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Skimming, predicting and questioning a difficult text

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Having begun to think about the book Intimations of Postmodernity in the scanning prediction task, the next thing you might need to do is try and understand what the author means by postmodernity.

Your first step might be to look in the index for the word 'postmodernity', and see if that can direct you to some definition. However, the word 'postmodernity' is not in the index! We can quickly work out that this is probably because the word occurs many times throughout the book - the book after all is about postmodernity!

Thus, you need to think how else you might track down a definition. One obvious place to look is the introduction. One could reasonably expect some explanation here of what the book is about, and therefore what postmodernity means for this author.

To complete the associtated task below, you will need to skim through and refer to the sample text introduction provided.

View the sample text here.

Skim through the above text introduction Intimations of Postmodernity to get an idea of what the author thinks 'postmodernity' means. Identify where in the text you think he defines what he means by the term.

Enter the sentence number into the text box:

Then check your answer.


The re-enchantment of the world, or, how can one narrate postmodernity?

1Postmodemity means many different things to many different people. 2It may mean a building that arrogantly flaunts the 'orders' prescribing what fits what and what should be kept strictly out to preserve the functional logic of steel, glass and concrete. 3It means a work of imagination that defies the difference between painting and sculpture, styles and genres, gallery and the street, art and everything else. 4 It means a life that looks suspiciously like a TV serial, and a docudrama that ignores your worry about setting apart fantasy from what really happened'. 5It means licence to do whatever one may fancy and advice not to take anything you or the others do too seriously. 6It means the speed with which things change and the pace with which moods succeed each other so that they have no time to ossify into things. 7It means attention drawn in all directions at once so that it cannot stop on anything for long and nothing gets a really close look. 8It means a shopping mall overflowing with goods whose major use is the joy of purchasing them; and existence that feels like a life-long confinement to the shopping mall. 9It means the exhilarating freedom to pursue anything and the mind-boggling uncertainty as to what is worth pursuing and in the name of what one should pursue it.

10Postmodernity is all these things and many others. 11But it is also - perhaps more than anything else - a state of mind. 12More precisely - a state of those minds who have the habit (or is it a compulsion?) to reflect upon themselves, to search their own contents and report what they found: the state of mind of philosophers, social thinkers, artists - all those people on whom we rely when we are in a pensive mood or just pause for a moment to find out whence we are moving or being moved.

13This is a state of mind marked above all by its all-deriding, all-eroding, all-dissolving destructiveness. 14 It seems sometimes that postmodern mind is a critique caught at the moment of its ultimate triumph: a critique that finds it ever more difficult to go on being critical just because it has destroyed everything it used to be critical about; with it, off went the very urgency of being critical. 15There is nothing left to be opposed to. 16The world and the life in the world have become themselves nothing but an unstoppable and obsessive self-criticism - or so it seems. 17Just as modernist art, bent on censoring modem reality, ended up in taking apart the very subject-matter of its critique (painting ended up in a dean canvas, writing in an empty page, music in silence; 1 in the desperate attempt to purify the work of the artist, Walter de Maria dug a deep hole near Kassel, Yves Klein invited the art connoisseurs to a private view of blank gallery walls, Robert Barry transmitted his art ideas telepathically to bypass the polluting blight of word and paint, and Rauschenberg put up for sale erased drawings of his artistic friends), 2 so the critical theory confronts an object that seems to offer no more resistance; an object that has softened, melted and liquidized to the point that the sharp edge of critique goes through with nothing to stop it. 18Past tragedies mock themselves in a no-smile-raising grotesque. 19How ridiculous it seems to try to change the direction of history when no powers give an inkling that they wish to give history direction. 20How empty seems the effort to show that what passes for truth is false when nothing has the courage and the stamina to declare itself as truth for everybody and for all time. How farcical it seems to fight for genuine art when one can no more drop anything incidentally without the dropped object being proclaimed art. 21How quixotic to debunk the distortion in the representation of reality once no reality claims to be more real than its representation. 22How idle it seems to exhort people to go there rather than somewhere else in a world in which everything goes.

23The postmodern state of mind is the radical (though certainly unexpected and in all probability undesired) victory of modem (that is, inherently critical, restless, unsatisfied, insatiable) culture over the modern society it aimed to improve through throwing it wide open to its own potential. 24Many little victorious battles added up to a victorious war. 25One after another, hurdles have been taken apart, ramparts crushed and locks broken in the incessant, stubborn work of emancipation. 26At each moment a particular constraint, an especially painful prohibition was under attack. 27In the end, a .........

Bauman, Z. (1992). Intimations of postmodernity. London: Routledge, p.vii


In Sentence 11, the author suggests what he thinks is the most important meaning of postmodernity: It is a 'state of mind' ('perhaps more than anything else.') - the state of those minds that think about what present life is like.

The first paragraph you will have realised is where the author describes what other people say postmodernity means. Having recognised the importance of 'state of mind' we may, as we skim on, notice comments such as -

'This is a state of mind marked above all by its all-deriding, all-eroding, all-dissolving destructiveness'.

As we continue we will recognise other relevant comments on what this author takes postmodernity to be.

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