Postmodernism - a Beginner's Guide

Topics: Postmodernism, Postmodernity, Jean-François Lyotard Pages: 193 (74742 words) Published: March 28, 2013
a beginner’s guide

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a beginner’s guide

kevin hart

For Gail Ward post modernism: a be ginner ’ s g uide
Oneworld Publications (Sales and Editorial) 185 Banbury Road Oxford OX2 7AR England © Kevin Hart, 2004 All rights reserved. Copyright under Berne Convention. A CIP record for this title is available from the British Library. ISBN 1–85168–338–0 Cover design by the Bridgewater Book Company Typeset by Jayvee, Trivandrum, India Printed and bound by Thomson Press (India) Ltd NL08



vi ix 1

author’s note

one two

postmodernism: some guides the loss of origin
26 47

three postmodern experience four five six the fragmentary

the postmodern bible postmodern religion

87 107

seven the gift: a debate

129 155

conclusion: guides and another guide
glossary websites 159 168 177 178 173

bibliography index of names

index of subjects


chapter one – postmodernism: some guides
We begin by going on a tour in which some leading figures of postmodernism are introduced: Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Michel Foucault. Some important distinctions are made: postmodernism is distinguished from modernism, then from postmodernity, and finally from post-structuralism. Three other important words are discussed: posthumanist, post-metaphysical and avant garde.

chapter two – the loss of origin
Try as one might postmodernism cannot be reduced to a viewpoint or even a small collection of viewpoints. However, it can be clarified by examining three widely held theories: anti-essentialism, anti-realism and anti-foundationalism. Each of these is discussed, and the last one is treated in detail. Arguments against firm foundations in knowledge go back to the ancient Greeks, though postmodernists take their bearings from the declaration of Friedrich Nietzsche’s madman, ‘God is dead’. What this means, and how it relates to nihilism and perspectivism, is discussed. Derrida’s anti-foundationalism is contrasted with Richard Rorty’s. Yet anti-foundationalism is hardly the preserve of ‘postmodern’ thinkers, as they are usually grouped: it is also an important part of analytic philosophy. Brief introductions are made to Wilfred Sellars, Willard van Orman Quine and Donald Davidson. Why do we think of the European anti-foundationalists as postmodern, and not the Americans? vi

overview vii

chapter three – postmodern experience
Do we postmoderns have different experiences from those that our parents and grandparents had? Or does postmodernity tell us something new and distinctive about experience? Talk about the postmodern begins by an appeal to experience, while experience is a theme of postmodern talk. Maurice Blanchot is taken as a guide to ‘experience’ in postmodern times, and particular attention is given to his notion of the experience of the outside. Many postmodernists have learned from Blanchot, especially from his idea of living an event as image. Baudrillard is one, as his notion of the hyper-real suggests. His treatment of the 1991 Gulf War is considered. In some respects the world of tele-technology and digital information is a world at the end of history. The idea is considered by way of Derrida’s reading of Marx, Kojève and Fukuyama.

chapter four – the fragmentary
The Romantics were drawn to the fragment; and postmodernists, who distance themselves from Romanticism, affirm the fragmentary. The...
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