Critical reflections of post-modern literary works by Hanif Kureishi as required by the education ministries on the character formation of adolescents in schools. Kritische Betrachtungen postmoderner literarischer Werke von Hanif Kureishi für die von den Ministerien für Erziehung geforderte Charakterbildung von Jugendlichen im schulischen Bereich.
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To my family:
Dr. Johann A. Jakob, Thomas Erich Jakob, Sylvia Felicitas Jakob and Mohamed Youssef Laarissa with Lea Sophie
Postmodernism – some aspects relevant to the given discourse
The postmodern moment: Lyotard, Foucault, Baudrillard and Jameson
2.1 Knowledge and power in postmodern thought
2.2 Authority – the postmodern version
2.3 Scrutinizing the imbalance of binaries
2.4 Simulacra – as phenomenal image and stylistic device
2.5 Jameson’s ahistoricity – a critical view
Postmodernism and formation: Lyotard, Foucault, and Derrida
3.2 Performativity versus knowledge (Lyotard/Foucault)
3.3 “The Other” (Derrida/ Lyotard)
3.4 Desire, pleasure and sexuality (Foucault)
Education in a modern globalized society
1.1 Truth and virtues
1.2 Dignity, Respect and Tolerance
1.3 Moral Relativism
1.4 Critical Thinking
Knowledge and autonomy in school education
2.2 Power and influence
2.3 The state teacher’s autonomy
2.4 Teaching English as a foreign language
2.5 The teacher’s role in a globalized society
The postmodern/postcolonial novel
The aim of the postcolonial/postmodern novel
Hanif Kureishi – the postmodern, postcolonial, British-Asian writer
The Tracey Scoffield Affair
Some academic thoughts on Hanif Kureishi’s works
5.1 Postmodernism in Kureishi’s writings
5.2 Intertextuality, simulacra, and pastiche
5.3 Postmodern irony
The Bildungsromane The Buddha of Suburbia
The Black Album
(1995), in the light of postmodernism and formation
Scholarly aspects of the
Postmodern irony: anything goes
2.1 Group sex scene: Pyke, Eleanor, Marlene and Karim (BS 201-204)
2.2 The S&M scene (BS 254-256)
3 The sexual relationship between Deedee and Shahid
3.1 Love and sexual ethics
The eggplant scene – absurdity?
Concluding observations: Postmodernism in Kureishi’s
, BS and BA, and education
The image of women in Kureishian fiction
Women and intellectuality (Eva Kay (BS), Jamila (BS), Deedee Osgood (BA), Zulma (BA))
Women – body and character (Deedee Osgood (BA), Jamila & Shinko (BS), Eva Kay (BS), Tahira (BA))
3.1 Deedee Osgood, seductress of dubious character
3.2 Jamila, the feminist, & Shinko
3.3 Eva Kay, from adulteress to bourgeois decency
3.4 Tahira –subversion of religious piety and/or moral role model for the east?
3.5 Chapter conclusion
Kureishian postmodernism and Islam (BS, BA, MSF)
Academic aspects of Islam in Kureishi’s oeuvres (BS, BA, MSF)
2.2 Muslim fundamentalism versus liberal fundamentalism
3.1 Dr. Andrew Brownlow – versus – Riaz Al Hassain and his group (atheism/liberalism and Islam)
3.2 The Muslim leader versus Shahid (literature and freedom of thought)
Ambiguity: The role of Islam in
The Black Album
My Son the Fanatic
For two years, I was able to carry out research work as an independent academic on literature by the British-Asian author, Hanif Kureishi, primarily in the field of postmodernism, formation, and Islam. For this, I have to thank the New York University Abu Dhabi, principally Dr. Virginia Danielson, Director of the Library, Beth Lindsay and Beth Russell, Associate Academic Librarian for Humanities, who granted me a digital scholarship as a visiting scholar at NYUAD (2016-2018). By the same token, Francis Fourie, Bonny Sutherland, and Gerry Reyes, all academic librarians, must be mentioned for their tireless commitment; whenever I needed a book or an essay, I could count on them.
