翻译:Postmodernism by Mary Klages

by 先磨

by Dr. Mary Klages
Associate Professor, English Department
University of Colorado, Boulder


Postmodernism is a complicated term, or set of ideas, one that has only emerged as an area of academic study since the mid-1980s. Postmodernism is hard to define, because it is a concept that appears in a wide variety of disciplines or areas of study, including art, architecture, music, film, literature, sociology, communications, fashion, and technology. It's hard to locate it temporally or historically, because it's not clear exactly when postmodernism begins.

后现代主义是一个复杂术语或一套观念,作为一个学术研究领域,在二十世纪80年代中期才开始引人注目。很难给后现代主义下一个定义,因为它是出现在各种学科或研究领域----艺术、建筑、音乐、电影、文学、社会学、通讯、时尚和科技的一种概念。 也很难从时间或历史的角度去把握它,因为人们并不十分清楚后现代主义是什么时候开始的。

Perhaps the easiest way to start thinking about postmodernism is by thinking about modernism, the movement from which postmodernism seems to grow or emerge. Modernism has two facets, or two modes of definition, both of which are relevant to understanding postmodernism.


The first facet or definition of modernism comes from the aesthetic movement broadly labeled "modernism." This movement is roughly coterminous with twentieth century Western ideas about art (though traces of it in emergent forms can be found in the nineteenth century as well). Modernism, as you probably know, is the movement in visual arts, music, literature, and drama which rejected the old Victorian standards of how art should be made, consumed, and what it should mean. In the period of "high modernism," from around 1910 to 1930, the major figures of modernism literature helped radically to redefine what poetry and fiction could be and do: figures like Woolf, Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Stevens, Proust, Mallarme, Kafka, and Rilke are considered the founders of twentieth-century modernism.

“现代主义”的定义首先来自被标记为“现代主义”的审美潮流。这股潮流与二十世纪的西方艺术思想息息相关(尽管它的起源可以追溯到十九世纪)。正如人们所知,现代主义是有关视觉艺术、音乐、文学和戏剧的一场运动,它拒绝关于艺术应该如何创造、消费、理解的维多利亚陈旧标准。从1910至1930年“高度现代主义”期间, 现代主义文学的重要人物从根本上帮助人们重新界定了诗歌和小说可以是什么并且能做什么的范围。伍尔夫、乔伊斯、艾略特、庞德、史蒂文斯、普鲁斯特、马拉美、卡夫卡和里尔克都被认为是二十世纪现代主义的创始人。

From a literary perspective, the main characteristics of modernism include:

1. an emphasis on impressionism and subjectivity in writing (and in visual arts as well); an emphasis on HOW seeing (or reading or perception itself) takes place, rather than on WHAT is perceived. An example of this would be stream-of-consciousness writing.

2. a movement away from the apparent objectivity provided by omniscient third-person narrators, fixed narrative points of view, and clear-cut moral positions. Faulkner's multiply-narrated stories are an example of this aspect of modernism.

3. a blurring of distinctions between genres, so that poetry seems more documentary (as in T.S. Eliot or ee cummings) and prose seems more poetic (as in Woolf or Joyce).

4. an emphasis on fragmented forms, discontinuous narratives, and random-seeming collages of different materials.

5. a tendency toward reflexivity, or self-consciousness, about the production of the work of art, so that each piece calls attention to its own status as a production, as something constructed and consumed in particular ways.

6. a rejection of elaborate formal aesthetics in favor of minimalist designs (as in the poetry of William Carlos Williams) and a rejection, in large part, of formal aesthetic theories, in favor of spontaneity and discovery in creation.

7. A rejection of the distinction between "high" and "low" or popular culture, both in choice of materials used to produce art and in methods of displaying, distributing, and consuming art.


