University Honors College - The Honorable mention

Spring English Department Honors Seminar: ENG 400-Postmodern Culture

Posted by Tim on December 17, 2012 in Academics, Honors Experiences, Honors Seminars

ENG 400
Honors: Postmodern Culture
Professor Joseph Conte
T Th 12:30 – 1:50
Reg. No. 14777 

One of the “cultural turns” of postmodernism is the intensifying shift from a print to a media graphics dominated culture. The prevalence of visual media has been the site of a debate regarding the relationship of complicity and/or critique of art and architecture in postmodernism.

In support of the happy embrace of popular media in art and literature, the landscape designer and writer Charles Jencks, in Critical Modernism: where is post-modernism going? (2007), revises his argument that postmodern art and architecture have led the way since the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis in 1972 in adopting an eclectic style that combines popular and elite forms, mixed media, and cross-cultural references. Fredric Jameson, however, offers a more skeptical and Marxist reading of postmodernism, described as “the cultural logic of late capitalism,” in which the contemporary arts are seen to have been at least partially compromised by their intimate relations with consumerism and multinational corporatism.

Supplementing our reading of these and other cultural critics of postmodernism, we will be examining a variety of works of postmodern art and architecture that have become “test cases” of what appeals to both populist and museum-going audiences.

To name a few, all of which can be found at Buffalo’s own Albright-Knox Art Gallery, when they’re on exhibit, are: Andy Warhol’s homage to Campbell’s Soup, 100 Cans (1962); Cindy Sherman’s untitled photograph of herself impersonating Marilyn Monroe (1982); the video artist, Nam June Paik’s installation of decrepit televisions, Piano Piece (1983), running looped footage; and Frank Moore’s painting of tourist videographers at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls, Niagara (1995). These works are either playfully ironic appropriations of popular culture; or they are coopted by the commercial and celebrity media they represent; or both. Interleaved with the art and criticism, we will read four books that, in the waning days of print literature, make art and popular media the subject of sophisticated literary fictions. Don DeLillo examines the relative power of the advertising image, religious mass hysteria, Warhol’s pop art, and terrorism in Mao II (1991). In Maus (1986), Art Spiegelman controversially renders his father’s experience in the Nazi concentration camps of Poland in the popular form of the comic book, combining personal history and the graphic novel. In Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loanna (2004), an aging

Italian rare book dealer discovers a trove of old newspapers, comics, and photographs in his attic, and his life takes the shape of a graphic novel with its superheroes, heroines and villains. Nobel Prize recipient, Orhan Pamuk, reflects on Persian art, Istanbul and the prohibition of figural art in Islam in My Name is Red (2001). In addition to discussion boards on UB Learns for each of the assigned books, there will be a six-page midterm paper and a twelve page critical essay that will integrate postmodern theory, graphical and literary sources.