I am similarly indebted to the headmistress of the German International School, Abu Dhabi (GISAD), Dörte Christensen (2014-2017), and the vice head, Michael Fink, teacher for EFL (2015-2017), and the vice headmaster and provisional director, Gerrit Brauner, also teacher for EFL (2017-), for their courtesy and constant support in this enterprise. I was able to combine school teaching and research work at the university.
I also wish to acknowledge the professional proofreading provided by Christian Kelly (Bonn).
Additionally, I’d like to express my gratitude to my husband, Dr. Johann A. Jakob, who never became tired of listening to my latest findings, and for the numerous discussions on the author, Hanif Kureishi. My spouse did the first proofreading as a layperson, which can also be very helpful. Special thanks should also be given to my son, Thomas Erich Jakob, whose criticism of my work at an early stage in its writing was decisive for the course of my future work. Since postmodernism overlaps with the fields of sociology and literature, we had fruitful discussions on the matter. I am also indebted again to my son, Thomas Erich Jakob, my daughter, Sylvia Felicitas Jakob, and her husband, Mohamed Youssef Laarissa, for their support with special academic material on the given topic from a Western country, Germany.
When Thomas Leitch (2017 698) was sitting with friends in a restaurant, he was asked: “Are you a theory pod?” The literary critic just stared. “Ok. He’s not. He does things with movies and other real stuff”. David Bordwell and Noel David Carroll (cited in Leitch 698) were commenting on the ‘post theory world’, stating that theory formations have got out of hand. Theories often follow the respective school or group exerting power in their academic circles. On the other hand, theorizing, schematizing and categorizing have become necessary in university discourses, since Lyotard’s rejection of hierarchies in knowledge gained a foothold. However, some academics only move in theories, transforming them into simulacra without signifiers, as will be shown later. There are no longer universal truths in knowledge, and, according to Lyotard, scholarly work has become more difficult because scientific proof is difficult to obtain.
This discourse aims at ‘real stuff’, by deliberately leaving out theorizing or any discussion on theories, because it would have obscured the purpose of this oeuvre. This is necessary because, since the early nineties, close reading and textual analysis have been sidelined in favor of other methods of interpretation as well as to postmodern theorizing; however, understanding a text, especially in a foreign language, forms the basis of any interpretation. This discourse represents a revival of the phenomenological approach with a close reading and textual analysis of parts of two single literary works, The Black Album and The Buddha of Suburbia respectively. Other literary sources are also taken into account. To confirm that scientific proof is possible in literature without impediment, the citations and paraphrases must always be very precise, giving either the year, or the year and the page(s), of the respective source.
This paper is intended for scholars, students and teachers. For this reason, the introductory chapters on postmodernism and education in a globalized society are comprehensive. One cannot expect knowledge about education from a scholar of literature, nor is a teacher able to spend time on research work on postmodernism. He would be overwhelmed by the highly sophisticated theories on postmodern matters. The student can benefit from the introductory chapters on postmodernism and education, leading to more sophisticated literature. The part on postmodernism also contains critical views as indicated by the title of this discourse.
Postmodernism and modernism are hardly definable terms, yet they differ from each other to the extent that the former tries to deconstruct modernist thought. Thus, they follow different goals and divergent ways of presentation, as Hasan (1993 152 quoted in Graham 183) points out:
Against Interpretation/ Misreading
Difference – Différence/ Trace
Hasan’s juxtaposition of modern and postmodern characteristics is very informative, yet, the list does not comprise static features of the respective movements. Thus, the items Interpretation/Reading and Against Interpretation/Misreading must be examined in more detail. Unless an author like Samuel Beckett, for example, with his theater play Waiting for Godot (1952), wants to annoy his audience, a writer, such as Hanif Kureishi, who has a voice and an audience, normally does not want to confuse his readership with misreading. Though beautifully wrapped up in postmodern irony, Kureishi’s messages to his audience come through, if you dare to take a closer look at his fiction. Hence, a postmodern writer also works teleologically, otherwise the recipient couldn’t be manipulated. Therefore, in spite of the unhierarchical structure of the postmodern style, and other changes in the creation of a literary work, Kureishi wanted to reach his audience and make a difference in British society. Moreover, the purpose of the piece of literature can be rendered playfully, and any postmodern writing needs to be designed, just leaving it to chance wouldn’t bring about the desired effect.
