always subscribed to the theory of cynicism and satire (those of you who, unfortunately, know me moderately well know that Iove to push boundaries and call people on their BS). Typically I find these subjects both humorous and informative and, at many times, has given me the edge in life because people often will come to me with their problems.

When I realized that post-modernism was playing a larger part in my life was when I observed how many of my answers to serious questions were things like "Well, you know how it goes" and "that's that...can't change it now." I provided ambiguous answers to serious questions because there is no finite and true answer to what people were asking. I neither have the wisdom to answer these nor is it my place to interject my opinions into other's affairs.

I have found that I tend to reference these things to the film and inherent joke "The Aristocrats." For the uninitiated, "The Aristocrats" is a documentary about the joke of same name, told by over 100 different comedians, and the history behind the joke. The joke, as it stands, is an old Vaudville-era routine that comics tell to other comics and is never told on stage. It is often refered to as "the writer's joke," because there is no constraint other than knowing the first line, and that can be amended, and knowing the punchline (and not saying "Aristocats," as Dana Gould did).

Why do I refer to this often? Because there is no one-way to tell it. It is entirely up to the speaker to tell it how they see fit, and in doing so, create a new and magical journey. The punchline is terribly under-delivered and purposefully shallow. The fun is the journey. That is what Lit Crit is all about. The journey is the fun part, not the end result.

Finding one, clear, ultimate meaning in Joyce's Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man is not the point of the text - looking at the style and making you brain explode over how the narrative was composed...there's some fun. Even in that, though, we are limiting ourselves.

In every day life we look at things and say "Well, that's how the cookie crumbles," but post-modernism wants, nay, begs us to ask why the cookie crumbled. Did it have to? In such a manner?

Did any of this make sense? Sure, I know a few parts did. Did it cohere and follow a logical progression? Not really, but isn't that what life is all about?

Could it be boiled down to something as simple as that we, in the editorial sense, have lost direction? Could it even be that we've discovered all we can, at least in the present, and must then deconstruct everything we've learned?

It isn't to say that post-modern thinking is entirely negative, but there is a pessimistic tone about it. We knew something in a certain way. Let's break it down and rebuild it, but not use permanent materials to do so...let's leave some room for change.

If nothing else, post-modernism, unlike Modernism, sees a future where things aren't as bad. We just don't know it yet.

Much like Kevin said, though...if this has confused you, well, good. It was supposed to. There is nothing certain and nothing pure. We can believe there is, but we can't prove it. Think about that and think about things in your everyday life. Think about Religion. Think about Love. These are tenets upon which many of us have built and devoted our lives, but we have absolutely no proof and cannot every show something as "real." That doesn't devalue or it or make it so that we no longer want it.

Post-modernism isn't there to convince us to just end it all. It encourages us to explore things, in every avenue, even ones we don't like, but to never cease searching because we found something we like.

Politics is as good as any of an example. I think everyone in this room knows my political stance. That doesn't mean I just follow along, happy as a clam to everything my party does. If you thought I was critical of the other guys...whoooo boy, just you wait until you hear me rip into my own team.

We can't be certain of anything because once we stop looking and thinking, we're dead. Breathing is all that would separate us from being dead. When it comes to intellectual matters and matters of the heart, well, can we ever be really certain? No. Can we believe it at all costs? Without a doubt.

Post-modernism teaches us to not go gently into our own goodnight. We can't ever stop fighting and, sometimes, we'll be confronted by an adversary we didn't want to face because we didn't agree with it. There are more sides to an issue than just the ones that make us feel good. Life is not gumdrops and rainbows all the time. It is a terrible harsh and unforgving place, but it is also the wildest and most crazy journey and experience we're in for. Grab hold and go for the ride, just make sure to open your eyes along the way before it passes us by.

Posted by KevinMcGinnis at April 12, 2007 4:16 PM


Time to throw my hat into the carnival ring. When Kevin M. first mentioned the "AristocRats," I thought he may have been alluding to the Disney spectacle, "The AristocAts," which I have never seen. Having seen neither, I am not inclined to comment upon either which would seem to fly in the face of postmodernism. Comment anyway - who cares if it is right, wrong, accurate, full of *!$% or otherwise.

I am cynical by nature (no, really? I haven't noticed!) and I enjoy the comforts of mathematics which provide clean answers to clear questions. Postmodernism feels oppositional to me because it is oppositional to the idea of clean answers to clear questions. Too much, "It might be this, or it might be that, or, if it is neither, who cares? And, if you look at it like this, then this, but, if you look at it like this, then that. Look at it however your want, though, because you can never, ever be wrong."

Long-winded, indeed, but a good summary of why I feel like postmodernism is an inept method of literary criticism. Postmodernism draws no definite conclusions, and while I realize a large part of the focus of this class is to teach us all a method of thinking outside of the box of definites and into the larger sphere of probability based upon an analysis of possibilities, I still enjoy a critic who has the sand to say, "I am right, everyone else is wrong, too bad for those who disagree."

I stated in class that I really only appreciate unwrapping neatly tied packages if the critic is willing to retie the package. Far too often, postmodernists do not even try to retie the box. They simply shred the thing to pieces until the bow cannot be retied because its ends cannot even be determined. I appreciate the idea of commentaries and the influence of pop culture upon those commentaries. I am on board with the idea that commentaries are a product of our larger pop culture, and that originality and substance is lost on a generation of electronically hypnotized, jelly-brained dopes.

But like I said, I am not cynical.

Posted by: Dave Moio at April 15, 2007 8:10 PM

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