Category Archive 'Postmodernism'

03 Aug 2020

Generate Your Own Academic Paper Title

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24 Jul 2020

Io Lo Credo

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03 Sep 2013

Japan, the Canary in the Coal Mine of Postmodernism

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Daniel Greenfield suggests that we look at contemporary Japan as a kind of mirror for the post-modern, totally decadent and deracinated West.

Depressed post-industrial economy, low birth rate, social disintegration and a society obsessed with pop culture and useless tech toys? A country that has embraced pacifism to the extent that it can hardly defend its own borders? A nation where materialism has strangled spirituality leaving no sense of purpose?

We are Japan. And so is Europe. Or rather Japan is the place we all reach eventually.

Japan is strange because it aggressively hurled itself into a postmodern void without knowing what was on the other side. It did this with the same dedication that its soldiers once marched into machine gun fire.

Japan had been in a race with the West, as it had been ever since Commodore Perry showed up with a fleet to open up a closed nation. It wasn’t unique in that regard. A lot of countries tried to do the same thing. Most found that they couldn’t keep up with either our technology or our decline. Japan shot past us in both areas. It beat us technologically. And then it outpaced our decline.

In the 80s, there were dire predictions that the future would belong to Japan. America would be broken up and run by a bunch of Japanese corporations. There were even predictions that after the fall of the USSR, the next war would be with Japan. Some of those predictions came from some surprisingly high profile analysts.

The future doesn’t belong to Japan. It may not, at this rate, belong to anyone. Japan hurled itself into the future, but didn’t find anything there.

Korea hurled itself into that same future and found only emptiness. Now China’s elites are rushing into that same void and are beginning to discover that technocracy and materialism are hollow. That is why China is struggling to reassert Communist values even while throwing everything into making Walmart’s next product shipment. Like Japanese and Korean leaders, Chinese leaders are realizing that their technological and material achievements have left their society with a spiritual void.

That isn’t a problem unique to Asia. Asian countries were just less prepared for a rapid transition to the modern age. Europe and America, which had more time to prepare, are still on the same track. …

The thing we have in common with Japan, China and Europe is that we have all moved into a post-modern future while leaving our values behind and our societies have suffered for it. It is a future in which stores have robots on display but couples are hardly getting married, where there are high speed trains and a sense of lingering depression as the people who ride them don’t know where they are going, and where the values of the past have been traded for a culture of uncertainty.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

09 Jun 2013

The Postmodern Individual

Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog, 1982


[T]he postmodern individual is the most conditioned and the most chained human type that ever existed in our recorded history. Not only a complete slave to any whim or impulse that presents itself as ‘the next best thing’, but also the perfect puppet to even the most gross and evident manipulation. Since he can mold himself into anything he ‘wants’, the postmodernist can, thus, also be molded, from the outside, into anything that the technocratic ‘elites’ of our days desire. He can be subjected to all manners of social engineering, without even the least possibility of resistance, for he can never discern between his desire and the desire of another — in the absence of any absolute, stable point of reference, external circumstances become the only considerations, and circumstances can always be easily manipulated. …

[T]he postmodern world is quickly losing all touch with even a minimally stable reality. Even seemingly rationalist types, with an apparently materialist and limited horizon, such as Richard Dawkins are no exception to this. Dawkins ridicules any mention of God, Spirit, Transcendence- everything vertical really- but has no problem in believing that there are no limits to our power on the horizontal plane, nor does he even doubt for a single moment the significance or quality of any new discovery or “zeitgeist”.

Via Madame Scherzo.

06 May 2008

Postmodern Comedy at Dartmouth

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Priya Venkatesan, Dartmouth ’90

Joseph Rago, at the Wall Street Journal, is running a bit late in covering a recent political correctness flap at Dartmouth, but I’m even later since I only learned of this news story from him.

Often it seems as though American higher education exists only to provide gag material for the outside world. The latest spectacle is an Ivy League professor threatening to sue her students because, she claims, their “anti-intellectualism” violated her civil rights.

Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of “French narrative theory” that it amounted to a hostile working environment. She is also readying lawsuits against her superiors, who she says papered over the harassment, as well as a confessional exposé, which she promises will “name names.”

The trauma was so intense that in March Ms. Venkatesan quit Dartmouth and decamped for Northwestern. She declined to comment for this piece, pointing instead to the multiple interviews she conducted with the campus press.

Ms. Venkatesan lectured in freshman composition, intended to introduce undergraduates to the rigors of expository argument. “My students were very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful,” she told Tyler Brace of the Dartmouth Review. “They’d argue with your ideas.” This caused “subversiveness,” a principle English professors usually favor.