The aim of this discourse is to open the reader’s eyes to the ways in which we can be manipulated by writers and to distinguish between entertainment and reading material written for the purpose of state education.
What is postmodernism? There is no convincing answer to this question because neither the postmodern (Best 1999 227) nor modernism (Hutcheon 1988 37) are specifically definable. The latter critic states that whatever the disagreements about the precise distinction between the two constituencies, as a scholar, she has appeared “to agree on both their existence” (37). Other critics (Eagleton 1985, Newman 1985, Caramello 1983 quoted in Hutcheon 37) on both sides, have refused to give a precise definition of the terms because they wanted to eschew the many contradictions, vagueness and confusion that might arise as a result. In addition, Leah Wain (1999 359) states that postmodernism is not easy to grasp but rather it unsteadily signals not an agreement of opinions with a transparent object of study, but instead a diversity of debates which are far from being in agreement with one another. Furthermore, Steven Connor (2006 31) sheds light on the complexity and diversity of the scholarly understanding of the term postmodernism, by stating that by the 1980s, the postmodern label had gradually developed into something awe-inspiring, designating a “contemporary worldview, or mindset, or zeitgeist, or even a new historical period” (31). Even the postmodernist and Marxist, Jameson (1999 55), is critical of the postmodern outcome, not knowing whether postmodernism actually exists or is mere mystification.
At present, we can definitely say that postmodernism has not turned out to be ephemeral, but instead has become a firmly established entity in Western societies in numerous fields, inter alia: architecture, psychology, sociology, philosophy, literature and education. It has “redefined the myths and institutions of modernity, bringing to the fore alternative narratives, based on the respect of human rights, the fight against identity discriminations linked to race, gender and sexual preference” (Ascari 2011 27).
Yet, both modernism and postmodernism are characterized by certain opposing features. The modern is anchored in the grand metanarratives which are comprehensive and fundamental discourses in which all aspects of knowledge and human activity obtain a final sense and meaning. Examples of such meta-discourses are the impressive antique philosophies, such as Platonism, the great religions of humanity, medieval and rational ways of thinking as the latter developed through the Enlightenment, belief in progress, universal reason, as well as the utopias of ultimate unity, eternal stories and myths, reconciliation and balance in the world order. It could also be said of the word metanarrative that it implies the “overarching historical story” (Watkin 2011 191) of East and West, i.e. stories of the past, making sense of history and legitimating certain historical acts, such as Marx’s story of the inevitable political success of the proletariat. The example given shows that modern thought based on the grand narratives, was not flawless. Postmodernism, in contrast to modernism, tries to deconstruct and remodel the modern, by questioning the verisimilitude of modern thought.
Growing individualization through the fast-paced development of technology, and the shared prosperity in Western societies brought with it a break with old patterns of thinking and traditional ways of life. In this historic transformation, voices critical of treading the same old pathways have emerged: the French philosopher Jean Francois Lyotard, the French philosopher, sociologist and media theoretician Jean Baudrillard, the American Marxist and literary critic Frederic Jameson, as well as the French philosopher, psychologist, sociologist and poststructuralist Michel Foucault, and last but not least, the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. These are some of the most influential postmodernists of the late 20th century. They will play an introductory role in this discourse about the field of postmodernism and formation, which will later develop into a critical review of the compatibility of Hanif Kureishi’s postmodern literature with education. As the title reveals, the discourse is partly cut down into various critical views in terms of postmodernism, Hanif Kureishi’s literature and education.
According to the sources, all the scientists mentioned above conducted their comprehensive philosophical, sociological, media-theoretical and psychological work independently and divorced from each other, therefore no consensus can be expected in the detailed outcome. They do not represent a shared school of thought. For this reason, it is necessary to largely deal with each postmodernist separately. However, the general consensus lies unanimously in the deconstruction of the grand metanarratives.
For Lyotard, postmodernism can be characterized as incredulity towards the grand meta-discourses, a loss of faith in and skepticism about traditional types of entitlements, legitimization of power, authority and social customs. Foucault, in contrast, focuses primarily on the relationship between knowledge and power, arguing that “knowledge is always found in relation to its users and therefore in relation to a form of power” (Usher 1994 87). Both postmodernists have contributed to the apparent erosion of authorities.
