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cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Stuff: metaphor, discipline, post-post-modernism

Posted by Bill Benzon on 07/21/06 at 12:19 PM

Metaphor, Neurons

Chris, over there at Mixing Memory, has conveniently consolidated links to old posts he’s done on neuroesthetics and on theories of metaphor in cognitive science. Eight posts in all. They’re interesting reading, the metaphor ones especially, as they make it clear that the cognitive linguistics line isn’t the only game in town.

Disciplinary Problems

Mark Lieberman over at the Language Log has an amusing riff on this cartoon:

f**K cl

Actually, it’s two riffs, in the form of two more cartoons. First time I ever saw anyone get a laugh out of the notion of a Fourier transform. I wonder if it’s a play on Schrodinger’s cat?


Bérubé has these paragraphs up today—among a flotilla of others:

Link number two: you’re surely familiar with the brilliant techno-video performance of All Your Base Are Belong to Us.  If you’re not, why not?  And if you are, please welcome this brilliant techno-video performance of All Your Snakes Are Belong to Us. Another important sign that we are now in the mature phase of the period cultural theorist Amanda Marcotte has designated as post-post-postmodernism.

You know, I love this here medium sometimes.  I’m a bit sad that all this “snakes on the Internets” stuff is going to prove to be much more enjoyable than the movie, but hell, that’s just the nature of post-post-postmodernism, I suppose.  Post-post-postmodernism:  the period that precedes itself.

So, a hundred years from now when we’re all safely nestled in the past—or maintained on perpetual life support as our minds circulate in some super-mega-computers—will the modern era be renamed as something else? If so what? And so with post-modern as well?

BTW, don’t philosophers and litcritics use “modern” a bit differently? I vaguely recall from my undergraduate years that philophers thought of Descartes as the instigator of philosophical modernity, while literary modernity is much more recent.


Oi! You ain’t just whistlin’ dixie on that last line. Perhaps one of the most hilarious—and simultaneously frustrating and aggravating—aspect of twentieth century literature and criticism is the ever burgeoning number of definitions of both modernism and post-modernism. Especially the latter, which seems to have a different definition every time it is used. Some might say ‘oh, that’s very postmodern of postmodernism, you know.” Nonsense. In truth, it’s vegas-strip-quality-neon pointing out god-awful, lazy scholarship practices.

Hey! Contemporary scholarship is easy! Change the definitions to whatever you will, and write as though all preceding you wrote under that definition! You no longer have to understand what you read to write about it: just pull a paragraph or three out of context and give it your own workable definition.

That’s only half the issue, though. I fear it’s also simply the normal watering down of ideas as it settles through the ranks of intellectual/critical ability/capability. Just one example, in the literary side (not the theoretical side), McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction, which discusses postmodernist literature in the mode of a conventionalized genre, no different than westerns or harlequin romance, and speaks of it as though he were using the term just as it was coined by Hassan. And yet he seems oblivious to the fact that such conventionalization is diametrically opposed to the postmodernism Hassan is describing.

(Yet, McHale may not be far off in describing the subject, if problematic in his use of terms. For is not postmodernism as it is spoken of in literary circles now nothing but a conventionally stabilizing genre? Does David Foster Wallace write literature as Hassan describes? Or has he simple extracted out the characteristics of Borges and/or Joyce and conventionalized them tto rewrite the 20th century version of the conventional, victorian novel?)

It became rather a silliness in my previous circles: we were unable to discuss any critical or theoretical text without having to parse out what they meant by “modernism” or “postmodernism”. When we had, far far more often than not we realized the text was too simplified, or too skewed a definition—or, more often, a flat incorrect and essentailly non-viable definition—that the text wasn’t worth the bother. Theory and criticism follow literature’s suit: are they truly writing in the same discourse as Hassan or Lyotard (or Foucault, or Derrida (oh god the hilarities wrought there), or Eco, or Deleuze, etc. etc.? Or have they simply plucked out some ideas and conventionalized them, each iteration getting farther and farther from the original discourse? (And, farther and farther from discourse?!)

By on 07/23/06 at 09:02 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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