YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

November 3, 2017

The American Dream?

Queen on top, RavePad.com

This blog is about the pursuit of unhappiness by three modernist writers: Melville, Freud, and Nabokov, all of whom doubted “the American Dream” while emphasizing subjectivity in their works.

 

 

The controversial modernist writer, Vladimir Nabokov, was famously anti-Freudian. Nevertheless, he emphasized subjectivity no less than other Romantic/”modern”/postmodern writers (including Melville). So why was Nabokov hostile to Sigmund Freud, a disdain recapitulated in 1970s feminism?
Nabokov, author of the “pornographic” novel LOLITA (1955), was greeted with derision for having written a dirty but widely read book. So was Freudian theory denounced for pan-sexualism in the early 20th C.

 

But would it not be puritanical (heaven forbid!) to denounce Freud (or Nabokov) for lasciviousness? Yet, even as a young writer, Nabokov (like his admired precursor “crazy” Herman Melville) was treating “Freudian” themes. I am referring to VN’s (updated) KING, QUEEN, KNAVE (1928) published in English after LOLITA, and translated from the Russian by his son Dmitri after Nabokov became both notorious and celebrated (1966). And, like LOLITA, the earlier novel was made into a movie (1972), suggesting that its triangle theme was acceptable to a popular audience, even as that popular audience was (seemingly) stigmatized by all three major moderns (VN, Melville, and Freud).

 
It is subjectivity that is the major focus of this posting. For it is rarely noted that dirty old Freud was advocating “the observing ego” at the same time that he was outlining the family romance. Thus, idealizations and all caricatures would be thrown out by the successful analysand (or even the unanalyzed reader of Freud), in favor of objectivity as the “Reality Principle” was finally attained. Out went the perfectly happy family (as limned by Melville in Pierre), in came modernism (as stoic?) adjustment to “everyday unhappiness,” and a fight that stills preoccupies me as it does the authors enumerated here.

More: I attended Cornell U. at the same time that Nabokov was lecturing there; I heard that Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina’s first paragraph was his constant emphasis: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” So both Freud and Nabokov were interested in families—happy and unhappy. But Pierre was ambiguous. So was Herman Melville, who, like Nabokov’s narrators, was similarly preoccupied and weird, and Melville, like Nabokov turned out to be an anti-bourgeois modernist/postmodernist, and as interested in decoding the unhappy Western family as Freud.

Full cast King, Queen, Knave (1972) Herzbube.com

[Blogs related to this posting: https://clarespark.com/2013/01/17/bondage-and-the-family/, https://clarespark.com/2011/10/01/updated-index-to-melville-blogs/, https://clarespark.com/2013/03/16/blogs-on-freud-and-anti-freudians/

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October 27, 2017

Moral chaos of womanhood: the Harvey Weinstein scandal and LOLITA

The Harvey Weinstein scandal and LOLITA are connected in my mind for both cast reflections on the confusing rearing of the middle class female who supposed to be innocent and knowing at the very same time.

We are supposed to please men by not growing up. Hence Humbert Humbert’s obsession with “nymphets.”

Nabokov ostensibly wrote a parody and a novel about the act of writing (that makes him a postmodernist linking Kafka-esque nihilism and trendy modernism). But I noticed that Humbert Humbert viewed young actresses with disdain (as whorish), which made me think that Harvey Weinstein’s proclivity for undeveloped actresses had literary precedents.

Perfectly nice girls are supposed to be both prim and slutty enough to attract a superior male, but who can discern the boundaries between classes?

Or what constitutes pornography (as contrasted with serious literature that can masquerade as porn, as LOLITA does)?

It helps to know that females (especially “middle class” women) experience a lifetime of mixed messages. We are urged to attain independence and professional achievement, but not to lose sight of the overwhelming importance of family life. We crave “love,” whatever that may be. As mothers, we are lectured about the importance of early attachments, but then urged to let our children grow up and find their own path.

movie lobby card, abaa.org

Similarly, we are supposed to be patriotic, but not too patriotic. In a polarized society, how can we find “the golden mean” (a relic of classical antiquity)? And yet we are bombarded by images of “moderation,” of reconciling opposites!