As stated by Lyotard, our contemporary world is predominated by techno-science. Techno-science has made the leading sciences and technologies become more involved in language: theories of linguistics, questions of communication and cybernetics, computer languages and information storage and databanks. Technological advancement is having a big impact on knowledge and has played an increasingly major role in the global warfare of power. Lyotard thinks that in our contemporary, highly developed world, the purpose of science is no longer finding the truth, but performativity (Lyotard 376 ). Performativity could prove to be right. For example, knowledge is reduced to substantial packages of information in the economy, available to business groups negotiating with other parties, and there is no reality, unless there is agreement on questions of knowledge and commitment by the two partners involved (1982 376). Claims about knowledge and truth become relative to class and culture, viewpoint and life circumstances, epitomizing an individual perspective and social significance, instead of a self-sufficient view of universality in modernism.
Knowledge is dissolved into knowing and priority is given to life experiences defined by groups, identity and cultural diversity. Thus, an overarching truth based on knowledge is completely dismissed and so are the values of the grand metanarratives. The classical discourses, as mentioned by Behler (2015 12), legitimized all detailed forms of knowledge, all specific scientific discourses, including those about justice and truth. For postmodernists, the so-called “dominant” or “hegemonic” forms of knowledge (Maton et al., 2009 61), mirrored in the school curricula, are brushed off as “bourgeois, male”, or “white” (61) representing the interests and viewpoints of the powerful, dominating social class and groups.
Lyotard rejects all modern scientific work due to “a multiplication in methods of argumentation and a rising complexity level in the process of establishing proof” (1984 41). This argumentation has provoked a lot of resistance in scholarly circles. Abbs (2003 102), Sheehan (2006 21) and Preparata (2011 115), who are also representative of other modern critics, are stunned by the new view of scientific work; Abbs labels postmodernism a private force that removes the unambiguous authority of any interpretation or any sense of foundational reality. From the modernist perspective, postmodernism undoes the world, without offering any final meanings, any final objectivity or grounding, and leaves the scientist in an uncertain universe. As indicated by Preparata (2011 111), Lyotard has spread a lot of insecurity among academics.
Indeed, the postmodernist Lyotard, has dramatically changed modernism’s introspective and cozy, scholarly landscape into an unrestful, insecure and permanently-questioning megacity of postmodern thought. The philosopher managed to establish the questioning of truth in terms of knowledge in scholarly, international work. Since knowledge is relative and knowledge truths can no longer be claimed in international scientific discourses, scholars are eager to theorize, schematize and categorize their scientific achievements. Any scholarly work is incomplete, ready for changes or amplifications, and can always be judged in different ways. This also applies to the current discourse.
Concerning postmodernism, the educational establishment has grown to be “so diverse, so fractured and differentiated that it seems to become absurd to seek to express any grand organizational principle” (Smith and Webster, 1973 3 quoted in Wright 2004 148). On the one hand, one can call diversity, individuality, openness, and unimpeded advancement in interdisciplinary publications an advantage, on the other hand, the strong individualism has led to a kind of Babel, in which each faction pursues its own interests. Too many “isms” induce detachment from genuinely complex matters. A case in point is Kathleen Berry’s discourse on pedagogical theory: destabilizing educational thought and practice (2013 330-344). The scholar enjoys jumping from one ism to the next1, leaving the reader with an empty rhetoric. The “isms” have turned into simulacra, self-referential entities with no basis. Kathleen Berry, like many other postmodernists, states that the purposes of reading and writing have been changed through deconstructionism (337), without going into detail. She only mentions that there is no longer a traditional closure in literature (337), however, open endings are not an invention of postmodernism, as the closures in The Dead and Eveline by James Joyce, or the initial ending in Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, can testify2.
As Cobb (2002 78), states pointedly: “one sad fact about university is that it contributes little to the solution of real issues of our time”. In turn, one can say that only a developed, democratic and wealthy country can afford the luxury of free thought. The role of the university in the light of postmodernism will be reconsidered in comparison to formation in schools, in the next chapter.