1 ,在书写中强调印象主义和主观性(视觉艺术同样如此),重点放在观看如何进行(阅读或感知同理),而不注重看到了什么。这方面的例子有意识流写作。

2 ,摆脱由全知全觉的第三人称叙述者、固定的叙事视角以及鲜明的道德倾向所造成的明显客观性,福克纳的多角度叙事颇具

3 ,模糊文学体裁之间的区别,让诗歌像杂记(艾略特或卡明斯的作品),让散文像诗歌(伍尔夫或乔伊斯的作品) 。


5 ,强调自反性、自我意识及艺术作品创造,让众人关注作品的生产状态,明白作品是以特有的方式进行生产和消费的。

6 ,拒绝繁琐形式的美学,主张极简的布局(如威廉•卡洛斯•威廉斯的诗歌),在很大程度上排斥正规的美学理论,而提倡创造时的自发性和探索性。


Postmodernism, like modernism, follows most of these same ideas, rejecting boundaries between high and low forms of art, rejecting rigid genre distinctions, emphasizing pastiche, parody, bricolage, irony, and playfulness. Postmodern art (and thought) favors reflexivity and self-consciousness, fragmentation and discontinuity (especially in narrative structures), ambiguity, simultaneity, and an emphasis on the destructured, decentered, dehumanized subject.


But--while postmodernism seems very much like modernism in these ways, it differs from modernism in its attitude toward a lot of these trends. Modernism, for example, tends to present a fragmented view of human subjectivity and history (think of The Wasteland, for instance, or of Woolf's To the Lighthouse), but presents that fragmentation as something tragic, something to be lamented and mourned as a loss. Many modernist works try to uphold the idea that works of art can provide the unity, coherence, and meaning which has been lost in most of modern life; art will do what other human institutions fail to do. Postmodernism, in contrast, doesn't lament the idea of fragmentation, provisionality, or incoherence, but rather celebrates that. The world is meaningless? Let's not pretend that art can make meaning then, let's just play with nonsense.


Another way of looking at the relation between modernism and postmodernism helps to clarify some of these distinctions. According to Frederic Jameson, modernism and postmodernism are cultural formations which accompany particular stages of capitalism. Jameson outlines three primary phases of capitalism which dictate particular cultural practices (including what kind of art and literature is produced). The first is market capitalism, which occurred in the eighteenth through the late nineteenth centuries in Western Europe, England, and the United States (and all their spheres of influence). This first phase is associated with particular technological developments, namely, the steam-driven motor, and with a particular kind of aesthetics, namely, realism. The second phase occurred from the late nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century (about WWII); this phase, monopoly capitalism, is associated with electric and internal combustion motors, and with modernism. The third, the phase we're in now, is multinational or consumer capitalism (with the emphasis placed on marketing, selling, and consuming commodities, not on producing them), associated with nuclear and electronic technologies, and correlated with postmodernism.

用另一种方法去考查现代主义和后现代主义之间的关系有助于澄清上述这些区别。根据弗雷德里克。詹姆逊的理论,现代主义和后现代主义是伴随资本主义特定阶段的文化形态。詹姆逊勾勒了资本主义的三个主要阶段以及各自所决定的文化习惯(包括产生了什么样的艺术和文学) 。第一阶段在十八至十九世纪末发生在西欧、英国和美国(以及受其影响的所有领域) 。这一阶段与特定的技术发展,即蒸汽发动机,以及特殊的美学----现实主义有关。从十九世纪后期到二十世纪中叶(大致二战期间)为第二阶段,这一阶段是垄断资本主义,与电力/内燃发动机及现代主义发生联系。我们现在所处的时代为第三阶段,是国际或消费资本主义( 倚重市场营销及商品的出售和消费,而不强调商品生产),与核技术、电子技术、后现代主义密不可分。

Like Jameson's characterization of postmodernism in terms of modes of production and technologies, the second facet, or definition, of postmodernism comes more from history and sociology than from literature or art history. This approach defines postmodernism as the name of an entire social formation, or set of social/historical attitudes; more precisely,this approach contrasts "postmodernity" with "modernity," rather than "postmodernism" with "modernism."