No wonder Vladimir Nabokov put “reality” in quotes.

 

rainagain blog

April 10, 2017

A reassessment of a Critique of Pure Tolerance 42 years later

repressive tolerance.I posted the following thought on Facebook, and got a few adverse comments.

“This A.M. [April 7. 2017] I found Herbert Marcuse’s notorious essay on repressive tolerance, which I read years ago. I can see why it is so controversial because it advocates [partly 2-10] restricting speech on the Right in favor of the Left. But OTOH, it praises the liberal innovation of tolerance in its context of the overthrow of the feudal restrictions on free speech and human rights in general. I can see where I got my critique of Fox’s alleged fair and balanced approach, my defense of individualism, and my disgust with phony pluralism/identity politics. But would Marcuse, if still alive today, not separate out political Islam from his roster of victims on similar grounds to my own?”

One or two friends suggested that Marcuse had always been a Stalinist. This is a grave misunderstanding of the critical theorists (mostly Jews), so I am writing a commentary on the politics of Marcuse et al, and especially noting the time of publication at the height of oppositional social movements that some conservatives associated with communism in its most Stalinist and repressive manifestations. Youth seemed out of control.

First, the three essays in A Critique of Pure Tolerance were published in 1965 as the New Left was taking off, inspired by the civil rights movement.

Second, it is widely misunderstood that Marcuse, the most notorious of the three academics, was advocating the repression of all speech. He took care to emphasize the media indoctrination that had undermined the early liberalism he took care to defend. It was beyond question that mass media had squelched Marxist-Leninist fantasies that the working class would deliver utopia in the form of socialist revolution. But New Dealers (the ultimate resting place of 1960s radicalism) had prevailed after a few decades of stimulating upheaval.

The moderate men had prevailed as token radicals assumed academic positions, hired by the same social democrats who victoriously carried forth the programs of the Roosevelt administration. So the revolutionary feminists settled into separatist programs, and took their places with other members of the New Deal coalition: minorities and labor; ex-slaves were buttressed later by Latinos and other “people of color.”

Though they talk a good game, the campus radicals were likely to follow postmodernism, with the latter’s rejection of objectivity, science, facts, and the search for truth. This too fit in with the New Deal—that had favored cultural history and multiculturalism over science.

Enter the three essayists, Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore Jr. and the rowdier and more infamous Herbert Marcuse. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Marcuse. All three men, however they may have differed in emphases, pushed the same modern line: a disgust with indoctrination of every type. Wolff deplored electoral politics as promoting “style, image, and faith,” Moore wanted a “rational and secular” society, and Marcuse, the most militant of the bunch, wanted to restrict some (he never says all) right wing speech. This latter point has been widely misunderstood by many conservatives who associate the critical theorists with the most censorious leftists in history.

In my own view, Wolff, Moore, and Marcuse were more radical liberals than any type of Stalinist or other bogey resuscitated by some conservatives. https://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/. Not unlike Milton Friedman, the radical liberal critics of a phony liberalism wanted a full marketplace of ideas; that would have to reserve a place for fully rational assessments of the past record of all socialist and capitalist societies. Such imprecations were the very opposite of the irrationalism that passes today for “liberalism.”

December 31, 2016

Political correctness revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:40 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Zero Hedge.com

Zero Hedge.com

I have written about Political Correctness (including its origins) many times on the website, but the moral seems to be this: conservative objections to PC miss the point and may even antagonize minorities and women by appearing to lobby for incivility.

It is not the entire Left that has imposed speech codes, but a particular branch of it: the postmodernists who believe, like other trendy mystics, that language (as mediated by institutions) creates reality. So social democrats and Leninists alike may emphasize changing speech all by itself. But their protocols do not improve institutional controls that would indeed further the goal of intellectual diversity (also known as the marketplace of ideas; see https://clarespark.com/2015/12/29/milton-friedmans-capitalism-and-freedom-1962/).

