Another rambling rant

The Internet is obviously trying to become art rather than a sentient being (pace Kurzweil). It has taken to subverting preconceived notions of what it is. Mainly, so far it is just managing to refuse to be what you expect it to (like Firestats disintegration on this blog, the ongoing refusal of the Atheist Blogroll to notice more than 1 in 5 posts, Technorati’s deciding that links from the blogroll don’t provide authority – all topics already done to death here.)

But today, I noticed WordPress has started redefining what it puts in its list of “recent blog posts that link here” and listing posts that don’t link here. But are worth linking to. (And should have been read before, my bad.). Go figure….

Archeoastronomy has a really good post on Post-modernist Scepticism, sparked by another post – Happy Jihad on postmodernist “thought.” HJHop believes the humanities can be rescued from postmodernist bull. I would hope this is possible.

Has anyone ever tried to read Baudrillard ffs? Your head spins as you try to reconcile the fact that words from the dictionary are joined together using familiar syntax with the equally obvious fact that you can’t extract any meaning from the sentences.

The opposite side of the cultural studies coin is Umberto Eco, who has written brilliant deconstructions of things like wrestling as well as a novel that managed to be accessible at the same time as deeply thought-provoking on a dozen levels. (Name of The Rose.)

I think I am trying to say that I don’t know what post-modernism is in the humanities. As Alun pointed out, it’s a concept that only works in the visual arts, where modernism is a recognisable style. And even in the visual arts, it’s not exactly easy to identify, as the sort of pastiche we associate with post-modernism can just as validly be seen as a recent variant of modernism.

And it really does fall to bits in the humanities, if, as Alun suggests, it’s largely a matter of dumping the Enlightenment project and seeing pretty well nigh everything as culturally valid.

I suppose we can blame the cheese-eating surrender-monkeys for a lot of the postmodernist crap. (Sorry to any pragmatic French people. Just joking) Claude Levi-Strauss produced some beautiful social anthropology (with a few glaring misunderstandings) but his attempts at deconstruction turned out to be too seductive a model for a lot of French writers.

English speakers tend to expect not to understand French thought but to admire its intellectualism, to the point of assuming that it must be superior to our own earthbound efforts (Think Sartre compared to Bertrand Russell, as mid-20th century philosophers.) When you see the dog’s breakfast that some English-speaking writers can make when they stray into the realm of cultural interpretation, you can indeed see why.

In case you are wondering what the point of this post is (as am I) I think it’s to suggest that you read the Archaeoastronomy and HJHop posts. Plus, I am putting forward Umberto Eco as (sometimes) a model of what a sceptical and non-shallow humanities sensibility might look like. (With a nod to Levi-Strauss and a hat-tip to some British cultural studies writers – Stuart Hall, Mary Douglas, for instance) And the Wire, of course. Always the Wire.

Oh, the humanity.

5 thoughts on “Another rambling rant

  1. LOL, sorry. I was just indulging myself .there…….. in a post-modernist way.

    In my defence, I assumed noone would actually read it past the first few lines.

  2. I’m being overly sensitive. Last year I read In Defense of History by Richard Evans. I suspect I haven’t quite recovered yet, and tend to jump two feet and run into the nearest closet when anyone says ‘post-modernism’ or ‘deconstructionism’. I’ll try to be more relaxed in the future. Probably the far future. Really far. Working on it…

  3. We appear to be head over head. I’m not sure that’s sustainable. It may be against blogging etiquette.

    Evans was… convoluted… in Defense. His trilogy on the history of the Third Reich is an easier read, but hardly postmodern. But then neither were Hitler’s postcards. Or were they?

    Hmmm. My head hurts.

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