What's the difference? "Modernism" generally refers to the broad aesthetic movements of the twentieth century; "modernity" refers to a set of philosophical, political, and ethical ideas which provide the basis for the aesthetic aspect of modernism. "Modernity" is older than "modernism;" the label "modern," first articulated in nineteenth-century sociology, was meant to distinguish the present era from the previous one, which was labeled "antiquity." Scholars are always debating when exactly the "modern" period began, and how to distinguish between what is modern and what is not modern; it seems like the modern period starts earlier and earlier every time historians look at it. But generally, the "modern" era is associated with the European Enlightenment, which begins roughly in the middle of the eighteenth century. (Other historians trace elements of enlightenment thought back to the Renaissance or earlier, and one could argue that Enlightenment thinking begins with the eighteenth century. I usually date "modern" from 1750, if only because I got my Ph.D. from a program at Stanford called "Modern Thought and Literature," and that program focused on works written after 1750).

这两者又有什么区别呢? “现代主义”一般指二十世纪各种广泛的审美潮流, 而“现代性”则是为现代主义美学范畴奠定基础的一套哲学、政治、道德概念。 “现代性”早于“现代主义”, “现代”这个标签最早被十九世纪的社会学明确提出,是为了区分与当今时代不同的被冠名为“古代”的前一个时代。学者们一直为“现代”始于何时,以及如何分辨什么是现代,什么不是现代而争论不休。似乎历史学家每考查一次,“现代”时期都会向前推移。但总体来说,“现代”时期与大致发生在十八世纪中叶的欧洲启蒙运动有关。也有些历史学家把启蒙思想追溯到文艺复兴时期或更早的时期,这样人们又可以为启蒙运动的思想始于十八世纪展开争论。 我通常把“现代”定在1750年,仅仅是因为我从斯坦福大学“现代思想与文学”项目获得了一个博士,而该项目侧重的作品都写于1750年之后 。

The basic ideas of the Enlightenment are roughly the same as the basic ideas of humanism. Jane Flax's article gives a good summary of these ideas or premises (on p. 41). I'll add a few things to her list.

1. There is a stable, coherent, knowable self. This self is conscious, rational, autonomous, and universal--no physical conditions or differences substantially affect how this self operates.

2. This self knows itself and the world through reason, or rationality, posited as the highest form of mental functioning, and the only objective form.

3. The mode of knowing produced by the objective rational self is "science," which can provide universal truths about the world, regardless of the individual status of the knower.

4. The knowledge produced by science is "truth," and is eternal.

5. The knowledge/truth produced by science (by the rational objective knowing self) will always lead toward progress and perfection. All human institutions and practices can be analyzed by science (reason/objectivity) and improved.

6. Reason is the ultimate judge of what is true, and therefore of what is right, and what is good (what is legal and what is ethical). Freedom consists of obedience to the laws that conform to the knowledge discovered by reason.

7. In a world governed by reason, the true will always be the same as the good and the right (and the beautiful); there can be no conflict between what is true and what is right (etc.).

8. Science thus stands as the paradigm for any and all socially useful forms of knowledge. Science is neutral and objective; scientists, those who produce scientific knowledge through their unbiased rational capacities, must be free to follow the laws of reason, and not be motivated by other concerns (such as money or power).

9. Language, or the mode of expression used in producing and disseminating knowledge, must be rational also. To be rational, language must be transparent; it must function only to represent the real/perceivable world which the rational mind observes. There must be a firm and objective connection between the objects of perception and the words used to name them (between signifier and signified).

启蒙运动的基本观念大致与人文主义的相同。简。弗莱克斯的文章对此做了一个很好的总结(见41 页) 。我会再加添一些内容:

1,有一个稳定、连贯、可知的自我。这个自我是有意识的、理性的、自主的、普遍的 --- 人的生理状况及其差异不会明显影响自我的运作。



4,由科学所产生的知识叫永恒的“真理” 。


6,理性是真实的最终裁判,因此也是正确和良善(什么是合法,什么是道德)的最终裁判 。自由意味着遵纪守法,而这些律令法规和被理性发现的知识相互一致。




These are some of the fundamental premises of humanism, or of modernism. They serve--as you can probably tell--to justify and explain virtually all of our social structures and institutions, including democracy, law, science, ethics, and aesthetics.


