Giorgio de Chirico, Il continente misterioso

Fredric Jameson: What is Postmodernism?

Instructor: Isi Litke
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

“The postmodern,” writes Marxist literary and cultural theorist Fredric Jameson, “is the force field in which very different kinds of cultural impulses . . . must make their way.” Adapted from a New Left Review essay of the same name, Jameson’s Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism is an ambitious account of how the postmodern has replaced modernism as the “cultural dominant” of late capitalism. In conversation with figures ranging from György Lukács to George Lucas, Frank Gehry to Paul DeMan, Theodor Adorno to Philip K. Dick, Jameson invites us to consider the cultural symptoms of this transformation: the proliferation of pastiche, the eroded distinction between high culture and low, a visual culture characterized by depthlessness, a pervasive cultural nostalgia and lost sense of historicity. At stake in his diagnosis is a question that still confronts us, perhaps with greater urgency, today: What forms of radical cultural politics, if any, remain open to us when, in the words of one of Jameson’s interlocutors, “capitalism has colonized the dreaming life of the population”?

In this course, we will engage in a close reading of Postmodernism, paired with excerpts from Jameson’s other major writings; theorists with whom Jameson engages, including Marx, Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Manfredo Tafuri, and Jean-François Lyotard; and his more recent interlocutors, such as Sianne Ngai and Mark Fisher. To what extent is Jameson’s account of the constitutive features of postmodernity supported or challenged by our own late capitalist present? What accounts for the enduring appeal of Jameson’s work to contemporary theorists of capitalism’s affective dimensions? More generally, what is at stake in our ability to think historically—to locate ourselves between past and future? What does, and what should, aesthetic experience and cultural criticism do for us?

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
March 06 — March 27, 2023
4 weeks


Registration Open