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This review is taken from PN Review 80, Volume 17 Number 6, July - August 1991.

GOODBYE TO DADA Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Verso) £24.95
Robert Hewison, Future Tense: A New Art for the Nineties (Methuen) £9.99 pb

Tzara was the Dada of them all - all the cultural, or rather anti-cultural, manifestations which were starting to be called postmodernist: that was the kind of argument that you heard in the nineteen sixties. Postmodernism, in other words, was little more than an enervated and entropic repetition of the wilder and less weighty impulses of a modernism whose classic achievements were those defaced but still noble monuments such as Ulysses and The Waste Land. This argument was, in effect, an assurance that the academy need not bother too much with postmodernism, which was merely the smaller and less vital variety of the modernist beast it had, at last, painfully tamed. Such an argument has become much more difficult to sustain in the last decade, not only because of the burgeoning bibliography on the topic, but also because of the changes in the world we inhabit - in architecture, in communications technology, in modes of personal and collective consumption - which mean that even 'traditional' cultural positions function in a different force-field and are thereby changed. The criticisms of postmodernism made from such positions - that it is, for example, frivolous, superficial, complicit, commercialized, ephemeral, ahistorical, indifferent (in both modern senses) - can all be, in a sense, preempted by postmodernism itself, which subverts or simply ignores the hierarchies which privilege, for instance, 'depth' over 'surface' and which may indeed proudly accept such charges as signs of merit as well as pointing to the ways which those who make ...


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