Postmodernism queries centralized, totalized, hierarchized, and closed systems (Hutcheon 1988 41). For Lyotard, as well as Foucault (Fendler 2010 9), authorities have abused their power too often in the past. The postmodernists’ stance can be characterized briefly as a loss of faith in and skepticism about the legitimization of power and authority.
The rigid system of authoritative dominance in Europe started to crumble in the 1960s, when young people revolted against the traditional way of life. The Beatles ushered in a new style of music: pop music forming a new basis of understanding, irrespective of gender, class or ethnicity. Furthermore, the pill liberated women from the stigma of unwanted pregnancies and led them to self-determination with reference to their private life. Drugs and LSD were thrown on the market. Hanif Kureishi’s novels of formation, The Buddha of Suburbia and The Black Album, cover this time.
Today, Lyotard’s prioritizing of performativity over universal knowledge must be recognized, when it is taken into account that good performativity and specialist knowledge (including etiquette), can make authority redundant, i.e. even though there is a difference in professional ranking, there can still be a collaboration as equals. However, such occupational relationships can only function when everything runs smoothly and merges seamlessly. If unforeseen circumstances arise and money is at stake, the superior, who is responsible for success, reverts to the very un-postmodern, central role of dominating his entourage to save the situation. Indeed, Lyotard’s notion of non-authority is inapplicable to closed systems, such as hospitals, law firms, businesses and any profession serving the state, and especially in the realm of instruction in state and private schools.
Occupational relationships in universities approach the Lyotardian, non-authoritative style of working closely. Professors and other scholars who have dedicated themselves to the same subject, share publications as is echoed in the many current anthologies. Thus, diversity and internationality in scientific schools seem to be guaranteed. However, the fierce fighting between modernists and postmodernists has created different parties, each of whom sometimes try to overrule the other by dismissing the opponents’ achievements. David Carr is a fervent and passionate traditionalist who, armed to the teeth, defends modernism convincingly. A postmodernist would appear to have no chance in Carr’s entourage. When Steutel (1998) tried to write a teleological justification of the virtues of human flourishing in Carr’s (1998) anthology, he appears to have been frightened by his own courage and demonstrates extreme insecurity: “We should concede that our teleological justification is still somewhat imprecise and speculative” (140). From a postmodern view, the scholar has no chance of finding a solution to the task, since the teleological approach forms part of the “obsolete” grand metanarratives.
Be that as it may, outside of the university, other fields of work have little chance to eschew hierarchies and authoritarian behavior. The legitimation of power, entitlements and power abuse that are so much the target of postmodernist deconstruction, are still everyday reality. This is probably due to the human drive to strive for power. Sometimes knowledge is no longer the primary power holder; it is being replaced by other parameters, such as perseverance and self-assertion, and the ability to deconstruct the competitors. In such a case, the power holder is often endowed with less knowledge than his subordinate, leading frequently to the superior lacking confidence vis-à-vis the subordinate. This, in turn, can lead to unjustified sanctions, which exacerbate and aggravate the atmosphere and undermine positive work. We might not have the same conditions as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, however, abuse of power remains a historical and present universal truth.
Lyotard, Baudrillard, Foucault and Derrida thought that binaries were out of step (Lyotard 1984 14, Hutcheon 1988, Berry, Philipa, 2006, Gillies 2013 3, Turner 2016). In modernism, dichotomies rely on the belief that an ultimate reality or center of truth, exists which serves as the basis for all our thoughts and actions. Postmodernism, in contrast, tries to deconstruct the binary concept of logo-centrism, black/white, men/women, east/west, etc., because “the center used to function as a pivot between binary opposites always privileging one half” (Hutcheon 62, Berry, Philipa 2006, Turner 2016). This means, for example, that from a feminist viewpoint, men dominate over women, or that black is devalued in Western thought. Black and white thinking can also imply a strict, irreconcilability; one or the other. “But seeing the center in postmodern light as a construct, fictionally, i.e. not as a stable and invariable reality, the old either- or begins to break down” (Griffin 1982 291 quoted in Hutcheon 1988 62).
