Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Summary: Fredric Jameson / Postomodernism: Pastiche and pop history

Fredric Jameson - Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism - summary 
part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - Review

Pastiche is one of the main characteristics of cultural production in the age of postmodernism according to Fredric Jameson. The existence of an autonomous subject was an essential part of artistic as cultural production in the modern times, Jameson argues. It allowed for the artist as subject to the address his consumer as subject and thus to affect him. But with the waning of affect the artist's unique individuality, one a founding principle, has been reduced in the postmodern age to a neutral and objectifying form of communication. With the fragmentation of subjectivity and subjectivity in a sense coming to a gloomy end, it is no longer clear what postmodern artists and authors are supposed to do beside appealing to the past, to the imitation of dead styles, an "empty parody" without any deep or hidden meanings, a parody that Jameson calls pastiche.

Pastiche, like parody, is the imitation of some unique style, but it is an empty neutral practice which lacks the intension and "say" of parody, not satirical impulse and no "yin" to be exposed by the "yang". The postmodern artist is reduced to pastiche because he cannot create new aesthetic forms, he can only copy old ones without creating any new meanings.

Pastiches leads to what is referred to in architectural history as "historicism" which is according to Jameson a random cannibalism of past styles. This cannibalism, pastiche, in now apparent in all spheres of cultural production but reaches its epitome in the global, American centered, television and Hollywood culture.

When the past is being represent through pastiche the result is a "lost of historicalness". The past is being represented as a glimmering mirage. Jameson calls this type of postmodern history "pop history" – a history founded on the pop images produces by commercial culture. One of the manifestations of this pastiche pop history are nostalgic or retro films and books which present the appearance of an historical account when in fact these are only our own superficial stereotypes applied to times which are no longer accessible to us. 

Jameson lengthily discusses the brilliant "Ragtime" by E.L.Doctorow as a postmodern novel and notes George Lucas's "American Graffiti" as a movie which attempts to capture a lost reality in the history of the untied-states. 
Pastiche, then, is the only mode of cultural production allowed by postmodernism according to Jameson.

Fredric Jameson - Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism - summary 
part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - Review

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