(Real) leftists reject all capitalist institutions as bogus leftovers from earlier set-ups, while social democrats are out to stop the far Left through co-opting and erasing class as an analytic consideration; also the same phony liberals erase fact-based history and perception as “vulgar.”

(To the extent that Marxist-Leninists believe in the “telos “of history, they participate in the same mystical folly. The materialism of the Enlightenment is rejected by Leninists favoring dialectical materialism.)

Nonconformist society

Nonconformist society

When I brought this subject up on Facebook, I saw that one or two friends, believed that minorities and women were deficient in those qualities that make (what passes for) success in the modern world. That too is a rejection of history—for instance the astounding vanguard that created the US Constitution minus all the Founders’ class positions (i.e., their historical situation)—which accounts for their support of slavery and of the secondary role of women.

How odd that some “conservatives” idealize those aspects of the Constitution that suit them, while undermining politeness—a very democratic, if bourgeois, concept.

Zero Hedge.com

Zero Hedge.com

February 19, 2016

Is the word “liar” un-PC?

liar-woman-lyingNumerous pundits on the Right have been stigmatizing certain candidates for calling one another “liars.” I found this startling, for in the theater of politics “anything goes.”

I have been aghast at this turn of group criticism, for in my youth, I assumed that fact-checking would be a prime responsibility of citizen-journalists and the candidates too, but I was unaware then, that “the search for truth” was considered a fool’s errand, indeed, a form of “monomania.” I blame the bad reputation that rationalism and empiricism have earned in this long period of irrationalism and the elevation of “feeling” as “freedom” over critical thought; i.e., digging into the archives with appropriate skepticism and the resuscitation of relevant contexts. https://clarespark.com/2014/05/08/index-to-blogs-on-postmodernism-and-its-spawn/.

The reason that scholars are supposed to use footnotes when challenging older versions of history harkens back to the early phases of modernity, but “postmodernism” has made the use of footnotes a bad joke, for “inter-subjectivity” and the unreliability of all “texts” fits all too snugly into multiculturalism and its “perspectivism” in which “facts” are relegated to the realm of “group facts”—indecipherable to other races, though you have to dig a bit to find that out.

Or the curious reader might consider this: an alarming number of persons, world-wide, believe in the real existence of the Devil, the Great Liar, whose antithesis is the Truth conveyed by either the Gospel or by the deity “in a better place” than “this vale of tears”; i.e., the inevitable deceptions of our earthly existence.

Of course, “everybody” knows who the greatest liars are: women and Jews. No kidding. https://clarespark.com/2014/01/16/hitler-and-the-big-lie-corrected/

British professor Simon Schama addresses a seminar entitled 'Facing the Climate Crisis' at the St James's Palace Nobel Laureate's Symposium in London, on May 27, 2009. The Symposium convenes Nobel Laureates from a variety of disciplines and world experts in climate change. AFP PHOTO/Shaun Curry/WPA POOL/AFP (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)

SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images); found on Eddie Izzard’s AZL page

May 31, 2015

Nietzsche on “the Jews” (and non-Aryan Christians)

Aryan Christ

Aryan Christ

(This the second of two blogs; read this first. https://clarespark.com/2015/05/30/constructing-the-moderate-men-with-the-classics/.)

Nietzsche famously proclaimed that “God is dead.” Nietzsche’s fame, however, is not, nor is his professed affiliation with the Christian Middle Ages, noted in The Birth of Tragedy. We find his amorous influence in the Charles Manson cult (an emblem for the flower children of the counter-culture (?), including such immortal pop idols as the late Jim Morrison), in the hip followers of Foucault, and among postmodernists. These late 20th century (sex-obsessed) cultists were preceded by the Nietzsche followers in the earlier 20th century, George Bernard Shaw for one. Nietzsche’s Supermen were later made notorious in the Leopold and Loeb case that was dramatized in the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Rope.