Deconstructing binaries has its merits in that it contributes the deconstruction of thinking in black and white terms. Many binaries can be diversified by using nuances: black, dark grey, light grey3, pale gray4, white, whereby Americans might have different perceptions of the various shades of grey than the British, and each individual might have a different notion of the different shades of grey. The terms night, dawn, day, and dusk, can also serve as an example of nuancing antagonistic visions, thus also decentering the pivot of a universal truth, since the individual discernment of shades of white or grey, as stated above, may differ from person to person.
However, postmodernism triggered an avalanche of scholarly discourses trying to prove the imbalance of dichotomies.
Phillipa Berry (2006 179), for instance, tried to unite dichotomies into one entity by calling the notion of antagonisms in Western thought “conceptual deserts” and proposing to sensitize the populace into rethinking the polarized categories of Western thought, such as “light/dark, atheism/ belief, good/evil” (177). When light and darkness are considered, there are shades of light and nuances of darkness, as has been shown. Thus, the polarity of light and dark can be broken. In contrast, there is no in-between in terms of belief and atheism; you are either spiritually involved or you are not. And in the same field, it can be argued that in our times, nihilism and faith in God can exist side by side in the private and public sphere. However, Berry’s concept of dichotomies being one entity again does not apply here, because there is a clear division between believing in God or not.
Post-colonialists and feminists inter alia, argue that the perceived antagonisms between man/women, civilized/uncivilized, black/white, have perpetuated and legitimized Western power structures favoring civilized white men (Mambrol 2007, n.p.). The scholar further elaborates a list of binaries, which can be read downwards as well as across and demonstrate convincingly that one opponent dominates over the other in Western thought. Her antagonisms put in a certain order, unambiguously reveal imperial ideology:
(Mambrol 2007, n.p.)5
Here the dichotomies which conceal the shameful reality of imperialism, undoubtedly reveal an aggressive dominance of one over the other when read from left to right. However, this construct only functions in the given hierarchical order. If the first two rows are removed, the antagonists stand on their own without their given referent, thus becoming different entities which can no longer be attributed to the notion of imperialism. The modern mind remembers its history lessons and can only decipher the dichotomies as the postmodernists have seen them, as hierarchical and aggressive, if the first two rows are included.
Today, as convincingly presented by Ashcroft (2015 23), binaries of black content, such as civilized/ primitive, can be viewed in a very different light:
The white will never be negro
for beauty is negro
and negro is wisdom
for endurance is negro
and negro is courage
for patience is negro
and negro is irony
for charm is negro
and negro is magic
for joy is negro
for peace is negro
for life is negro
Here, modern values are inverted to reveal a new hierarchical order of ethnicity. One binary dominates the other and labels the white man a nothing, an entity with no positive features because the good qualities are all attributed to the black man. The two examples show that all identity is relational. Postmodernism tries to abandon hierarchies which make one element inferior to another. Overcoming binaries which discriminate against one party, as postulated by postmodernists, is of vital importance in a globalized society.
However, dichotomies form basic units and vital elements in nature which we are part of. Is it possible to think of a life without binaries? Hegelian dialectics are definitely unsuitable for our argumentation, because we cannot think in the triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis here. If there was suddenly no light, or no darkness, or no death, but permanent aging, our body and soul would be plunged into chaos. The dichotomies stimulate us, bringing verve and color into our lives.
Moreover, language has changed: Black is beautiful; this slogan spread through the USA in the 1960s. America can be proud of her first colored president, Barack Hussein Obama (2009-2017). Furthermore, the heavy migratory influx of colored people into Europe especially during the last decade, has changed the landscape of a closed ethnic environment. It is time to implement postmodern thoughts of diversity, tolerance and mutual understanding on both sides. Binaries may be unequal; however, their evaluation is a matter of emphasis and prioritization. If there is no center of universal truth, ugliness, for instance, may be seen as something quite beautiful in the eye of the beholder. Mambrol also mentions authors who have epitomized dichotomies in a more positive way, although she did not go into detail because it would not have supported her postmodern theory of dichotomous imbalance. Nevertheless, it is more scientific to depart from the trend of denouncing the bias of binaries and broaden one’s horizon to conceptualize dichotomies in more than one way.
In postmodern literature, authors such as Hanif Kureishi, for example, have tried to level polarities as writing experiments, which will be examined later on.
