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Lesson Plans

Re: Teaching 'Culture'

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Tue, 25 Jun 1996 08:04:19 -0700 (MST)

Hi Russ,

On Sun, 23 Jun 1996, Russell J Rosener wrote:

>...ask [your]self how to approach a specific topic and organize a class
> around my response to culture and art. Ask yourself what you think is
> important about culture and art. You may surprise yourself. Just jot
> down ideas, they don't have to be chronological. Later you can draw
> connections and sort through what you've got.

excellent advice!

However, what do you mean by the term "post-modern dogma"?

> Most responses you've gotten so far have been good, but I would caution
> you to avoid ** post-modern dogma ** unless that is your agenda.

To which thread of postmodern thought do you refer? "Postmodernism" if it
is at all internally consistent, can have no monolithic structure or
authority (dogma); and so the phrase would seem to have something of the
oxymoron in it. All-in-all, from what I have read in the area,
postmodernism is only a mixed bag of new analytical tools and benchmarks
such as deconstruction or uncertainty.

When you bring up jargon I suspect you are talking about the parisian or
"franco-prussian" versions of postmodernism. While admittedly those guys
are the ones who made postmodernism a "household word" they do not have
the copyright. Jargon is generally a good thing to avoid especially in
introducing a subject. Most "postmodern" jargon if not all grows more
dated even as we "speak"; such is the fate of jargons and theories.

People still talk about postmodernism as if it were some new and singular
theory the one that followed "modernism". Modernism never was a theory, it
began as an attitude, and, like postmodernism set of intellectual tools
that I suspect began with Occam's razor. It is not uncommon to see
eulogies these days for postmodernism... The error lies in mistaking
some dysfunctional theoretical absolutism for the larger paradigm.

Without recognizing it we all become more and more "postmodern" daily.
Whenever we challenge some absolutist notion or point out the uncertainty
of things we are practicing the new paradigm (the one Suzanne K. Langer
was waiting for) whenever we fragment the larger universe in narrowing
our discussion to some specific context we reject the international or
universal models of the modernist era.

As you say the jargons of Foucault, Derrida, Lacan, Althusser et al..

> can be extremely confusing and irrelevant to those untutored in the
> jargon.

But that is not really postmodernism but rather contemporary theory
propounded by some of the engineers of the attitude. John Dewey and even
Ralph Waldo Emerson might also be pointed to as early postmodernists and
certainly their "jargon" is more accessible.

When you say:

> I would simply bring in media images for students to look at and
> de-construct on their own terms, rather than have them mediated by a
> big-time artist's viewpoint. The average person has a surprisingly
> good ability to "read" the images we are constantly bombarded with.

you, as well, voice the postmodern sentiment and structure. Deconstruction
is a tool built to demonstrate the weakness inherent in relying on
authorities (big-time artists) I alway laugh at the irony of a
self-professed "postmodernist" who trys to tell us how things are as-if
there were facts. And with that in mind I need to remind everyone that
the model of postmodernism I describe here is only a model and only one
point of view. I do not offer it to tell anyone what postmodernism IS but
to propose ONE viewpoint on the topic. Hopefully there are now hundreds of
understandings out there on PoMo, hopefully they contradict one another.
(at least from my point of view...)

(apologies for not participating much of late, I'm catching up on things
and ferrying my kids about over the summer)