I was first introduced to Nietzsche in the works translated by existentialist Walter Kaufmann, who tried to rehabilitate him from charges of proto-Nazism and antisemitism, explaining in one postwar essay that Nietzsche separated Jesus from the Jews, finding them antithetical. I find it incomprehensible how he could have failed to notice this passage from Genealogy of Morals, aphorism VII:

[Nietsche, transl. Francis Golffing:] As we all know, priests are the most evil enemies to have—why should this be so? Because they are the most impotent. It is their impotence which makes their hate so violent and sinister, so cerebral and poisonous. The greatest haters in history—but also the most intelligent haters—have been priests. Beside the brilliance of priestly vengeance all other brilliance fades. Human history would be a dull and stupid thing without the intelligence furnished by its impotents. Let us begin with the most striking example. Whatever else has been done to damage the powerful and great of this earth seems trivial compared with what the Jews have done, that priestly people who succeeded in avenging themselves on their enemies and oppressors by radically inverting all their values, that is, by an act of the most spiritual vengeance. This was a strategy entirely appropriate to a priestly people in whom vindictiveness had gone most deeply underground. It was the Jew who, with frightening consistency, dared to invert the aristocratic value equations good/noble/powerful/beautiful/happy/favored-of-the-gods and maintain, with the furious hatred of the underprivileged and impotent, that “only the poor, the powerless, are good; only the suffering, sick, and ugly, truly blessed. But you noble ones will be, to all eternity, the evil, the cruel, the avaricious, the godless, and thus the cursed and damned!”…it was the Jews who started the slave revolt in morals; a revolt with two millennia of history behind it, which we have lost sight of today simply because it is has triumphed so completely. [end, Nietzsche quote]

This was the translation ordered by professors who taught my daughter while she was in graduate school, studying with leftist superstars Samuel Weber and Jacques Derrida.

It is but a short step from Nietzsche’s verdict on “the Jews” to social democracy and the aristocratic principle that seems to reign in the elitism of (anticommunist) social democracy, in the celebrity-worship of mass culture, and in sectors of the far Right that blame “commie Jews” for all their woes. Such is the persistent influence of the Aryan Christ. Indeed, an Eric Gill sculpture of the Christ with his whip graces one of the reading rooms in the William Andrews Clark Jr. library in Los Angeles–the same library that houses a sizeable Gill collection.

Christ and the Money-Changers 1919 Eric Gill 1882-1940 Tate Library

Christ and the Money-Changers 1919 Eric Gill 1882-1940 Tate Library

May 5, 2015

What is “context” and how is it relevant to the Pamela Geller flap?

Context-is-king-1024x7681Lots of pundits, bloggers, and non-writers have been talking about free speech and the affronts to it. The occasion for all this jabber is the event managed by activist Pamela Geller and her event at Garland, Texas, that resulted in the death of two would-be invading Islamist gunmen.

Some commentators have complained that the drawing of a cartoon of Mohammed was provocative and incendiary, while others have vigorously defended untrammeled free speech, let the chips fall.

I am most concerned with the widespread notion that we actually have free speech and exercise it at will. That is one subject on this blog. (https://clarespark.com/2015/01/12/what-free-speech/.)

But I am also amazed by William J. Donahue’s statement on Fox News Channel, referring to the larger “context” of Geller’s alleged provocation.  (He had already written about angry Muslims earlier this year with respect to the bombing of the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris: http://www.catholicleague.org/muslims-right-angry/.)

Donahue as posted by Daily Kos

Donahue as posted by Daily Kos

As I have described here before, the once fact-based profession of history has been taken over by postmodernists, who, following Hayden White, view all published history as “literature.” I myself have advanced the observation that we are “prisoners of our contexts,” (https://clarespark.com/2014/12/18/rape-culture/), though I would never go so far as the postmodernists by throwing out all science as a swindle insofar as it affects “objectivity.”

As I discovered when first conducting my Melville research, finding the relevant context for artists and their critics (or for our own cherished beliefs) is a challenge. For instance, Freudians will focus on Melville’s family situation; Marxists will scrutinize him for class, racial, and gender prejudices; “progressives” attempting to co-opt both Freud and Marx will, and have, looked at his family very selectively, and then will praise him to the extent that they believe that he generally reflects their own “moderation.” If they have to suppress documents that contradict progressive notions, they will do that too. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/.) And the preferred “moderate” position is “multiculturalism” for it keeps us divided and racism and collective categories are  intact,. (See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/.)

