The Postmodern Story

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  • 1 Nene College, University of Northampton peter.brooker@nottingham.ac.uk
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‘And how should I begin?’ Naturally, or post-naturally enough, at the end. We have been hearing for some time recently of the end of things and this paradoxically, is where we must start. Book titles have warned us of the End of the Nation and Nation State, the End of Print, the End of Architecture, The End of Work, the End of Man, the End of Economic Man, the End of Time, the End of the Future, the End of History and yes, the End of the World. It doesn’t take a salaried cultural critic to see here the symptom of an encroaching mood, the expression on the part of marooned journalists and intellectuals of what Raymond Williams termed a ‘structure of feeling’. It expresses not so much conviction – though these scenarios of the end could not in one way be more final – as the waning of common beliefs and values. Hence the appearance world-wide of millennial sects, outcrops of New Age mysticism, the thrill of out of body experiences and the paranormal; even if, thanks to postmodernism, these tend to be more normal than para, and to come at you via the X Files or the Virgin multiplex than anywhere more distant. New media combine oddly with the new mysticism, advanced technologies with advancing teleologies. This is the way then that we are seeing in the fin de siècle, the beckoning end of century when Bakhtinian carnival will at last take to the streets, fleeing its confinement in works of cultural theory, and we shall all go belly up and dance our heads off. Or when half the world will fall into poverty, disease, and starvation and the other half wear itself out in vainglorious in-fighting, leaving a sybaritic residue to enter upon a computer-aided decadence of virtual existence. Or when we shall go up in smoke in a bang and whimper all at once.

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