Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Postmodernism Skewered

Originally posted on July 28, 2016

Bill Watterson, who wrote and illustrated the cartoon strip Calvin & Hobbs, noted that language itself can be obscure, and those who write about postmodernism are really good at being bad in this way. For example:

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Actually, I rather welcome many of the principles of postmodernism, but those who write in this genre often appeal to those who are familiar with the jargon which obscures the arguments. Calving is a psychopathic brilliant kid, an alter ego to his creator. I love his work on the whole, but this piece gives me a chance to laugh and question.

In fact, Dick and Jane really carry the 1940s gender modes, which in 40 plus years would come in to question: Must girls always be like Jane and boys like Dick? No way! It notes that the “old fashioned” values of the “olden days” had a shine of being “the good old”—but women were really kept in “their place”—which, as sexist people believe, was where all right-thinking women wanted to be.

2 Responses to “Postmodernism Skewered”

  • David Blatner says:

    Some people believe academic writing (and especially in the world of postmodern thought) is so complicated to understand because academics are trying to be impressive or insular. But I wonder if there’s another, more subtle reason, too: The stuff they’re talking about is actually difficult to understand using language.

    The problem, of course, is that postmodernists understand that every word means not just that word but many other things, too, based on your perspective — the old joke of “it depends on what your definition of is is.” If everything is relative, then writing about anything becomes almost impossible, like an infinitely recursive loop. And yet we are still driven to write, to at least attempt to capture the ineffable.

  • Maximilian says:

    In my current academic endeavours (machine learning, situation research), researchers give their best to be as simple to understand as possible. I think there has been a shift towards writing with clarity and a style that relaxes the reader, just as university lectures here in Frankfurt are done with more interaction with the students, visualizations of the ideas and other things. Attempting to be especially smart by using complex words and sentences is not regarded as very nice in my time and place.


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