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This review is taken from PN Review 130, Volume 26 Number 2, November - December 1999.

DAMNING WITH GREAT PRAISE PERRY ANDERSON, The Origins of Postmodernity (Verso) £11.00
FREDRIC JAMESON, The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1988 (Verso) £11.00

Perry Anderson's The Origins of Postmodernity began as an introduction to The Cultural Turn, a selection of Fredric Jameson's essays. Any introduction by one writer to the work of another, however modest, cannot help but constitute an implicit challenge to the texts it supposedly prologues. This challenge is compounded when an introduction swells into a book but bears traces of its prefatory parturition. A threshold, to use Gérard Genette's metaphor for those 'paratexts' which ease and sometimes impede our passage into a work, has become a building in its own right, which may well detain us for some time or even deter us from entering the main edifice. In this case, it is an interesting building, as Anderson's always are, reared by a powerful compulsion to set things in order, and stylistically engaging; and its interest is increased because it marks a departure from his previous constructions in two main respects.

One is that, following Jameson himself and in accordance with a key principle of postmodernism, Anderson shows a greater openness to a variety of recent cultural forms than he has previously done, at least in print. For example, in a 1985 essay on Marshall Berman, collected in A Zone of Engagement (1992), Anderson had seemed to accept the notion of cultural decline, contending that it could not 'readily be maintained that the characteristic art which has succeeded classical modernism in the West is generally comparable to it in vitality or stature' (p. 51), and hinting at ...


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