Theories and Texts Charles
Jencks, "The Postmodern Agenda"
from Jencks, Charles, ed. The Post-Modern Reader.
New York: St Martin's Press, 1992.
--For Jencks, the key concept of Postmodernism is pluralism, which
Jencks is the first to theorize postmodernism from the perspective of architecture.
Unlike Jameson or Terry Eagleton, he takes a positive view at Postmodernism.
offers a new synthesis at a higher level;
overcomes the modern world picture.
Examples of Postmodern Architecture:Western
Postmodern Architecture, Postmodern
Architecture in Taipei AdHoc
Urbanism without Planning?
or Royal? East
Area in order and disorder? Hsin-Chuang's Shopping
I. Postmodernism: Different Kinds and Different Definitions
Jencks see the "postmodernism Lyotard define as "Late Modern" :
"the exaggerated and incessantly revolutionary form of Modernism"
For Jencks, postmodernism "hybridises" modernism by "[reweaving] the recent
modern past and local culture." (p. 16)
"post-modernism has become more than a social condition and cultural movement,
it has become a world view." p. 10
two philosophies: Neo-modernism and Post-Modernism
"They differ over whether the previous world view should be taken to
an extreme and made radical, or synthesised with other approaches at a
p. 33 deconstructive or eliminative postmodernism vs. Constructive or revisionary
postmodernism p. 33
a common definition: "to be beyond or after the modern"
a cultural movement that precedes the modern [Lyotard]
Lyotard p. 16 --a continuous revolution of the new; "A work can
become modern only if it is first postmodern. Postmodernism thus
understood is not modernism at its end but in the nascent state, and this
state is constant."
II. Pluralism (Related Concepts: Binarism
& Modernist Elitism) p. 11
a metahistorical category that cut across periods of cultural history (Umberto
Eco)p. 22 the new use of history and irony
Toynbee p. 18: the failure of post-Christianity as a kind of syncretic
faith; breakdown and disintegration.
Hassan p. 21 The characteristics he listed, for Jencks, "represents
the antithesis of what was going on in post-modern architecture at the
Barth p. 21 synthesis or transcension of these antithesis [realist
"One of the reasons it became potent was its suggestive ambiguity, the
way it specified the departure point, but left open the final destination."
& the Postmodern conditions (also called: civilization
or postmodernity) --positive and negative tendencies--p. 13
Post-modernism means the end of a single worl view, and, by extension,
'a war on totality', a resistance to single explanations, a respect for
difference and a celebration of the regional, local and particular.
Yet in its suffix 'modern', it still carries the burden of a process which
is international and in some senses universal. In this sense it has
a permanent tension and is always hybrid, mixed, ambiguous, . . . 'double-coded."
p. 11-12 . . .the post-modern trends and shifts . . .do not mean
the triumph of a single alternative: . . .
--a restructuring of modernist assumption with something larger, fuller,
e.g. Darwinian competition substituted by an ecological view--one that
is more cooperative and holistic
against binaries---relative relativism: the continuum, net, rhizome
and pattern recognition
oppositional terms in postmodern theory--purpose vs. play, centring
vs. dispersal, signified vs. signifier
. . . the shift from one the the next is not a reversal, not an opposition;
rather it is a hybridisation, a complexification of modern elements with
other ones.. . .
purpose--to overcome elitism inherent in the previous
paradigm. elitism in literature?
The Postmodern Condition: positive (and the negative): the increase
in communication (and the information glut and advertisement), the growth
of knowledge (and the consumer society), the rise of leisure (and of Disneyland
simulacra), the flowering of Post-Fordism (and the insecurity of workers),
the emergence of a new world order (and the Pax Americana), the
EC, GATT and global economy (and the Third World Debt and IMF riots) --for
every positive post-modern trend there is a corresponding negative consequence.
pm. challenge of monolithic elitism--to bridge the gaps that divide high
and low cultures, elite and mass, specialist and non-professional, and
most generally put--one discourse and interpretive community from another.
crossing, but not breaking down boundaries; cultural studies
There is no overcoming these gaps. . the different ways of life can
be confronted, enjoyed, juxtaposed, represented and dramatised. . .
