Response to Frederic Jameson’s Lecture (Franklin Perry Martin)

Response to Frederic Jameson’s Lecture:

Frederic Jameson is a contemporary literary critic and a theorist who follows the Marxist political ideology.  He is a professor at Duke University teaching in The Program of Literature and Romance.  He is most famous for his study and analysis of new world cultural trends, and is credited with the theory that Postmodernism is “the spatialization of culture under the pressure of organized Capitalism (Wikipedia).”

Upon entering this lecture, I was unsure of what to expect, as I had no prior knowledge of Mr. Jameson’s profession or mode of thought.  With him being a scholar and intellectual dedicated to the exploration of contemporary political ideologies, I had not had much exposure to the information he planned on discussing with us.  I was surprised both by the amount of information that I understood and also by the considerable portion that went over my head.  He tended to use a lot of terminology associated with his profession and not designed for novice interpretation.  Aside from the fact that I was forced to wade through a large volume of information in a short amount of time, I enjoyed listening to him speak and I appreciate the intricacy of his thought processes.

He began his lecture by speaking about the idea of Postmodernism vs. Postmodernity.  He explained that Postmodernity is the historical and empirical side of the equation, while Postmodernism represents the aesthetics of this idea without the philosophical attributes.  He continued this definition by extrapolating that Postmodernism then becomes a symptom of Postmodernity as a whole, and that art serves as a symptom and/or mode of expression within this sphere.  This interests me because it establishes art as a result of cultural pressure and societal evolution.  This makes sense, given that the manifestation of culture in society is inextricably tied to the current or influential political systems, and that this communication between the individual and the social machine the produces artistic invention, in some cases.

Jameson then moved onto the aesthetics of Singularity and the idea that intrinsic to this is the problem of temporality.  The interplay of the present with the past and future creates a tripartite reality that in turn destroys the permanence of a single notion.  Insofar as he makes this claim, he also adds that the necessary ‘author’ of an original piece is now less realistic, and the creator becomes more of a conduit for the expression of culture at that moment in time.  The expand this, in terms of the visual arts, and within that the existence of installation art, the viewer can witness a ‘disintegration of the older classical artistic system,” which is replaced by an impermanent and dynamic ‘event’ that exists for the ‘now.’

In terms of consumption, according to Jameson, we now consume the medium of presentation itself as well as the content.  The “collection’s logic lies in the interactivity of its pieces,” and uniqueness of creation is no longer as paramount to the process, as the material is already present and through art becomes visible through another frame of mind.  I am a little confused by this point, however at the same time it makes sense in terms of Marshall McLuhan and his paper The Medium is the Message.  Provided with the idea that the medium has advanced to become not only a noticeable facet of creation but one that influences the information presented, these notions of Jameson seem valid.

As far as the presentation of installation art, Jameson adds that the role of the Curator is now changing.  Given that installations can exist in the absence of human upkeep after creation, the omnipresence of the institution (or museum) now provides groundwork for an autonomous system that “transcends the dimensions of the individual.”  Due to this, Jameson hypothesizes that the older styles of artistic and cultural consumption have changed.    He accentuates that the consumption of an idea can have the same result as consuming a book written about that idea, and in that mindset the style of consuming an idea has changed.  Because of this, relative to artwork, if the audience consumes the idea of the work over the work as a whole, the piece itself becomes a mixture of cultural aesthetic and universality.

Jameson the presented his theories on the new styles of cultural mixing, something he termed ‘Postmodern cuisine.’  He explained that mixing occurs now in the form of ‘molecular cooking,’ meaning we witness many more ‘courses’ with strange relations to one another, and therefore a diminished sense of realism.  He claims that we now consume the idea of the ‘taste of asparagus,’ for instance, over consuming the asparagus itself.  He says that because of this we ‘consume a conjuncture of elements in a unique event,’ and ‘even though they still remain under the universal names for food’ the experience has evolved.

I do agree with this, yet at the same time I appreciate the process of cultural mixing more than Jameson appears to.  It seems as though the idea of mixing and changing the original essences of singular items pulls Jameson further away from notions of realism, given that mixing convolutes in some cases.  I on the other hand, think that mixing represents a more realistic presentation of any given item or phenomenon, as the progression of culture is a natural and unavoidable process.  Since this mixing is inevitable, and past events can be defined as aggregates that culminate in a new end at any given moment, I feel that cultural mixing is in fact the most realistic presentation of material humans have to offer.

Regardless of my disagreement with Jameson’s perspective, I appreciated the opportunity to view his lecture, as I would not have been presented with his ideas or the eventual conclusions I drew because of this experience otherwise.  The ideas behind cultural mixing and the evolution of human existence excite me precisely because they are so intricate and potentially inexplicable.  By viewing the end result as a whole, rather than attempting to pick apart and define every moving piece, I believe we can appreciate how intricacy can result in a presentation simple enough to invite human dissection.   Now I just have to manage to get Jameson to sit down with me and discuss my ideas.




“Fredric Jameson.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Apr. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <;.

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