When you say that postmodernism was killed by the popular media engine, do you mean that it was absorbed into mainstream culture ?
What happened is that there was this palette of writerly effects, artistic effects that were employed by writers and artists which, by employing them, would maybe deconstruct some of the normalcy that came with mainstream culture. Of course it took no time at all before mainstream culture looked at these practices and devices and put them to its own use so that it kind of neutralized their potential effect.
Could you give us an example?
In music, it happened with Sub Pop. In film you can look at the radical works of someone like Stan Brakhage who did scratch films in the sixties. You look at what he did and then you see that those are now inserted arbitrarily into any type of MTV music video. And with writing, the sort of self-reflexive metafictions of the sixties and seventies that were at that time considered pretty radical, yet part of a long tradition that goes back to Cervantes and Sterne.
Look at a TV show like Seinfeld, the writing there, the whole show is about itself, it’s about nothing and it’s about itself. It’s probably more like Beckett than any novel that can be written nowadays because it’s already been done, nobody can write a novel like Beckett anymore, not even Beckett, nobody would try to, because it would be ridiculous, and yet you can see its effect. I’m not saying that the writers of Seinfeld were noticeably influenced by reading Beckett, I’m just saying that the influence of that kind of writing is so absorbed into the culture that we don’t even recognize its effects.
First posted: Monday, April 26th, 2010.