Modernity is fundamentally about order: about rationality and rationalization, creating order out of chaos. The assumption is that creating more rationality is conducive to creating more order, and that the more ordered a society is, the better it will function (the more rationally it will function). Because modernity is about the pursuit of ever-increasing levels of order, modern societies constantly are on guard against anything and everything labeled as "disorder," which might disrupt order. Thus modern societies rely on continually establishing a binary opposition between "order" and "disorder," so that they can assert the superiority of "order." But to do this, they have to have things that represent "disorder"--modern societies thus continually have to create/construct "disorder." In western culture, this disorder becomes "the other"--defined in relation to other binary oppositions. Thus anything non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual, non-hygienic, non-rational, (etc.) becomes part of "disorder," and has to be eliminated from the ordered, rational modern society.

从根本上来说,现代性是关于秩序、理性和理性化的,目的是从混乱中建立秩序。其假设是:创造更多的理性有利于创造更多的秩序,而更有序的社会可以更好地运转(更合理地发挥作用)。现代性旨在追求不断增加的秩序,所以现代社会时刻警惕可能会扰乱秩序的被视为“动乱”的因素。现代社会因而不断依靠建立“秩序”和“动乱”之间的二元对立来表明“秩序”的优越性。 但要做到这一点,又必须有代表“动乱”的东西,现代社会因而不断制造/建构“动乱”。在西方文化中,这种“动乱”变成了“他者”(用于其他二元对立定义)。因此,凡是非白人、非男性、非异性恋、非洁净、非理性(等等)都成为“动乱”之列,必须从有序、理性的现代社会中排除。

The ways that modern societies go about creating categories labeled as "order" or "disorder" have to do with the effort to achieve stability. Francois Lyotard (the theorist whose works Sarup describes in his article on postmodernism) equates that stability with the idea of "totality," or a totalized system (think here of Derrida's idea of "totality" as the wholeness or completeness of a system). Totality, and stability, and order, Lyotard argues, are maintained in modern societies through the means of "grand narratives" or "master narratives," which are stories a culture tells itself about its practices and beliefs. A "grand narrative" in American culture might be the story that democracy is the most enlightened (rational) form of government, and that democracy can and will lead to universal human happiness. Every belief system or ideology has its grand narratives, according to Lyotard; for Marxism, for instance, the "grand narrative" is the idea that capitalism will collapse in on itself and a utopian socialist world will evolve. You might think of grand narratives as a kind of meta-theory, or meta-ideology, that is, an ideology that explains an ideology (as with Marxism); a story that is told to explain the belief systems that exist.

现代社会制造“秩序”或“动乱”是因为要努力实现稳定。弗朗索瓦•利奥塔(萨鲁普在一篇论述后现代主义的文章里面描述过这位理论家的著作)把稳定等同于“总体”这个概念,或总体化系统(这里可以想到德里达把“总体性”作为一个系统的整体性和完整性的主张) 。利奥塔认为,总体性、稳定、秩序是通过“宏大叙述”或“主叙述”维持在现代社会里,而这些叙述不过是一种文化自己讲述其习俗和信仰的故事。美国文化的“宏大叙事”可能讲述民主是最开明(理性)的政府形式,民主能够带来全人类的幸福。根据利奥塔,每一个信仰体系或意识形态都有自己的宏大叙事,比如,马克思主义的“宏大叙事”是,资本主义会自行崩溃,空想社会主义的世界将继续发展。读者可以把宏大叙事当作一种元理论或元意识形态,也就是解释意识形态(如马克思主义)的意识形态,解释现存信仰体系的一个故事。

Lyotard argues that all aspects of modern societies, including science as the primary form of knowledge, depend on these grand narratives. Postmodernism then is the critique of grand narratives, the awareness that such narratives serve to mask the contradictions and instabilities that are inherent in any social organization or practice. In other words, every attempt to create "order" always demands the creation of an equal amount of "disorder," but a "grand narrative" masks the constructedness of these categories by explaining that "disorder" REALLY IS chaotic and bad, and that "order" REALLY IS rational and good. Postmodernism, in rejecting grand narratives, favors "mini-narratives," stories that explain small practices, local events, rather than large-scale universal or global concepts. Postmodern "mini-narratives" are always situational, provisional, contingent, and temporary, making no claim to universality, truth, reason, or stability.