The relevant context for the Pamela Geller/free speech flap is “multiculturalism”. No one sees this, for the assumption is either that Geller is a “hater” who “incites” Muslims, or, conversely, that we have untrammeled free speech and we must go to the wall on its behalf, lest we betray the First Amendment.

This latter position ignores case law, and worse, often reads back into English history the precedents for free speech, ignoring that the common law originated in medieval times when perfect obedience to orders and personages above oneself in the Great Chain of Being was taken for granted. Kings, Popes, and the nobility were at constant war with one another over conflicting rights, but the notion that peasants and townspeople should enjoy the same privileges was unheard of.

Get used to it, readers. The progressive bourgeoisie and growing mass literacy brought us such free speech as we currently enjoy, and “free speech” has always been contested by special interests that want freedom of expression for their own causes, but would deny it to their adversaries.

Do academics enjoy free speech and academic freedom, as they proudly proclaim? It depends on their superiors. As sociologist Stephen Turner has observed over and over, all scholarship is subsidized. But even if academics could get jobs based on pure merit and objective criteria, we would still be faced with our own limitations. As the lady said, we are to some unknowable extent, all prisoners of our contexts (personal and institutional).

Herman Melville would agree with me.

prison

November 2, 2014

“The Affair” and the Country versus the City

the-affair

[Update 12-14-2015: there were minor errors in my first impressions of this series, which got a Golden Globes award for Drama after the first season. 1. The murder victim is Cole’s brother, Scottie, a junkie. 2. Alison’s baby died of drowning (hence the pervasive water images). 3. Alison has become a symbol of the persistent attraction of small town life, and has gone darker, as has Noah. 4. Oscar (the red-headed Jew (?) is apparently the father of Alison’s baby owing to an impulsive one-night stand. 4. The most favorable characters are now the discarded spouses, Helen and Cole. Indeed, Maura Tierney (Helen) has been nominated for a Golden Globes Award, which she will probably win. To conclude: the 1960s turn to primitivism (in emotion, hence in closeness to “Nature”  is probably the most obvious theme of this (anti-modern) series.]

Showtime has a new drama series about two married persons living in Montauk (one is vacationing there) that I would thought would be no more than the usual soft porn directed at a middle class cable audience, but it is more interesting than that.

Here are the features that I find indicative of current politics:

First, the hero (“Noah Soloway,” played by Dominic West), a writer with one published work of fiction to his name, has married above his socio-economic class and must cope with bourgeois, success-driven in-laws, an intelligent wife (Maura Tierney) and four children. His successful father-in-law is also a writer, but a best seller author who taunts him. His mother-in-law, also outspoken and nasty, calls him a [loony] “idealist” in front of the protagonist’s family.

dominicwest

Second, the anti-hero has a meeting with his wife’s father’s agent (arranged by dad), in which he telegraphs the theme of the series: it will about the decline of “the American pastoral” and the struggle to preserve small town values in the face of modernization and urbanization. In the end, the married protagonist will kill his small-town lover. That alone interests the agent.

Third, there is a mystery: the female lover’s boss wants to put a bowling alley next to his diner; “Cole” (played by Joshua Jackson) the husband of the Ruth Wilson character (“Alison Lockhart,” a bereaved parent whose son has recently died, perhaps of cancer), makes a substantial speech at a town meeting that is considering the over-commercialization of Montauk and the subsequent loss of “community.” At this point, we suspect that someone has murdered Cole (probably the upwardly mobile avatar of “progress”), for the two lovers are being interrogated by a detective, and a male murder victim is mentioned. Since Alison is present, and mentions missing “him” the suspense does not lie in who killed whom.

ruthwilson

Fourth, each episode is divided in half. The first half describes events mostly from “Noah’s recollection, while the second half is told from the woman’s perspective. They are drastically different, with Noah recalling the sexual aggressiveness of his partner in deception, while Alison has much more on her mind, namely politics and her grief. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Affair_(TV_series).

