Daniel James Hadley
DR2004 Postmodern Drama
Dr. Gabriella Calchi-Novati
Michaelmas Term 2012
Title: The consequences and manifestation of Postmodern theory on the Visual and Performing Arts, with particular reference to the theories of Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard and Fredric Jameson.
Postmodernism is the “state, condition, or period subsequent to that which is modern” and within art it manifests itself as any of the “styles, concepts or points of view involving a conscious departure from modernism.” 1 Therefore from a stylistic approach, Postmodernism can be defined as the collection of fundamental ideas and essential concepts which together define it. The more of these particular ideas and concepts the work of art contains, the more Postmodern it becomes. However, there are many diverging views on what Postmodernism should be characterised by and therefore this stylistic approach to Postmodernism is a result of both historical and theoretical approaches. The three theorist I believe most important are Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard and Fredric Jameson, and so in order to preserve clarity I have structured this essay in three parts, one for each theorist with examples to fit the theory. This essay will not attempt to define the umbrella term “Postmodernism;” but it will analyse the consequences as well as the manifestation of Postmodern theory on the Visual and Performing Arts. The first complication encountered is that a work of art may hide a plurality of theories behind it, yet this does not pose a problem as plurality and eclecticism themselves are characteristics of Postmodernism. 2 The first work analysed is Peter Handke's Kaspar in relation to Lyotard theories with regard to Ludwig Wittgenstein. These three have yet to 1 OED Online, September 2012, Oxford University Press, "postmodernism, n.", http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/238214?redirectedFrom=postmodernism (accessed November 29 2012). 2 Walter Anderson, “Introduction: What's Going on Here,” The Fontana Postmodernism Reader, ed Walter Truett Anderson (London: Fontana Press, 1996): 2.
be discussed together in critical theory, but I shall explain why I have assembled them together. Jean-François Lyotard, one of the first theorists and philosophers to actually write about the Postmodern Condition, was interested in analysing the actual condition of knowledge. Lyotard studied the 'metanarrative' and what it represents in a postmodern world. A metanarrative is “a classic text or other archetypal story, which provides a schematic world view upon which an individual's experiences and perceptions may be ordered.”3 Ludwig Wittgenstein, a philosopher who specialised in language, talks of “language games.”4 These language games are a set of “rules specifying [utterances'] properties and the uses to which they can be put.” 5 Peter Hanke, a German playwright, treads in Wittgenstein's footsteps as he is also captivated by language and the way in which it relates to our reality of the world. Jean-François Lyotard picked up on Wittgenstein's theories and added a Postmodern perspective to it. The metanarratives which Lyotard talks about are those which govern the way we live our lives, the morals we live by, the identity which is created from them for example the “Christian religious story of God's will being worked out on Earth.” 6 However, Lyotard agues that these metanarratives no longer apply anymore as we no longer fully believe in them. In this postmodern era, it is a “time of 'incredulity towards metanarratives' - all of them.”7 Therefore our lives are now governed by a series of smaller narratives which construct what we believe in and what we don't. To apply this to Peter Handke's Kaspar, the playwright has brought together this pluralism and eclecticism of language to the text which then governs the character of Kaspar. We furthermore note that there is no grandnarrative, no master-narrative, nor...