The politics of representation : modernism, feminism, postmodernism
This study is an investigation into the shifts in ways of knowing which have been subsumed under the label of postmodernism. More specifically, it is concerned to relate theories of Postmodernism to the construction of film as an object of knowledge and to feminism's place in a Modernist/postmodernist divide. Chapter One offers an examination of competing readings of the nature of aesthetic Modernism drawing primarily upon debates on Modernist epistemological legitimation advanced by Jurgen Habermas and Jean-Franicois Lyotard. Chapter Two utilizes Lyotard's notion of Modernism as knowledge legitimated by the grands recits of speculation and emancipation to propose a understanding of the conceptual parameters of avant-garde film Modernism. Chapter Three examines Lyotard's view that postmodernism is acondition of cultural 'incredulity towards metanarratives' by introducing feminist interventions into avant-garde Modernism: it is argued that feminist deconstructionist film plays a crucial role in delegitimating film practices brought under the metanarrative of speculation by challenging the non-gendered mode of spectatorial knowledge claimed for them. Chapter Four extends postmodernist critiques of 'totalizing' discourses to the grand recit of liberty, and advances the view that feminist deconstructiorism, and related psychoanalytical theories of female subjectivity/spectatorship, are in turn delegitimated for instrumentalizing and homogenizing the feminist 'social bond'. Chapter Five considers Lyotard's propositions for a fragmentation of Modernist models of the 'social bond' in relation to his proposal for a theory of resistance defined in terms of 'dissensual paralogy'. Within the context of cultural and technological shifts in contemporary image-culture, the usefulness of a theory of postmodernism which remains embedded within Modernist epistemological differentiations is questioned. A proposal for a theory of film postmodernism which dispenses with the avantgarde/mass culture binary is suggested as a prerequisite for clearing a theoretical space for a politics of resistance which is not founded on instrumentalized and homogeneous spectators. Chapter Six extends this to consider how postmodernist notions of the dissolution of the 'self' and the fragmentation of 'social bond' relate to feminist emancipatory claims. A parallel to the theoretical 'loss' of Modernist foundationalisms; is offered by drawing on black and lesbian perspectives on film spectatorship to argue for theories of film meaning which reflect a multiplicity of modes of spectatorial positioning. The study concludes with an assessment of feminism's place in critiques of totalizing discourses and argues for local contextual rather than metanarrative validations of film as critical discourse.