Clearly, Showtime is run by progressives, who demonstrate their postmodern, hip commitments by criticizing the intact heterosexual family and showing the subjectivity of “perspectivism.” In addition to class and gender struggle, some nudity and forbidden sex, we have the critique of progress. Indeed, one of the characters sneers at the thought of Montauk turning into Easthampton.

And are not these identical themes being played out in our current political struggle for the US Senate? And it will be the redneck diner owner (“Oscar” played by Darren Goldstein) who probably did the dirty deed: how dare he strive for “development?”

June 1, 2014

The Hunger Games trilogy: reactionary and postmodern

Catching_Fire_Katniss_Everdeen_WallpaperI am going to try not to have any spoilers in this blog, so will be more general in my critique than usual.

I have now read all three volumes of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, at the request of my daughter Jenny who studied with Jacques Derrida and Samuel Weber, champion promoters of postmodernism. It was she who made the connection between the film version of The Hunger Games and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, especially in its posing of the question “Real or Fake?”

Before this latest read, I had thought primarily of the anticapitalist, antimodern aspect of postmodernism: its emphasis on indeterminacy/uncertainty, the fallibility of the human senses, its critique of science as a bourgeois plot to snare the unwary mass man and woman (misappropriating Thomas Kuhn), but above all its assault on the ordinary, overly credulous reader of “texts.” And for the “pomo” everything is a text to be “deconstructed” for the purpose of revealing the silences of official language, the relevant clues pushed to the margins or entirely submerged. I find postmodern theory useful in many cases; see https://clarespark.com/2013/09/08/postmodernism-cultural-pluralism-and-the-will-to-power/–retitled “Reading between the lines.” Also https://clarespark.com/2014/08/07/modernity-versus-modernism/.

Postmodernists believe they are enablers of the voices that have been submerged by official inhuman modern cultures—worshippers of consumerism and nature-killing technology. Hence their primitivism, celebration of the archaic and/or tradition (potlatches!), including the empirical wisdom of hunting societies, but also peasant cunning and use of herbal remedies for injuries and disease, and above all the celebration of Greek popular culture as I laid out here: https://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/.

Especially read this paragraph:”Think of the good king, the paternalistic welfare state, the touching loyalty of its servants, fatalism, magic, the intervention of wise god figures in daily life (grey-eyed Athena or a wise Latina), superheroes, shape-changing creatures, gorgeous tall women and men, the glitter of gold and silver along with artisanal triumphs designed for the aristocracy, the increasing blending of gymnastics with dance, but most of all, the aestheticization of violence that Walter Benjamin described as the culture of fascism and Nazism in his famous defense of modern mass media “The Work of Art in the Era of Mechanical Reproduction.” Writing at the same time as Freeman and Crossman, Benjamin declared that such artists as Marinetti had glorified war to the point where humanity was contemplating its own destruction as an aesthetic experience. What would Benjamin have said about the humanizing beauty of Odysseus’s slaughter of the suitors and the female slaves who had slept with them?– A slaughter that left the poet in awe of the “lion” figure of Odysseus, covered as he was with the blood and gore of his enemies.”

Has not Suzanne Collins aestheticized violence in her trilogy? And why do so many of our young people live without hope, expecting to die young?

During the second wave of feminism, there was a strong tendency on behalf of matriarchy and Amazon- or Goddess worship: the long-dead and discredited Bachofen was de rigueur in some circles. The left feminists thought that goddesses were bogus and reactionary, but to the extent that the audience for The Hunger Games is “feminist,” it is the goddess-worshipping counter-cultural tendency that has prevailed.

Suzanne Collins, a Roman Catholic and an admirer of Greek antiquity, the daughter of an officer in the Viet Nam war, probably set out to write a dystopian novel attacking war, income inequality, and modern mind-control, in the spirit of Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four. But she has instead arguably added to modern paranoia, and undermined the confidence of the ordinary people she ostensibly wishes to protect, like the Übermenschen (Gale, Peeta, and Katniss), oddly (given the multicultural times we live in), all white people of apparently Northern European extraction. (And who are the agricultural workers in District 11, obviously all black people, like Katniss’s pet “Rue”?)