Whereas Lyotard labels truth as something relative according to class, culture and commitment, and while Foucault considers it to be produced only through power (Gillies 26/27), Baudrillard considers truth to be something non-existent, which he elucidates in detail in his famous essay, Simulacra and Simulations (1983). The postmodernist muses that because our highly technical societies have become so reliant on models and maps, we have lost contact with the real world that preceded it. In fact, reality itself has started to emulate the model which now precedes and determines the real world, as demonstrated by Disney World. Beaudrillard’s theory of representation and simulation, can be seen in four contemplations. The author of this discourse has provided examples to illustrate Baudrillard’ various reflections (1999 385) so that they can be better understood.
Images are a reflection of the basic reality, i.e. an image of a coca cola bottle is the reflection of a coca cola bottle.
Images mask and pervert a basic reality, i.e. an image of the coca cola bottle is not exactly the same as the real thing.
Images mask the absence of a basic reality, i.e. the image of a coca cola bottle does not represent the real thing, which is absent.
Images bear no relation to any reality whatever, they are their own pure simulacrum, i.e. the bottle of coca cola becomes “coke”. Coke is self-referential without the original referent of a coca cola bottle.
Baudrillard interprets his own theory in terms of semiotics:
The shift from signs which feign something to signs which dissimulate that there is nothing, qualifies the crucial turning point. ’The second inaugurates an age of simulacra and simulation, in which there is no longer any God to recognize his own, nor any last judgement to separate truth from false, the real from the artificial resurrection, since everything is already dead or risen in advance’ (385).
Modernists have had problems with Baudrillard’s notion of the simulacra. Both authors, Behler (2015 6) and Biesta (2001 42), for instance, answer Baudrillard’s ideas with semiotics in general. The first critic states that in our society, the relationship between signifier and signified is no longer intact, in so far as the signs do not refer to the thing that is signified, a predetermined existence, but always to other signs. Thus, it is never possible to reach the true meaning of things, but only other signs, interpretations of other signs, interpretations of interpretations, until we are lost in an endless chain, an endless diversity of signifiers.
Behler’s objection of an endless diversity of signifiers has not proven to be true. The simulacrum allows an intersubjective understanding of the simulacrum construction, in that although what was signified did lose its signifier, it has attained its own identity and is decipherable for the individual. The point in postmodernist thought is that any meaning is of our own creation.
Baudrillard distinguishes between the real and hyperreal by using the paradigm of Disneyland. Baudrillard defines the hyperreal as the “death of the real”, in that people’s non-fictional lives increasingly merge with the dream world of media matters and the dreamland of Disney. He eschews the concept of binaries: reality – non-reality/irreality/areality, but choses the term hyperreality to depict something that is unreal but comes close to constituting reality. This idea has led postmodernist writers to use simulacra and hyperreality as stylistic devices. As Krieger (1982 101, 1976 182-3 quoted in Hutcheon 43) states, such conventions are used in the most realistic ways, but rather than deluding the reader, the authors exult in showing how close they have come to doing so: “how marvelously verisimilar their illusion is: one cannot appreciate the verisimilar without being aware that it is not the thing itself”.
On the other hand, Baudrillard’s philosophy has also fostered nihilism and meaninglessness in literature, entailing a lot of experimental writing. The postmodernist has certainly changed the landscape of literary creations. Since the simulacra no longer have a referent, the superficial often triumphs over depth. Hanif Kureishi can be classified as a postmodern author, and what effect the simulacra have in his literary works remains to be seen.
The Marxist and literary critic, Frederic Jameson, achieved a controversial reputation for his “anti-historical concern with history” (Donugo 1984 84). Jameson is a highly disputed and inconsistent postmodernist who appears to have conflicting notions on history: always historicize and don’t historize. In 1999, Jameson framed a new concept of history, as “neither a representation of the past nor a presentation of the future” (1999 399). It should instead be seen as “a perception of the present as history” (399). This present, somehow, defamiliarizes the past and permits us to distance ourselves from its immediacy. This distance is characterized as historical perspective. Jameson refers to Baudrillard’s simulacra because, for the postmodernist, historical films are fakes and pastiches of the past which satisfy a “chemical craving” (Stephanson 1989 60
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