Self Evaluation

October 16, 2007

I feel kind of the same way writing this evaluation as I did when writing the evaluation for theory.  In the course so far, the things I get, I get and can apply.  The things I don’t get, good luck.  One of the things that will always get me about postmodernism is that there is no set and accepted definition, as any introductory reading on postmodernism will be sure to tell you.  There are times in the reading when it feels like I’m trying to pin the tail on a donkey that has no back side. 

There are, however, some on going themes that I am noticing in the works.  One is the idea of going against the established norm and what is readily accepted by society.  An example of this is in Written on the Body; as I wrote in my blog post, (eloquently titled, “Written on the Body”): “Postmodernism is a moving away from old standards and rigid structures, and it seems that this guy is moving away from what we would consider the norm when it comes to love and relationships.”  The narrator from the text, who I have since realized could be either male orfemale, begins the story firmly against the preconceived notions of love and relationships.  Throughout the text, the narrator debunks the institution of marriage and dismisses the phrase “I love you”.  But as the book progresses, the narrator falls into the cliches of love with their relationship to Louise.  So even the most ardent against the establishments of love isn’t immune to  falling into the stereotypes.

The theme of going  against the grain is also in Fight Club.  In both film and text versions, Tyler’s mission is to disrupt the natural order of things and to start a new order.  In the film, he plans to erase everyone’s credit debt making all people equal; and in the novel,  he plans to disrupt the social class order as well as eliminate evidence of the oppressive past, done by destroying the museum.  As I wrote in my award winning blog “Fight Club 6-19”, “The repeated mantra in the text about how the best and strongest of the generation are serving food and pumping gas, shows Tyler’s belief that society is built upon the backs of the working class and they should no longer be taken advantage of.”  In the text, the antics of Project Mayhem were meant to be attacks on the upper class; altering the movies, tampering with the food, vandalizing corporate symbols, and the soap.  It is interesting that while Tyler succeeds in the film of destroying his primary target, he is unsuccessful in the novel.  In both texts, Fight Club and Written on the Body, the characters do not succeed in their attempts to get as far away from established norms as they can.  I don’t know what, if anything, that says about postmodernism as a whole.

Another reoccurring theme I continue to find is how most things we read have a relationship to Baudrillard.  I almost feel like it’s my job to find connections to Baudrillard in everything we do, as I wrote in my blog on Cindy Sherman, “it almost seems like it’s my job to find the connections to Baudrillard in everything we do.”  Pithy.  For example, Baudrillard’s idea of society needing a visible past is shown in Fight Club (book), in Tyler wanting to destroy the museum, the place where we keep all our mummies.  Tyler wants to get rid of our visual representation of the past so that we are finally able to move forward.  Most recently, there is a connection to Baudrillard in the works of Cindy Sherman and Nikki Lee.  As I wrote in my blog on Sherman, “she had “nothing more to say,” and it seemed like in painting she was simply “copying other art.”  And in speaking of photography, Sherman said, “I appreciate the idea that the images can be reproduced and seen anytime, anywhere, by anyone.”  It is the same with Nikki Lee, her photographs are based on assumed stereotypes of how we think certain groups should act and look like.  These two are simply contributing to the simulacra.

As far as choosing my 2 best blog posts, I guess my post on Jameson was pretty good.  In this post I was able to tie several different things together from the Jameson reading.  I was able to bring in Fight Club, Baudrillard, and what we had discussed in class earlier that day.  I think the class discussion on Titanic helped me to grasp what Jameson was saying about history being represented in fiction; “And on page 25, “The historical novel can no longer set out to represent the historical past; it can only ‘represent’ our ideas and stereotypes about the past.”  We don’t know what happened on that boat, all we know for sure is that it went down.  We have an idea of how people dressed in that era and how they talked.  We put all of our preconceived notions of that time period together, put them on a boat, add a Celine Deion song, and there is Titanic.”  I think what made this post was that I was able to bring in several sources to aid in my understanding on this particular text.

I consider the blog I wrote on masculinity in Fight Club also to be one of my better posts.  In it, I was able to pick one particular topic and trace it throughout an entire text.  I felt that this post was focused and using the examples I was able to make a pretty strong point, ” The novel gives no set definition for masculinity.  What it does present is a notion that masculinity/manliness is its own underground society, bordering on cult-like status.  And men must seek out these underground groups, such as the cancer support group and fight club, and join in an attempt to be around other men and discover what it is to be a man.”

