Monday, March 21, 2011

Video Postmodernism vs. Written Postmodernism

Since so much of the writing (both source and survey) on post-modernism is written by practitioners of that dubious art... and since most of it, whether original source documents or second hand analysis of source documents, is borderline unintelligible... I have taken to looking for videos lectures on the topic.

I started doing this by accident, when I ran across a youtube link on postmodernism while searching for some postmodern text. I was initially reluctant to watch video lectures, as I don't really want to look at a talking head. If I am going to be confused by post modernists, I'd prefer not to see their faces. But a funny thing happened when I finally did watch a video... it started to make sense.

I was surprised how intelligible people became when they speak their ideas out loud, rather than writing them down. It seems that when proponents of postmodernism sit down to write, they engage in obscure writing styles. I can only assume that this is the culture of postmodernism. The writing style echos the thinking style... which is decentralized, non-hierarchical, non-committal, vague, etc. But when they speak, they are forced (by the nature of speech, I suppose) to be more to the point. This results in something actually being said that can be understood.... which is a minor miracle for some of these people.

This is not to say that a good postmodernist can't deliver a 10 minute stream of run on sentences that don't seem to make any sense. I've listened to a few of those already. However, I think it really does come down to the difference between writing and speaking. Writing is a private activity that doesn't occur in real time, and doesn't have an audience staring back. Therefore, writers can craft obscurity, and often do. I don't think that postmodern writers even consider writing to involve communication. It seems to be more of an expressive, experimental form of literature in which they weave a fabric of suggestive ideas, none of which they seem particularly committed to... though they consider the tapestry as a whole to have an intuitive meaning.

But speaking is a public activity, done in real time, with an audience looking back. These conditions may not be the best for the aforementioned expressing, or even lengthy theorizing, but they are very good for summarizing and communicating.

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