Is postmodernism really dead, finally, after a thousand articles and books arrogantly, yet prematurely announced its death? Or perhaps tomorrow belongs to it because postmodernism is born post-humously? Kirby made a strong case in his article, Death of Postmodernism and Beyond (2006), in which he claims that the Internet is essentially proof that the zeitgeist has lurched from the text back to the reader — now an active participant in the creation of text.
The audience has ascended over the artist; no longer passive worshipers at the altar of the omnipresent spectacle since the contributions of the individual have become necessary (participating by voting off contestants, replying to questions via Twitter, blogging, posting photos on Instagram, sharing content on FaceBook, etc.) for the product. In addition, postmodernism’s native irony was finally overturned after 9/11, where ignorance and fanaticism broke loose from the margins. However, this was no relapse back to the radical individualism of modernism. Kirby locates pseudomodernism within the individual’s creation of a world of “nowhere of silent autism,” an “infantile playing with toys” that replaces modernism’s neurosis and postmodernism’s narcissism.
One of the toys of pseudo-modernism is retro-modernism – a revitalizing force of fetishtic nostalgia that recycles dominant fashions of pop culture. For some, this was considered a negative trend, because that direction of the zeitgeist was a confession that we no longer could create original work. But this confession was also a revelation that the dominant paradigm could no longer serve as a monolithic frame of values or fashion, that diversity or tolerance no longer allowed the marginalization of any trend.
Kirby’s argument is persuasive, because he points at the foundational texts of postmodern with Derrida and Foucault, whose seminal work were emergent in the late 60s and 70s. He cites White Noise, The Crying Lot of 49, Pale Fire, Slaughterhouse 5, Neuromanceras “Mum and Dad’s culture,” as foundational texts that could not imagine the new technologies and communication media of the last two decades. While the argument that the zeitgeist has passed is pretty convincing, this only assumes that the zeitgeist has a fixed amount of time, that it cannot continue influencing more than a single generation.
As for the argument that the text gives away to the reader, that is already part and parcel of postmodernism, particularly the late Roland Barthes in the Death of the Author essay (1967) that announced the birth of the reader and proposed a hypertext that called for multiple authors. This clearly anticipates Kirby’s pseudomodernist version of active readers, if not necessarily the Internet itself. The only difference between classical postmodernism and pseudo-modernism is the presence of globalized discourse of the political and cultural context in the latter.
Perhaps pseudo-modernism is less a child of post-modernism, and more of a limited interpretation of a single narrative that survived the death of grand narratives, one that includes the interesting pop culture dichotomy of Bret Easton Ellis – Old Empire and Post-Empire. Old Empire is closer to modernism’s serious political correctness, while Post-Empire is the rejection of this seriousness as a hypocritical oppressive regime, and hovers closer to pseudomodernist rejection of the authoritative text. But what does Post-Empire have to do with postmodernity, except an attitude of affirmation that wears a cynical smile? Is its dichotomy the move from Empire representation to Post-Empire affirmation? If the postmodern is about the crisis of critical distance, then the Post-Empire adds a layer of dormant cruelty to this aesthetic barrenness. If the postmodern is Andy Warhol’s Factory building lithographs, then the Post-Empire is Warhol and friends celebrating on the disfigured bodies of the undocumented workers who brought the lithographs into the Factory. Therefore, the difference between the postmodern and the Post-Empire is that of degree — one of violence.