III. Postmodernism: Periodization
and Its Relationships with the Modern pp. 10; 11
p. 15 --sublation, or Hegelian dialectic which resolves contraries,
is not always the result or goal of post-modernism: parts, sub-assemblies,
sub-cultures often keep their unassimilated identity within the new
whole. Hence the conflicted nature of the pluralism, the radical
eclecticism of the post-modern style./
Periodization --The modern period--"from 1450 to the 1950s, from the Renaissance
when the West became ascendant to the point where it was incorporated within
a larger global culture . . ." (11). The Modern movement: modernisation,
the condition of modernity, and cultural Modernism.
modernisation--industrialization; modern thinking--Darwin, Freud, Marx,
the shift to the postmodern --1875, 1914, 1945, 1960
Post-Modernism means the continuation of Modernism and its transcendence/sublation,
a double activity that acknowledges our complex relationship to the preceding
paradigm and world view. . . .
the theories of the modern paradigm have not been overturned so much as
transformed into parts of a larger framework where they still keep their
identity. . .p. 11
IV. Postmodernism: Historical
Cultural Modernism became an orthodoxy within late-capitalist
society (after 1945? as some claim), its doctrines started to dominate
western academies and such institutions as Museum of Modern Art, . . .
(e.g. F.R. Leavis; New Criticism;
e.g. western cities--frozen into the icy anonymity of modernism
e.g. Modern archtecture--Internationalist Style
"the univalence of Mies's architecture allowed [Abbie Hoffman] no freedom
of movement, or interpretation, at all."
"The black, quasi-Fascist buidlings of Mie's late period are a perfect
embodiment of the three great "isms" of modernity--reductivism, determinism
and mechanism. " Mies van der Rohe
different stages: p. 17
1. 1870s to 1950: prehistory
2. 1950s to 1970s: Postmodern seen as Modern in decline
3. 1960s: Post-Modern as the Counter-culture of the 1960s--e.g.
Pop Art and Adhocism (James Rosenquist's F111)
4. 1970s and early 1980s: Post-Modern as pluralist politics
and eclectic style
5. 1979 to the present: Post-Modern Classicism, a public language
6. 1980 to the presen: Critical Reactions to the condition of Postmodernity
7. 1988 to the present: Critical summaries of the Post-Modern Paradigm.
What Jencks considers to be postmodern:
His examples of Late Modernism: William Burroughs, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckettt,
pm movement: feminism and post-feminism; the green and ecological
movements; crossing disciplines, mixing genres
politics--progressive democratisation (include Taiwan); electronic democracy,
the end of communism in the East;
the rise of the ecological world view in the West;
the steady growth of the post-Newtonian sciences.
"Modernism . . . is progressivist in architecture and reactionary in
other disciplines. . . " (43, Jencks 1996)
The newness of the modern movement would lie principally in forms of
reduction, simplification, and concentration. Line, space and form
were to be pared to their essentials and the self-sufficient functionality
of every building frankly proclaimed.
--expression of the principle of unity and essential meaning.
Architectural modernism had its beginnings in the upsurge of
utopian architectural theory and practice in the early years of the century.
This revolution was centred primarily upon the Bauhaus school founded
in Germany in 1919, and the ideas of the Bauhaus found expression in the
work and writing of Walter Gropius, Henri Le Corbusier and Mies van der
(the key figures involved in it including the founder Walter Gropius,
his successor Mies van der Rohe)
--For Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architecture was to serve as the single
most powerful expression of the Ziegeist; in being thoroughly itself, .
. ."Architecture depends on its time,' he wrote. 'It is the crystallization
of its inner structure, the slow unfolding of its form.'
--visible expression of the new unity of art, science and industry.
univalence--The univalent building is one which advertizes its simplicity
of forms, insisting on the one theme which dominates its construction.
This is achieved by the device of repetition. . .The univalence of the
modernist building seems to establish its absolute self-sufficiency, as
an ideal principle made solid and visible. --exclusion--should not "mean"
pm. architecture--a return to the sense of meaningful or referential
function of architecture.
--A renewed awareness of the suppressed linguistic or connotative dimension
The language of pm architecture: neo-vernacularism, allegory(the
use of metaphor), Neo-Classicism (Free-Style Classicism; the classicism
that shows grandeur, elegance, solemnity, monumentality, but without ideal
proportion; p. 28-29).
Another Online Postmodernism Course: Postmodernism
(Professor Matthew Tinkcom, Graduate Program in Communication, Culture
and Technology Georgetown University)