By naming the President of the rebels “Coin,” Collins takes her place among petit-bourgeois populists of the past.

Prometheus, once the friend of humanity, is vanquished, along with world-destroying and Nazified industrial capitalism: Oh so “Green” Katniss Everdeen has taken their places. Has anyone noticed that the novels and movies are culture war events that deserve our close attention, especially as its target audience won’t know how to read its sub-text? For more on reactionary nostalgia see https://clarespark.com/2014/05/03/elie-kedouries-nationalism-am-i-stumped/ (retitled “The Good Old Days”).

The author in her favorite color

The author in her favorite color

May 8, 2014

Index to blogs on postmodernism and its spawn

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:20 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Frank Gehry's Stata Center, MIT

Frank Gehry’s Stata Center, MIT

The following was just distributed by a discussion group involving art historians in academe. It is the latest startling move from the academic counter-culture. Apparently, postmodernism is out. The author seems to conflate postmodernism with “interdisciplinary” cultural studies/multiculturalism, preferring the [sacrificial?] gestures of mystical minimalism, a refutation of all Romantic tendencies in favor of neoclassical Order/simplicity/reductiveness– a value system that George Mosse associated with fascism.
Here is the confused (?) and anonymous call for papers:

“Neomodernism is a term in philosophy that describes the critique of modernism as promoting both universalism and human rights; the relativism of the one is said to contradict the universality assumed in the other. Neomodernism is also a term used by architects to describe sleek, contemporary skyscrapers and office complexes. In sound art, Neomodernism names an emerging generation of musicians committed to “sound-in-itself,” to abstraction, reduction, and self-reference; it makes perceptual links to the visual arts and particularly the minimalism of Mark Rothko, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and James Turrell. Literary criticism—which has long recognized the NeoVictorian in contemporary fiction as a nostalgic return to the nineteenth century, its aesthetic principles, and moral sensibilities,—has no complementary understanding of a current fictional return to the early twentieth century. Neomodernism offers a conceptual alternative to the postmodern designation and indicates continuity in aesthetic principles across the twentieth century and into the present. This panel will explore the aesthetic, philosophical, historical, or ethical principles the Neomodern might express.”

The notion that modernists promoted “both universalism and human rights” is peculiar, and refutes Western civilization entirely. I saw modernists as mostly irrationalist, antiwar and primitivist, as theorists of decadence brought about by the feminization of culture as men left the traditional peasant households for white collar or industrial jobs during and after the Industrial Revolution. As for human rights, they are the West’s proudest achievement but the subversiveness of “rights” as a quality inhering in individuals (against arbitrary and tyrannical States), is not acknowledged by these pseudo-radicals.

To be sure, postmodernism rejected the 19th century turn toward realism and naturalism—creations of the despised hypocritical bourgeoisie and their science or technology that had ostensibly mechanized the world. The art historians who wrote this call for papers got the critique of Neo-Victorianism right.

But as for postmodernism promoting universalism, that is just plain wrong. The pomos are radical subjectivists, and insist that all knowledge is local and “historically contingent”—that means we are entirely prisoners of our context and that the past is unknowable. To be anti-bourgeois and anti-intellectual at the same time, is to be populist and entirely petit-bourgeois.

Nicolai Soren Goodich, "Anamnesis & Aporia"

Nicolai Soren Goodich, “Anamnesis & Aporia”

Here are a few of my prior blogs explicating the very hip, yet reactionary, ideas promoted by Michel Foucault and his voluble followers (including Judith Butler):
https://clarespark.com/2010/05/15/foucault-follies-redux/
https://clarespark.com/2013/03/28/power-and-aristocratic-radicals/
https://clarespark.com/2013/09/08/postmodernism-cultural-pluralism-and-the-will-to-power/ (retitled “Reading between the lines”)
https://clarespark.com/2014/03/02/roy-porter-and-the-anti-psychiatry-movement/

Frank Gehry: Walt Disney Music Hall, Los Angeles

Frank Gehry: Walt Disney Music Hall, Los Angeles

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