Closing the Modern-Postmodern Divide (Submitted 2007-08-29)

Closing the Modern-Postmodern Divide The topic of this session seeks to locate, excavate, and substantiate another modernist genealogy. This project proposes a history that issues from nineteenth-century practices of irony, parody, paradox and defies an evolutionary, progressive development, a history that is impelled by a subversion of the status quo, whether that be a conventional means of representation or a dominant social norm or ideology. What is of concern here, is that irony, parody, and paradox have also been identified as the characteristic motives of the post-modern episteme. Critics and historians across the disciplines have rendered parody central, if not unique, to postmodernists’ strategies for subverting modernist values and practices.

This (re)occurrence of parodic practices raises a fundamental question regarding the viability of modernism and postmodernism as distinct, if not oppositional, historical periods. Alternatively, by shifting our focus away from a purist modernism to a subversive modernism, a historical continuum between the nineteenth century and the late twentieth century comes into view.

The selected papers for this panel focused on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century artists and covered a range of modernist subjects and sites. As these papers make clear, parodists can themselves be conservative and traditional, as often as radical and revolutionary. Richard Shiff (University of Texas at Austin), “Seurat’s Gravity” discussed how Seurat’s aesthetic persona as ‘serious/grave’, compelled a parodic confusion of the form (his ‘scientific’ technique) and content (caricatured social types) of his work by his contemporaries and historians. In his paper, Charles W. Haxthausen (Williams College), “Fictions of Facial Representation: Paul Klee’s ‘Portraits’,” discussed how Klee’s injection of a parodic dimension, by means of titles to his abstract (modernist) portrait paintings, alluded to the representational genres of past art and thereby established a sense of continuity between modernity and tradition. Oscar E. Vázquez’s (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) paper, “Parody, or the Quandary of Place: Conservative Reactions to Modernism in Late-19th Century Spain,” focused on Segundo Cabello Izarra’s Fin de Siglo (1899) to how parody was used by conservative reactionaries against pictorial modernism in turn-of-the-century Spain. Linda Hutcheon (University of Toronto) was the session respondent. She brought these historical, modernist uses of parody into play with post-modern practices to ask: whether there is a genre of ‘self-reflexive’ painting; whether parodies are simply ironic adaptations of other work or works; and whether there is a particular kind of relationship in the modern and the postmodern between (aesthetic) parody and (social) satire?

The session was well attended and the panel discussion that followed the presentations posed a range of new possibilities for linking and/or separating modern/post-modern parodic practices.

Chair, Lauren S. Weingarden (Florida State University)

(Prof. Lauren S. Weingarden, Florida State University ,2007-08-29)