Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: January ::
Re: Postmodern
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.003  Friday, 1 January 1998.

[1]     From:   Ira Abrams <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 29 Dec 1997 17:52:34 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 8.1264  Postmodern

[2]     From:   Michael Yogev <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Dec 1997 01:25:03 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1264  Postmodern

[3]     From:   Norm Holland <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Dec 97 11:35:25 EST
        Subj:   Gift from an ex-wise-man


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ira Abrams <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 29 Dec 1997 17:52:34 -0500
Subject: Postmodern
Comment:        SHK 8.1264  Postmodern

I just received what I am tempted to interpret as a second, almost
unbearably verisimiliar installment to the satire on post-modernism
circulated by Norman Holland.  If only T. Hawkes were a pseudonym and
his letter intended as a send-up.  Unfortunately, I suspect this is not
the case.  Even more unfortunately, though I think there would be few on
this e-circuit so bold today as to make the sorts of claims and
criticisms articulated in T.'s letter, there are even fewer of us who
are willing to say exactly why we forebear to embrace post-modernism.
This threatens to leave the impression that the waning of post-modernism
means, inexorably, the rise of stupidity and simpleton conservatism in
the Humanities.

To let T.'s letter pass  threatens to suggest that those of us who
enjoyed the humor of the NYT satire and who do not proudly wield the
forensic tool of deconstruction...

...believe that << there are genuine material historical certainties>>

...believe further that <<fundamental change, given thepermanent
features of universal human nature, isn't really possible>>

...do not read <<philosophers with... funny names.>>

...are <<armchair>> Christians who believe that <<Its (sic) probably
time for another burst of
the Messiah>>

...refuse to consider that << that there are other and maybe better ways
of doing and running things, that what we have now>>

...<<have no distancing devices>>

...fail to perceive that << the sort of thinking lurking at the back of
spoof titles like "The End of Manichean, BipolarGeopolitics Turned My
Boyfriend Into an Insatiable Sex Freak (and I Love It!)." is really a
bit sinister.>>

...endorse (and understand) the bi-partite claim that <<the project of
Postmodernism was always to question those norms, to suggest that life
isn't as 'given' as they imply.>>

Without confronting each of these peculiar possibilities, I think it is
very important that the record of exchanges such as this one reflect the
fact that not everyone participating is willing to grant the premise
that if you're not with post-modernism you're against the things it is
supposed to be for.  In a world in which the status quo carries no more
cachet than the borders and bridges of Bosnia, it is hard to see how
post-modernism's opposition to the way things are is in any distinctive
way noteworthy.

As for the detailed charges in T's letter-all of us, as  I would hope,
read philosophers with funny names, accept that things can change, work
to make change, have <<distancing devices>> (though perhaps this ought
to be regarded as an ambiguous good, allowing us to rationalize the pain
we cause to others and to ourselves), and exercise due scholarly
skepticism with regard to assertions of <<material historical
certainty>>.

There is a certain youthful-if myopic-bravado evident in  the sweeping
moral claims and the self-exculpatory rhetoric of the discourse of
post-modernism, there is also a dark side to the absence of emotional
perspective that it entails.  If the post-modernist claim to be bringing
about a better world is not justified, then how does one justify the
personal harm wrought by this mode of discourse?  I remember a few years
ago listening to the very intelligent post-modernist in the office next
to mine try to persuade a bewildered freshman composition student  that
he had committed a crime tantamount to rape by "forcing" a female
character to use the word "bitch" in a creative writing assignment.   Is
this sort of textual criticism judiciously administered and justified
medicine? or is it a sophisticated mode of causing harm?

If the claim that post-modernists want to make is that their method and
their thought is morally superior-or rather, that those of us who do not
wave the post-modernist standard are morally inferior-then it is at
least time for some evidence on this point to replace the habit of
insinuation and facile, world-historical self-congratulation that all
too often gets a bye in our professional conversations.

Ira Abrams

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Yogev <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 31 Dec 1997 01:25:03 +0200
Subject: 8.1264  Postmodern
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1264  Postmodern

Dear Terry Hawkes,

Thank YOU for the lovely Hannukah gift--Hannukah has been less than
thrilling this year, and your contribution to its spirit is much
appreciated.

Cheers for a Happy New Year,

Michael Yogev

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norm Holland <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 31 Dec 97 11:35:25 EST
Subject:        Gift from an ex-wise-man

Dear Terence Hawkes,

To quote the immortal Sherlock, This "shows, my dear Watson, how
dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data."  I cannot, of
course, speak for the author of the spoof, but as for myself, your
inferences about my politics, my religious beliefs, and my attitudes
toward postmodernism, "eternal verities," and Xmas are quite wide of the
mark, not to say downright fatuous.  I cannot imagine how you arrived at
your conclusions, except to guess that you may have had too much-or too
little-Xmas punch.

You are right about two things, however.  I do enjoy Handel's _Messiah_,
and I was sitting in an armchair while listening to it.  Neither fact
(and of course I write that word _sous r^ature_) prevents me from being,
at least selectively, postmodern in outlook.

--Best, Norm
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.