Another aspect of Enlightenment thought--the final of my 9 points--is the idea that language is transparent, that words serve only as representations of thoughts or things, and don't have any function beyond that. Modern societies depend on the idea that signifiers always point to signifieds, and that reality resides in signifieds. In postmodernism, however, there are only signifiers. The idea of any stable or permanent reality disappears, and with it the idea of signifieds that signifiers point to. Rather, for postmodern societies, there are only surfaces, without depth; only signifiers, with no signifieds.


Another way of saying this, according to Jean Baudrillard, is that in postmodern society there are no originals, only copies--or what he calls "simulacra." You might think, for example, about painting or sculpture, where there is an original work (by Van Gogh, for instance), and there might also be thousands of copies, but the original is the one with the highest value (particularly monetary value). Contrast that with cds or music recordings, where there is no "original," as in painting--no recording that is hung on a wall, or kept in a vault; rather, there are only copies, by the millions, that are all the same, and all sold for (approximately) the same amount of money. Another version of Baudrillard's "simulacrum" would be the concept of virtual reality, a reality created by simulation, for which there is no original. This is particularly evident in computer games/simulations--think of Sim City, Sim Ant, etc.

换言之,按照让。鲍德里亚的说法,后现代社会没有原件,只有复制品,或“仿真”。人们会想到绘画或雕塑的例子,那里存在一个原创作品(比如出自梵高),或许也会有成千个复制品,但原件具有最高价值(尤其是货币价值)。墙上和仓库里的绘画不会有复制品,相比之下,CD盘或音乐录音那里没有“原创”,只有数以百万计的副本,以几乎同样的价钱在出售。鲍德里亚“仿真”的另一个意思涉及虚拟现实,通过模拟建立起来的没有本源的现实。这种现象在电脑模拟游戏中尤为明显,比如Sim City, Sim Ant等电脑游戏。

Finally, postmodernism is concerned with questions of the organization of knowledge. In modern societies, knowledge was equated with science, and was contrasted to narrative; science was good knowledge, and narrative was bad, primitive, irrational (and thus associated with women, children, primitives, and insane people). Knowledge, however, was good for its own sake; one gained knowledge, via education, in order to be knowledgeable in general, to become an educated person. This is the ideal of the liberal arts education. In a postmodern society, however, knowledge becomes functional--you learn things, not to know them, but to use that knowledge. As Sarup points out (p. 138), educational policy today puts emphasis on skills and training, rather than on a vague humanist ideal of education in general. This is particularly acute for English majors. "What will you DO with your degree?"


Not only is knowledge in postmodern societies characterized by its utility, but knowledge is also distributed, stored, and arranged differently in postmodern societies than in modern ones. Specifically, the advent of electronic computer technologies has revolutionized the modes of knowledge production, distribution, and consumption in our society (indeed, some might argue that postmodernism is best described by, and correlated with, the emergence of computer technology, starting in the 1960s, as the dominant force in all aspects of social life). In postmodern societies, anything which is not able to be translated into a form recognizable and storable by a computer--i.e. anything that's not digitizable--will cease to be knowledge. In this paradigm, the opposite of "knowledge" is not "ignorance," as it is the modern/humanist paradigm, but rather "noise." Anything that doesn't qualify as a kind of knowledge is "noise," is something that is not recognizable as anything within this system.

