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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

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week 12

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
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.

modernism postmodernism pomo ridley scott s bladerunner 1982

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
'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).


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.

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
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
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
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
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
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
General distinctions (and privileged terms)

Modernity / Postmodernity


Modernism/ Postmodernism.

[Modernism] [Postmodernism]

general economy

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
History/Social Movements

Nationalism Localism/globalism

World Revolution Local resistances

History single vector Histories (plural)

Homogeneity Heterogeneity/pluralism

Class politics Identity politics

Hetero-culturalism Multi- culturalism; pluralism

culture literature

T.S. Eliot TheWasteland T. Pynchon Entropy

Author Authority Reader authority

Experimentalism Recycling

Innovation dissociation New languages/ genre mixing,

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

Universal truth claims Relativism

Analysis Interpretation

film television

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

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

Peyton Place TV series Twin Peaks (Lynch, 1990)

Dracula (Browning, 1931) Scream (1996)

Star Trek.S.T. The Next Generation

The Ed Sullivan Show MTV

The Flintstones TheSimpsons; Beavis and Butthead

cinema television 2
Cinema Television 2

Spectacular Ultra spectacular

Televising events Television is event

Documentary Fiction

Distinct genres Different sound bites

Hollywood Hegemony- National Cinemas Masculine/feminine Androgyny, hybridity

[trans/cross gendered]

who said gender?

architecture and city
\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 differentiation Androids, Robots,

Decadism Millennialism

Food chain problems Health food & organic alternatives

Flux and decay Body/city Urban renewal

Panoptical Prisons Prison riots, urban crime

visual arts
Visual Arts

Fragmentation ( Picasso) Allegorized images (Salle)

Organicist sculpture (Moore) Orlan (Body as sculpture)

Art from Earth (Mod sculptors) Earthworks:Robert Morris

Runaway technology New tech materials valorized

Progress in Tech invention Hypertech valorization

Change old tech &Luddism Arts reaction against tech

New technology technophilia New Tech Luddism

Content (immanent meaning) Context (interpreted meaning)

visual arts 2
Reduction,abstraction Copy

finite object, originality Simulacrum representation

Metaphor Allegory

Reductivism Recidivism

Order/disorder Disordered order

Genre Multi-genre/no genre

Quotation Irony parody

Object Performance

Visual Arts 2
visual arts 3
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

Reality Virtual Reality

Logic Paralogic

Structure Deconstruction

Temporal spatial finitude Temporal-spatial infinitude

Relativity Black holes/Worm holes

Empiricism triumphant Empiricism questioned

The body inviolate Genetic engineering cloning

Analogue Digital

science technology 2
Science & Technology 2

Seven types of ambiguity Multiplicity of ambiguities

Structure Agency

Theory Impossibility of theory

Dehumanization Rehumanization

Biologically natural techno-bio replicants

Entropy Neg-entropy

Fascism/apathy Anarchy/Fascism crypto-fascism apathy

Quest for Democracy Democracy(?)

[] [ ]

bladerunner 1982 directed by ridley scott
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
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
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.