One of my better comments was on Marina’s post on the film Fight Club.  In her post, Marina presents an idea that I had not previously considered, ” like your comment that maybe it was Marla, who helped with the creation of Tyler. The narrator’s life has no freedom and none of the characteristics which Tyler and Marla posses. And while the narrator had the notions of what he wanted his life to be like, it wasn’t until he met Marla that he was able to externalize those thoughts and feelings, and this maybe is what helped him to create Tyler.”  In this comment, I was able to expand upon an idea that was new to me, and I was also able to elaborate off of other points she had made in the post. 

Sticking to Fight Club, I was fond of my comment on one of Esther’s post on the novel.  In the post, Esther writes on Tyler’s contradiction of himself in terms of being a legend and the notion of perfection.  In my comment, I was able to continue with her original ideas, she also picked up on the notion of masculinity in the text, something I also commented on, “As you wrote, this speaks to the idea of manliness and a man feeling that he isn’t enough of a man to attract a woman, so he acts the part of what he considers to be a man in order to win her affections” 

A post which I found to be very well written was Christine’s on the film version of Fight Club.  In it, Christine picks out several different vantage points from which to view the film.  There is masculinity, capitalism, and how parts of the film can be related to what we had discussed so far on what it means to be post modern.  To me, this seems like a complete post, and one to model future posts after. 

I feel that to improve my own posts, I could use Christine’s as a model.  I feel that sometimes I get tunnel vision and focus merely on the text at hand.  I should be attempting to bring in as many other texts as I can in relation to the current text, in the past this has greatly enhanced my understanding of certain topics.  I also find that sometimes I get discouraged when I am unable to completely understand a text, I think I would benefit more from not feeling the need to understand everything, but try to understand certain parts as much as I can.

So that’s how postmodernism is going for me so far, I can’t wait for the exciting conclusion.

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2 Responses to “Self Evaluation”

  1. kmiddleton said

    As always, Ryan, your characteristic blend of irony and self-mockery has me in stitches as I read your evaluation. This is that fuzzy element of writing that we call “voice” and it makes your posts entertaining, over and above their content. Keep at it!

    I’ll return to some ideas about your blogging later, but first I want to follow up on your ideas about postmodernism, with an eye toward possible paper topics. First off, you note a particular commonality in some postmodern texts: the desire to break away from (or even destroy) societal conventions, but the inevitable slip back into them. Later, you ask the question “the characters do not succeed in their attempts to get as far away from established norms as they can. I don’t know what, if anything, that says about postmodernism as a whole.” Interesting!! There’s a line of questioning here that you could certainly follow out: in a specific text or two, what are the mechanisms that a character (or author) uses to escape convention, and what prevents him/her from doing so? What can that tell us about the project of postmodernism as a whole?

    The second thing is, of course, your attention to Baudrillard. He’s one of the big dudes in postmodern theory, although we haven’t looked at him specifically. You could definitely return to Simulacra and Simulation and see what his theory will do when applied to a particular text. What’s at stake in B’s theory? What effects does he predict for a society based on simulacra? Are these reflected in the novel/film/photograph, or does it work differently than he imagined it would?

    Finally, there’s a third option: don’t ignore your interest in popular culture. It’s no mistake that it’s often the thing you go to to make sense of some of this theory. Pop culture has a privileged place in PM. If there is a particular film, television show, etc. that seems interesting from a postmodern perspective, there’s certainly room to do that as well.

    Up next: thoughts on blogging!

  2. kmiddleton said

    Part 2: blog-o-rama. So, it seems as if you’ve isolated a couple of different things to try in your remaining posts. There’s the idea of doing what you’ve already done at your best: using the post to tie together different ideas (like you did with Jameson); follow a single idea through (like you did with Fight Club). Then there’s using Christine’s model (commenting on different vantage points). All are good strategies, and get you to different goals—either an in-depth assessment of a single theme in a text or a comprehensive look at the whole. In any of these approaches, I’d make one more suggestion, and it’s one that you mention that you’re doing in your commenting: taking an idea and expanding on it. You’re also doing something more in that case–you’re using new information to explore an idea and to think about what the implications of that idea are (like in your comment to Esther, where you are thinking both about what it means for the character in particular, but also for masculinity in general).

    Making that kind of move in your blog posts, whether you’re tracing a single idea or several, will push you to articulate the connections between the text and postmodernism and its themes. In the end, I’m hoping that will give you your own definition of PM, which is far and away better than the jumble of the ones that we’ve been reading.

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