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Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction by…

Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction (2002)

by Christopher Butler

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I entered into this little book with little grounding, or so I thought.

In many respects postmodernism has become apart of how we think about and interact with the greater world.

The previous sentence is chock-full of entrapment and presuppositions that are endemic to the postmodernist viewpoint. All that 'we,' and what do I mean by the 'greater' world? Postmodernist thought is responsible, in part, for the great amount of the self-aware, meta-happy, skepticism that is so prevalent in most of the books I've read.

Modernism sought to rebel against tradition and existing cultural frameworks by creating new ones. Most of your familiar isms came out of it: impressionism, surrealism, cubism; the philosophies of Freud and Nietzsche; the form follows function aesthetics of Frank Lloyd Wright and Otto Wagner; and the literary output of James Joyce and T.S. Eliot. And that's hardly the beginning.

Such a sprawling cultural movement is hard to encapsulate, but postmodernism sprang up when Modernism began to run out of steam. Its central tenet is the denial that objectivity is at all possible, not necessarily making disciplines such as history or the 'hard' sciences obsolete, but makes them vulnerable to the cultural biases all humanity has.

Butler doesn't try for dispassionate objectivity himself, there was almost clear disdain on his part for the purpose, or lack thereof, in postmodernism. Especially in its lack of physical output in comparison to the amount of theory that exists about it.

I run the risk of rattling on, but I was surprised by how much postmodernist ideas I was already familiar with, if by other names. We are all living within multiple definitions and restricted by the many labels and roles our culture put on us through race, gender, sexual orientation, class, education, location, fashion, and on and on.

The purpose of postmodernism, from what I've gotten from Butler, is to make people aware of how language and cultural constructs define them and therefore effect their daily lives. The main issue that Butler has is the lack of answers or solutions from these lines of thought, its constant deconstruction and skepticism without any higher purpose. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
My recent reading of Bram Presser’s The Book of Dirt was a reminder of how much literature has changed in the years since I first began reading adult literature. I can’t think of anything that I read from my parents’ bookshelves that was a blend of fiction and non-fiction, nor can I ever remember then discussing the idea of truth in books being a relative concept. Books were unambiguously fiction or NF, and librarians did not have to struggle with which section of the shelves to put it in. Yet now, after almost a decade of blogging my reading here at ANZ LitLovers, I have become used to, and comfortable with, all kinds of what I now recognise as postmodernist aspects of literature. So although I’ve dabbled in Postmodernism before, now seems like a good time to investigate Christopher Butler’s Postmodernism, a Very Short Introduction and also Introducing Postmodernism, a Graphic Guide by Richard Appignanesi and Chris Garratt.
Starting with Christopher Butler’s VSI (because I’ve read his Modernism before and found it illuminating) I see that the chapters are:
The rise of postmodernism
New ways of seeing the world
Politics and identity
The culture of postmodernism
The ‘postmodern condition’.
Chapter 1 begins by talking about the hostile reception to postmodernist art, specifically Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII (1966). Searching for an image of it, I found a contemporary example of the 1966 reaction – with which I have some sympathy, when it comes to the visual arts. Butler acknowledges this:
Now enshrined in the Tate Modern, it doesn’t resemble much in the canon of modernist sculpture. It is not formally complex or expressive, or particularly engaging to look at, indeed it can soon be boring. It is easy to repeat. Lacking any features to sustain interest in itself (except perhaps to Pythagorean number mystics) it inspires us to ask questions about its context rather than its content: ‘What is the point of this?’ or ‘Why is this displayed in a museum?’ Some theory about the work has to be brought in to fill the vacuum of interest, and this is also fairly typical. It might inspire the question, ‘Is it really art, or just a pile of bricks pretending to be art?’ But this is not a question that makes much sense in the postmodern era, in which it seems to be generally accepted that it is the institution of the gallery, rather than anything else, which has made it, de facto, a ‘work of art’. The visual arts are just what museum curators show us, from Picasso to sliced -up cows, and it is up to us to keep up with the ideas surrounding these works. (p.1)

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/11/23/postmodernism-a-very-short-introduction-by-c... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Nov 23, 2017 |
I like to think I am a fan of post-modern literature, but ask me to explain it, I will have a hard time. Post-modernism is often referred to when talking about art, films, architecture, music and literature but what does it actually mean? I picked up Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction in the hopes of understand it a little more but I still do not think I can explain it. For me, I view post-modernism, as a reaction to modernism which seemed to reject past thinking in favour of innovations like stream-of-consciousness. Post-modernism still found value in the past techniques and theories and found interesting ways to use them in new and exciting ways. Post-modernism wanted to invoke thought and criticism; within its literature you might find something bizarre or weird that you just need to talk about.

I know my view on the topic is very broad and it is far more complex but that is what I love about post-modern literature. I want books that force me to think critically about what I am reading and post-modernism forces you to do just that. In Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction, Christopher Butler tries to equip us with the basic ideas behind post-modernism to allow us to recognise and understand the theories more easily. This is still a very complex movement but I am starting to understand why I love it. This is a good starting point, if you are actually interested in the critical thinking side of this movement. ( )
  knowledge_lost | Sep 18, 2015 |
Good introduction to the topic. I really like these Very Short Introductions. ( )
  EThorelli | Mar 15, 2011 |
Postmodernism can be a difficult topic, but this Introduction provides clarity of vision for a subject of muddled origin and meaning. Butler certainly makes value judgments, it is not a NPOV wikipedia article thank goodness; he takes a position in what is ultimately a political movement, but provides multiple POVs. Short but some pages can take a long time to digest, its a "slow read", pithy but never banal. ( )
2 vote Stbalbach | Nov 24, 2007 |
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Carl Andre's rectangular pile of bricks, Equivalent VIII (1966), annoyed lots of people when shown at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1976.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is not the same book as Postmodernism by Andrew M. Butler -- please do not recombine them!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192802399, Paperback)

Postmodernism has become the buzzword of contemporary society over the last decade. But how can it be defined? In this highly readable introduction the mysteries of this most elusive of concepts are unraveled, casting a critical light upon the way we live now, from the politicizing of museum culture to the cult of the politically correct. The key postmodernist ideas are explored and challenged, as they figure in the theory, philosophy, politics, ethics and artwork of the period, and it is shown how they have interacted within a postmodernist culture.
About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:43 -0400)

"Postmodernism has been a buzzword in contemporary society for the last decade. But how can it be defined? In this Very Short Introduction Christopher Butler challenges and explores the key ideas of postmodernists, and their engagement with theory, literature, the visual arts, film, architecture, and music. He treats artists, intellectuals, critics, and social scientists as if they were all members of a loosely constituted and quarrelsome political party - a party which includes such members as Cindy Sherman, Salman Rushdie, Jacques Derrida, Walter Abish, and Richard Rorty - creating a vastly entertaining framework in which to unravel the mysteries of the postmodern condition from the politicizing of museum culture to the cult of the politically correct."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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