Philosophical Apprentice comments.
My TLS print edition, is always a week behind, the edition that is posted online. I read this review last night, before turning out the light, but this breathtaking paragraph I had to mark, because it was the fastest rhetorical ride of recent memory!
But are “we” still postmodern? Nearly thirty years ago, I did an English MA course on the subject. The authors we studied – Kurt Vonnegut, Angela Carter, John Barth, John Fowles, Italo Calvino – no longer feel like our contemporaries. In 2007 the critic of postmodern fiction, Brian McHale, asked, in an essay title, “What Was Postmodernism?” and the journal Twentieth Century Literature published a special issue, “After Postmodernism”. In The Postmodern Condition (1979; translated 1984), Jean- François Lyotard defined the postmodern era as one of “incredulity toward metanarratives” – in other words, as one disinclined to believe in overarching, totalizing explanations of how the world works. It would be difficult to argue that this applies today, in our age of entrenched positions and viciously polarized debates about everything from Brexit to Covid. If postmodernism was all hyper- reality and post-radical irony, the new millennium brought us back to earth with a bump, beginning with what Jeffries calls the “crushing literalism” of 9/11. The fallout from the financial crash of 2008, and a sharpened awareness of the resilience of patriarchal and racialized power, have energized critical thought. Cultural theory has again embraced real-world earnestness, in the form of neo-Marxism, fourth-wave feminism and critical race theory.
After reading Empson’s 7 Types of Ambiguity, I read Norris’s ‘William Empson and the Philosophy of Literary Criticism’ and Edward Baring’s enlightening The Young Derrida and French Philosophy, 1945-1968and just started to read Norris’ ‘Derrida’, one of two books, that John Sturrock had recommended, in The London Review of Books. About Derrida. The other being ‘The Tain of the Mirror : Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection’. My reading program can’t quite keep up with my unslakable intellectual ambition, and my continually evolving interests.
In the final paragraph, of his review, Joe Moran expresses my own dissatisfaction: the book, the author, and the reader deserved a review that more fully explored Jeffries’s arguments, about the status of ‘Post Modernism’ in the ‘post truth world’!
In keeping with Jeffries’s argument about the persistence of postmodernism, the book covers an impressive if slightly exhausting range of material from the past fifty years.