File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 103

Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 18:38:49 +0000
Subject: Re: Question of the Postmodern


anything but those reptiles...


Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>I'm afraid I can only give you my own personal interpretation on this
>topic.  I'll try to keep it short and not too bitter.
>The metanarratives of the Enlightenment are basically of two types,
>according to Lyotard.  On the one hand, there is the speculative
>narrative with its dream of totalizing knowledge (Hegel's Geist).  On
>the other hand, there is myth of emancipation which follows the secular
>track of a path first laid down by Christian eschatology. (Joachim of
>Fiore's Age of Geist) 
>>From an epoch view, it can be argued that both these narratives have
>been exploded.  The crisis of the foundations and the growing awareness
>of the social construction of knowledge have undermined the first. 
>Hiroshima and the Holocaust destroyed the linear concept of history as
>progress that underwrote the second.
>There is another reason, however, that is closer to Lyotard's point.  As
>the speed and velocity of cultural transformation and the accumulation
>of knowledge accelerates, these narratives no longer legitimize as
>effectively as others; such as the performative and the paralogical. The
>rate of change and the continued impact of innovation are too great to
>keep these myths of the Enlightenment plausible any longer.  As
>narratives, they have become outmoded because they do not adequately
>explain where it is we appear to be going. They undergo a crisis of
>There is also another point of view from which the postmodern can be
>considered as well.  Here it is not merely an epoch of history. It also
>denotes an attitude or sensibility - a mode of awareness.  Lyotard
>argues that certain aspects of modernity are prefigured in Augustine,
>while certain aspects of the postmodern are discovered in artists like
>Montaigne and Joyce.
>Lyotard argues that the postmodern as mode is signified by an
>incredulity towards metanarratives. This is not really epistemological
>skepticism as much as a feeling.  There is a sense that things have
>become too complex for the old narratives to be able to explain to us
>what is happening.  There is an agitation between what the stories tell
>us and what the world presents and what the world fails to present.  At
>the heart of the postmodern there is a sublime which is both a
>historical epoch and a mode of feeling.  
>All of which reminds me of the movie Muholland Drive by David Lynch. 
>Even though the events of the first two-thirds of the movie are very
>bizarre, everything that happens can be interpreted in a rational manner
>according to the grid of one's  expectations.  Then a key is placed into
>the lock of a blue box and, in the shock of an instant, everything turns
>It is only a metaphor, but that image describes rather well for me the
>feeling of the postmodern sublime. It is waking up to the reality that
>we simultaneously inhabit parallel universes much closer to pulp sci-fi
>than to the scientific Enlightenment.  We are living in Neuromancer and
>not la nouvelle Heloise. 
>One day you simply look in the mirror and discover you're a cyborg on a
>planet being run by reptiles.


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