Monday, 24 October 2011

Postmodernism: Reasearch Post

I have been attempting to get a better understanding of Jean-François Lyotard’s ideas on meta-narratives. More specifically I want to explore the idea of The American Dream as a meta-narrative. I then want to show how the American dream, it the 1930s to the 1950s, was represented by comic book heroes.
I have discovered an interesting essay by Jonathan Erdman who is looking for a meta-narrative in the bible. He gives a digestible explanation of metanarrative in his introduction that uses the American Dream as an example.
We might say that a metanarrative is a grand narrative that has explanatory power. It is a reference point into which one fits their own story. We see this at work in the contemporary situation as the United States and other western nations seek to spread freedom, democracy, and capitalism worldwide. We are working under the assumption that these things have a universal explanatory scope that can bring prosperity and meaning to other countries; that if these other countries would only use the American story as their own metanarrative then they, too, can find life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This paragraph (below) also jumped out at me; Erdman is explaining Lyotard’s theory on narrative culture.
He describes a "narrative" culture - a culture deriving its meaning from stories. Lyotard discusses “popular stories” where the “successes or failures” of the hero “either bestow legitimacy upon social institutions (the function of myths), or represent positive or negative models (the successful or unsuccessful hero) of integration into established institutions (legends and tales). Thus the narratives allow the society in which they are told, on the one hand, to define its criteria of competence and, on the other, to evaluate according to those criteria what is performed or can be performed within it." (20)
Jonathan Erdman, Thursday November 08 2007, the Theos Project, Available at:

Alan Moore Documetary
This documentary is a massively in depth interview with the writer of Watchmen Alan Moore. From 0:18:26 to 0:22:35 he talks about the central idea of Watchmen, it seems to chime well with postmodernist theories.

I have made some notes of various relevent points raised by Moore in this documentary.
Watchmen used the clichés of the superhero format to try and discuss notions of power and responsibility, in an increasingly complex world.
We treated these fairly ridiculous super human characters as more human than super. We were using them as symbols of different kinds of ordinary human beings rather than super beings.  
There were quite a few things about Watchmen that chimed well with the times. To me perhaps the most important was the story telling. The world that was presented didn’t really hang together in terms of liner cause and effect. It was instead seen as a massively complex, simultaneous event with connections made of coincidence and synchronicity. I think that it was this world view if anything that resonated with an audience that had realized that there previous view of the world was not adequate for the complexities of this scary an shadowy new world that we were entering into.
I think what Watchmen offered us, if it offered anything, was a new way of perceiving the environment around us plus the interactions and relationships of the people within it.
The Mindscape of Alan Moore, Dez Vylenz, Shadowsnake Films, 2005

Philosophy Now Article
General Introduction to Postmodernism
Postmodern Theory or "Postmodernism":
I will attempt to be consistent in using "postmodernism" to refer to a group of critics who, inspired often by the postmodern culture in which they live, attempt to rethink a number of concepts held dear by Enlightenment humanism and many modernists, including subjectivity, temporality, referentiality, progress, empiricism, and the rule of law.

Jean-François Lyotard: Introduction to The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge

 Incredulity towards metanarrativ

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