Wednesday, March 14, 2012

String of Consciousness Part Four: Postmodernism

So here is the thing. The use of alchemy in literature is a pre modern one. Shakespeare uses it Chaucer uses it, in fact it is almost a medieval technique. And they were using it to combat nominalism. Which divided an object from it's nature, or that names and ideas do not have any correspondence in reality. Alchemy is as John Granger puts it when he quotes Burckhardt's summary of Alchemy as “to make of the body a spirit and of the spirit a body.” this seems a perfectly good reaction to the nominalism which seeks to dived what we could call Platonic forms from a physical reality. And I can see how nominalism grew into Postmodernism considering that Deconstructionism is one of the most important parts of the forming of postmodernism. (quick note I have read very little of Derrida). So here is my question, are these current popular authors criticizing Postmodernism, or advocating it? As I listened to the conversation between Prinzi and Granger I was unsure if they themselves were advocates of postmodernism or not.

Now if the anti-nominalists used the Alchemical form of story telling to criticizes the nominalists does Rowling, Meyer, and Collins use it to criticizes Postmodernism? Those of course are the authors that Prinzi and Granger were discussing who uses literary alchemy. I think that they are saying that these authors are using the world view of postmodernism -at least the idea that those who are an the fringes of society are the real heroes- to give critic the world view. Now at this point I must admit that I haven't read Twilight or the Hunger Games. I tried to read Twilight but was pretty much not interested then as I read the cliff notes because everyone was reading it I pretty much joined the twilight is bad literature camp. I may read the Hunger Games some time in the near-ish future.

Modernism said that science tells us everything we need to know. Postmodernism tells us that the only thing we can know is what is scientifically verifiable, and anything else should be held in suspect because we can not know anything else. Postmodernism goes farther to say that everything we think we know is a meta narrative and all meta narratives are wrong. To the point were Granger pointed out that the only value in postmodernism is Tolerance. The worst thing someone can be called is one of the many ists in the world. (racist, Sexist, classist) to the point that as long as a mass murderer isn't prejudice then he is alright.

And yet as Prinzi points out in the conversation humanity still wants something that is true, good, and beautiful. And that is at least what Harry Potter does. The protagonists are those that society has over looked, the werewolf, the escaped prisoner, the Mudbloods, the Squibs, the house elves, the Centaurs. There is something subversive in the books against what the meta narrative of the Death Eaters and the Ministry of Magic.

However in all this mess they lost me. I think their final point on this was that Rowling and Meyer (at the time of this conversation the last book of the Hunger Games wasn't out yet) use the world view of the post modern to show that there is truth, good, and beauty in the world that is joined with reality and not separated from it. Or at least that is why these authors use alchemy. Which makes sense, I'm just not sure the logic of how this conversation went from a to b. Plus I've wondered at the concept of Harry potter as a postmodern fairy tale.

Like I said I really consider myself a medievalist in a lot of ways mostly because I see that as nominalism, modernism, postmodernism moved form one to the other they continued to move away from the understanding that we are both body and spirit. It reminds me of several things C.S. Lewis talks about in his book the Screwtape Letters. He tells wormwood to remember that his patient is both body and spirit, but he must keep the material always in the mind of the patient. Not to let him think about how the material effects his spirit. And to always keep real life or what is best to call real life before the patient's eyes. Oh and of course to keep him form questioning what real life is. I can see that this is what alchemy tries to defend against. Seeing our selves as purely material or purely spiritual (which would be the other extreme but not the extreme which is currently prevailing in culture)

however to wrap this back around to Harry Potter, Twilight, the Hunger Games I am a bit at a loss. Harry Potter in the Deathly Hollows is most definitely affirming non material truths. That we are indeed more then just material. Hunger Games talks much about the formation of Katniss's soul and her questioning of what it means for her to have a soul. If the Twilight series does this as well I guess I would need some one to show me how it does.

I don't know if this section of my consciousness makes any sense. But then that might be the fact that it is revolving around postmodernism which at it's heart doesn't want to be understood.  I hope my rambling sounds like something coherent. 

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