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Week 12. Paradigm shift? Postmodernism. Hollywood’s Recovery, Desperately Seeking Meta Theory and the Deconstructed Image: Scott, Stone, Lynch, Borden, Seidelman.

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Week 12

Paradigm shift? Postmodernism

Hollywood’s Recovery, Desperately Seeking Meta Theory and the Deconstructed Image: Scott, Stone, Lynch, Borden, Seidelman.

Readings: Thompson & Bordwell, Part Six Chapter 27 American Cinema and the Entertainment Economy: The 1980’s and after. pp 680-703


Screening: Eraserhead (1976) David Lynch; Taxi Driver(1976) Martin Scorsese;or Bladerunner(1982) Ridley Scott; The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1986) Denys Arcand.

Lecture Plan

1) Introduction:

2) Who is afraid of postmodernism?

3) An impressionistic Overview: Modernist/Postmodernist and Modernism/ Postmodernism distinctions and privileged terms.

4) Focus: A Reading of Scott’s Bladerunner (1982).

5) Conclusion.


Pomo Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner (1982)


Sources:Ihab Hassan, Matei Calinescu, Madun Sarap, J-F Lyotard, Fred Jameson, Jean Baudrillard, Hal Foster, Christopher Norris, Terry Eagleton, Andrew Parkin, Bruce Barber, et. al.

Select Bibliography: (handout).


The 1980’sushered in what some writers (among them J-F Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard and Fred Jameson have referred to as a paradigm shift, temperature change - a move from the modern to the postmodern era; “an epistemological tear along the fabric of modernity” (Friedberg, Anne. 1995:60).

'Postism' a problem?

Several theorists: Jurgen Habermas, Christopher Norris, Alex Callinicos, doubt the existence of post(-)modernism, either with, or without, the hyphen.

And then there is Bruno Latour’s:

“We have never been modern” (1992).

Computer manipulated image for a book cover of Will Self's Great Apes


Pomo-ism (post-modernism with or without the hyphen) wasinstituted at different times for various disciplines: history 1950’s ; architecture, 1972; Sociology, 1960’s; literature mid 1960’s; visual arts, 1980’s, and film 1980’s.


The historian Arnold Toynbee introduced the epithet/term post-modern in the early 1950's arguing that modernism ended with the C19th or even earlier and postmodernism began in the C20th.


David Riesman's The Lonely Crowd;


  • The 1960's -but possibly in the 1930's with Federic de Onis’use of the term postmodernismo; and writers Corvalan, Harry Levin, Irving Howe (1967), “Mass society and postmodern fiction” Partisan Review .Other authors: Leslie Fiedler, George Steiner.

Irving Howe (1967), “Mass society and postmodern fiction”


1972: a precise date!! The destruction of themodernist (form follows function) Pruitt Igoe Estate (described as a ghetto) in Philadelphia on July 15th, 1972 at 3.30pm

Visual Arts (1980’s)

Publications by October magazine writers Craig Owens, Douglas Crimp,Hal Foster

and many others.


According to Madan Sarup, 1989Postmodernism’ exhibits four principal critiques:

1)Critique of the subject

The Cartesian cogito knowable, conscious reasoning self is questioned. Structuralism (Claude Levi Strauss) called the human subject -the centre of being - and "the spoilt brat of philosophy." Some post-structuralists wished to `dissolve' the subject' thus implicitly privileging structure at the expense of the subject. For others, subject hood and identity is everything!

2) Critique of historicism

That there is no overall pattern or evolution to history (e.g. historical materialism); that is no single vector to history but historiesherstories (pl); and possibly, no history!

3)Critique of meaning

Semiotic theory leading toward the analysis/interpretation of meta-textuality/ sliding signifieds. For example Derrida's system of floating signifiers and Umberto Eco's “Open Text”.

4)Critique of philosophy

Structuralism recognizes meaning within or behind texts (immanent meaning) which has to be closed, while post-structuralism stresses the interaction of the reader and text as the basis for the production of meaning.

General distinctions (and privileged terms)

Modernity / Postmodernity


Modernism/ Postmodernism.



