Monday, June 7, 2010

Notes on Jameson essay: "New Literary History After the End of the New"

Fredric Jameson, “New Literary History After the End of the New.” New Literary History, 2008.

Found this essay by accident while browsing periodicals at Bryn Mawr library.

“It would be a little less superficial or ideological, perhaps, to examine all this from the standpoint of the canon. For was not the postmodern liberation from modernism grasped first and foremost as the liberation from the modernist canon, which is to say from the Eurocentric of Western canon of masterpieces that culminated teleologically… in what exactly? In expressionism, if not in pop art? In the Beatles, if not in jazz? In an international or jetset magic realism, if not in Faulkner? The new freedoms that postmodernity brought with it were in fact associated with this new artistic relativism, with the destruction of the Western canon and the eruption of all kinds of local and non-Western arts and expressions onto the historical scene, and felt as a decisive liberation by all kinds of non-Western artists and cultural workers.” (377)

Might be worth considering for my modernism/South Asia project. The way he's framing postmodernity here is as specifically aligned with non-western creative forms. But what about non-western canons and non-western modernisms?

“But the problem we have with thinking this kind of action at a distance lies in the dangers of culturalism: for although I found myself using that word for purposes of demonstration, it is precisely not culture at all that is at issue here, but rather uneven development and the very nature of the world system. If you want to have an even more paradoxical formulation, let’s put it this way: we can complain about the leveling and disappearance of local and national cultures, but we must never do so in the name of cultural difference, cultural pluralism, or multicultural tolerance—these uses of the culture words are preeminently ideological and tempt us down all the wrong paths. In globalization, there are no cultures, but only the nostalgic images of national cultures: in postmodernity we cannot appeal back to the fetish of national culture and cultural authenticity. Our object of study is rather Disneyfication, the production of simulacra of national cultures; and tourism, the industry that organizes the consumption of those simulacra and those spectacles or images. (379)

The name of Mallarme, to be sure, does suggest that it was from out of just such linguistic degradation and commercialization or reification that the great modernist projects emerged and tried “to purify the language of the tribe.” But this was the great quest and the great mirage of the modernist period, which is no longer with us. In postmodernity, the poets and writers create garbage installations out of their language and revel in its broken pieces (as with the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets); they scarcely dream of the revival of an authentic or utopian language any more, even in the other language zones where it might still be possible. (380)

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