Ms. Venkatesan’s scholarly specialty is “science studies,” which, as she wrote in a journal article last year, “teaches that scientific knowledge has suspect access to truth.” She continues: “Scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct.”

The agenda of Ms. Venkatesan’s seminar, then, was to “problematize” technology and the life sciences. Students told me that most of the “problems” owed to her impenetrable lectures and various eruptions when students indicated skepticism of literary theory. She counters that such skepticism was “intolerant of ideas” and “questioned my knowledge in very inappropriate ways.” Ms. Venkatesan, who is of South Asian descent, also alleges that critics were motivated by racism, though it is unclear why.

After a winter of discontent, the snapping point came while Ms. Venkatesan was lecturing on “ecofeminism,” which holds, in part, that scientific advancements benefit the patriarchy but leave women out. One student took issue, and reasonably so – actually, empirically so. But “these weren’t thoughtful statements,” Ms. Venkatesan protests. “They were irrational.” The class thought otherwise. Following what she calls the student’s “diatribe,” several of his classmates applauded.

Ms. Venkatesan informed her pupils that their behavior was “fascist demagoguery.” Then, after consulting a physician about “intellectual distress,” she cancelled classes for a week. Thus the pending litigation.


The original story, Dartblog 4/26 quotes Ms. Venkatesan’s emails

Email 1:

—– Original Message —–
From: Priya Venkatesan
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2008 [time redacted]
Subject: Class Action Suit

Dear Student:

As a courtesy, you are being notified that you are being named in a potential class action suit that is being brought against Dartmouth College, which is being accused of violating federal anti-discrimination laws. Please do not respond to this email because it will be potentially used against you in a court of law.

Priya Venkatesan, PhD

Email 2:

— Forwarded message from “Priya Venkatesan” —

From: “Priya Venkatesan”
To: < [REDACTED]Dartmouth.EDU>,
Subject: Re: Class Action Suit
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2008 [time redacted]

Dear Student:

Please disregard the previous email sent by Priya Venkatesan. This is to officially inform you that you are being accused of violating Title VII pertaining to federal anti-discrimination laws, by the plaintiff, Priya Venkatesan. You are being specifically accused of, but not limited to, harassment. Please do not respond to this email as it will be used against you in a court of law.

Priya Venkatesan, PhD

Email 3:

Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2008 20:56:35 -0400 (EDT)
From: Priya.Venkatesan@Dartmouth.EDU
To: “WRIT.005.17.18-WI08”:;, Priya.Venkatesan@Dartmouth.EDU
Subject: WRIT.005.17.18-WI08: Possible lawsuit

Dear former class members of Science, Technology and Society:

I tried to send an email through my server but got undelivered messages. I regret to inform you that I am pursuing a lawsuit in which I am accusing some of you (whom shall go unmentioned in this email) of violating Title VII of anti-federal [SIC] discrimination laws.
The feeling that I am getting from the outside world is that Dartmouth is considered a bigoted place, so this may not be news and I may be successful in this lawsuit.
I am also writing a book detailing my experiences as your instructor, which will “name names” so to speak. I have all of your evaluations and these will be reproduced in the book.

Have a nice day.


Priya Venkatesan’s academic goal:

After finishing up my studies in literature, I entered a molecular biology lab at DMS with the intention of seeking parallels between scientific practice and literature. My interests in graduate school were mainly theoretical, as I textually analyzed certain aspects of scientific communication. However, for me, a question remained: Is there room for literary theory within the framework of the laboratory?


Priya Venkatesan left Dartmouth and wound up at Northwestern. She announced that she was withdrawing her law suit the students, and would avenge herself on them via a novel, but she was still planning to sue Dartmouth.

Dartmouth Review interview 4/30.


Dartmouth Independent 5/1 update and bio.

One female student was a nose-blower,” says Priya Venkatesan, who, until just a few weeks ago, was a professor in Dartmouth’s writing department. A 1990 graduate of the College, Venkatesan spent the better part of her twenties earning a Masters in Genetics and a PhD in Literature. But those were different days. Now, Venkatesan finds her thoughts occupied by that student who “incessantly disrupted class with her nose-blowing.” Or the one who interrupted her lecture on bioethics with “a real evil look that made me feel very uncomfortable.” Or the one who loudly declared that Lyotard was “cheesy.”

A casual observer might conclude that Venkatesan is on the edge of a nervous breakdown, frantically trying to confront her demons that sometimes appear to her as students. But Venkatesan has no apparent demons; in fact, she seems like she has had a very normal, undramatic life. Raised halfway between New York City and Albany by traditional Hindu parents, Venkatesan suggests that her heavy inculcation in Indian culture may have played a part in her ardent desire to excel academically (but then again it may not have – such is the nature of the self-described “postmodernist in the laboratory”). …


Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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