Nuclear Threat Environmental Threat

Industrialism Post-Industrialism

Resource Economy Information Economy

Fordism Post-Fordism

Corporate Capitalism Multi-National capitalism

Mass production Micro-marketing

Class Struggle No historically privileged

revolutionary subject

History/Social Movements


World RevolutionLocal resistances

History single vectorHistories (plural)


Class politicsIdentity politics

Hetero-culturalismMulti- culturalism; pluralism


T.S. Eliot TheWasteland T. Pynchon Entropy

Author Authority Reader authority


Innovation dissociationNew languages/ genre mixing,

World as text New concepts of textual(dis-) order

Universal truth claimsRelativism



Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1926)Bladerunner (Scott, 1982)

Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960)Pulp Fiction (Tarantino 1995)

Peyton Place TV seriesTwin Peaks (Lynch, 1990)

Dracula (Browning, 1931) Scream (1996)

Star Trek.S.T. The Next Generation

The Ed Sullivan ShowMTV

The Flintstones TheSimpsons; Beavis and Butthead

Cinema Television 2

SpectacularUltra spectacular

Televising eventsTelevision is event

Documentary Fiction

Distinct genres Different sound bites

Hollywood Hegemony- National Cinemas Masculine/feminineAndrogyny, hybridity

[trans/cross gendered]

who said gender?

\Architecture and City

Paris/London, New York Las Vegas Los Angeles,

Form follows function/ Complexity and

Modernist Architecture contradiction

Urbanism: human supremacy nature in doubt

Nature destroyed late conservation

City as cosmos Sci-Fi McLuhan's Global village

Futurist city Interplanetary colonization

Technologism: City Machine

Fragmentation anarchy

Worker management workless society


Extreme technical

labour differentiationAndroids, Robots,

Decadism Millennialism

Food chain problems Health food & organic alternatives

Flux and decay Body/city Urban renewal

Panoptical PrisonsPrison riots, urban crime

Visual Arts

Fragmentation ( Picasso)Allegorized images (Salle)

Organicist sculpture (Moore)Orlan (Body as sculpture)

Art from Earth (Mod sculptors) Earthworks:Robert Morris

Runaway technologyNew tech materials valorized

Progress in Tech inventionHypertech valorization

Change old tech &LuddismArts reaction against tech

New technology technophiliaNew Tech Luddism

Content (immanent meaning)Context (interpreted meaning)

Reduction,abstraction Copy

finite object, originality Simulacrum representation



Order/disorderDisordered order

Genre Multi-genre/no genre

Quotation Irony parody


Visual Arts 2

Visual Arts 3

  • Entropy Neg/entropy

    Single vector art history Cultural histories (plural)

    Art history (connoisseurship) Cultural Studies/Visual culture

    Artist as hero Collaboration between artists

    Alienated genius figure artist as entrepreneur

    Suitable case for treatment Analyst/psychic

RealityVirtual Reality



Temporal spatial finitudeTemporal-spatial infinitude

RelativityBlack holes/Worm holes

Empiricism triumphantEmpiricism questioned

The body inviolateGenetic engineering cloning

Analogue Digital


Science & Technology 2

Seven types of ambiguityMultiplicity of ambiguities


TheoryImpossibility of theory


Biologically naturaltechno-bio replicants


Fascism/apathyAnarchy/Fascismcrypto-fascism apathy

Quest for Democracy Democracy(?)


Bladerunner (1982): Directed by Ridley Scott

  • Produced by Michael Deeley

  • Written by Screenplay:

  • Hampton Fancher

  • David Peoples

  • Novel:

  • Philip K. Dick

  • Title:

  • William S. Burroughs

  • Alan E. Nourse


  • Harrison Ford

  • Rutger Hauer

  • Sean Young

  • Edward James Olmos

  • M. Emmet Walsh

  • Daryl Hannah

  • Music by Vangelis

The quintessential pomo film?

  • Based on Philip K Dick’s novel “Do Androids dream of electric Sheep?”

  • A futuristic neo film noir

Baudrillard’s “simulacrum theory”

The film’s narrative reveals a dystopian Los Angeles in November 2019 where Replicants genetically engineered beings visually indistinguishable from adult humans—produced by the all-powerful Tyrell Corporation -- “from off world” are being hunted down [retired] by “blade runner” Richard Dekhard.

Deckard is given the task of tracking down Leon and three other replicants—Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) and Pris (Daryl Hannah)—These replicants—Tyrell Corporation Nexus-6 models—have a four-year lifespan as a failsafe to prevent them from developing emotions and desire.

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