后现代社会中,知识不仅具有效益性,而且在分配、存储和安排方面与现代社会有所不同,特别是电子计算机技术的兴起彻底改变了当今社会知识生产、分配和消费的模式(事实上,已有人把后现代主义描述为自20世纪60年代始与计算机技术的出现相关的、社会生活各个领域中的主导力量)。在后现代社会中,任何不能够被转化为由电脑识别和存储的形式 - 即任何不是数据的将不再是知识。在这种范式中,“知识”的对立面不是现代/人文的范式中的“无知”,而是“噪音”。凡是没有资格作为知识的都是“噪音”,都是这个系统内部不能识别的东西。

Lyotard says (and this is what Sarup spends a lot of time explaining) that the important question for postmodern societies is who decides what knowledge is (and what "noise" is), and who knows what needs to be decided. Such decisions about knowledge don't involve the old modern/humanist qualifications: for example, to assess knowledge as truth (its technical quality), or as goodness or justice (its ethical quality) or as beauty (its aesthetic quality). Rather, Lyotard argues, knowledge follows the paradigm of a language game, as laid out by Wittgenstein. I won't go into the details of Wittgenstein's ideas of language games; Sarup gives a pretty good explanation of this concept in his article, for those who are interested.

利奥塔指出(这也是萨鲁普花了很多时间来说明的),后现代社会最重要的问题是,谁可以决定什么是知识(什么是“噪音”)?谁知道什么需要被决定?这些有关知识的决定并不依照旧式现代/人文的标准:即将知识作为真理(根据其技术品质),作为良善或正义(根据其道德品质)或作为美(根据其美学品质)。相反,利奥塔认为,知识遵循由维特根斯坦奠定的语言游戏规则。我不会详细解释维特根斯坦的语言游戏的概念,有兴趣者可以参阅 萨鲁普的文章,他对此已经阐述得十分清楚。

There are lots of questions to be asked about postmodernism, and one of the most important is about the politics involved--or, more simply, is this movement toward fragmentation, provisionality, performance, and instability something good or something bad? There are various answers to that; in our contemporary society, however, the desire to return to the pre-postmodern era (modern/humanist/Enlightenment thinking) tends to get associated with conservative political, religious, and philosophical groups. In fact, one of the consequences of postmodernism seems to be the rise of religious fundamentalism, as a form of resistance to the questioning of the "grand narratives" of religious truth. This is perhaps most obvious (to us in the US, anyway) in muslim fundamentalism in the Middle East, which ban postmodern books--like Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses --because they deconstruct such grand narratives.

原教旨主义最为明显。在中东, 解构宏大叙事的后现代书籍,像萨尔曼。鲁西迪的《撒旦诗篇》,一律遭到取缔。

This association between the rejection of postmodernism and conservatism or fundamentalism may explain in part why the postmodern avowal of fragmentation and multiplicity tends to attract liberals and radicals. This is why, in part, feminist theorists have found postmodernism so attractive, as Sarup, Flax, and Butler all point out.


On another level, however, postmodernism seems to offer some alternatives to joining the global culture of consumption, where commodities and forms of knowledge are offered by forces far beyond any individual's control. These alternatives focus on thinking of any and all action (or social struggle) as necessarily local, limited, and partial--but nonetheless effective. By discarding "grand narratives" (like the liberation of the entire working class) and focusing on specific local goals (such as improved day care centers for working mothers in your own community), postmodernist politics offers a way to theorize local situations as fluid and unpredictable, though influenced by global trends. Hence the motto for postmodern politics might well be "think globally, act locally"--and don't worry about any grand scheme or master plan.

然而在另一个层面上,由于全球消费文化强力推行商品和知识,其强烈程度远远超出了任何人的控制,后现代主义或许为融入全球消费文化提供了一些替代性方法。这些替代性方法认为,所有行动(或社会斗争),尽管必需是当地的、有限的、部分的,但都是有效的。通过放弃“宏大叙事”(如整个工人阶级的解放)及专注具体的地方目标(如在自己的社区为上班母亲改善日托中心),后现代主义政治为当地情势建构了一种流动、不可预知的理论,尽管也受全球趋势的影响。因此,后现代政治的座右铭应该是“思全球,做本地” ,而不去考虑什么宏伟计划或总体设计。

from: http://www.colorado.edu/English/courses/ENGL2012Klages/pomo.html
2014-01-29 00:58:59