Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
Literary and Cultural Studies
Christy L. Burns
One of the earliest and most influential works regarding the "postmodern" moment, Fredric Jameson's book Postmodernism (1991) erects a series of cultural binaries to explain a shift from modernism to postmodernism during the 20th-century. In applying Jameson's theory to two recent "historical" films, I explore Jameson's contention that contemporary representations of history vacillate between modernist "parody" and postmodernist "pastiche." Though Stephen Daldry's The Hours (2002) appears more "modern" compared against Sofia Coppola's "postmodern" Marie Antoinette (2006), Jameson's terms nevertheless slip in application, causing us to question not only the fixity of Jameson's cultural binaries but also his implicit valuation of modernist texts as "meaningful" and postmodernist pastiche as simply "blank parody." Even if we accept Jameson's notion that the postmodern individual is "fragmented," and that we see a consequent "waning of affect," the individual can nevertheless act meaningfully, as Jameson's own theorizing indicates. Clearly we can choose "older" representational modes, like the parodic, in contemporary cultural production; however, these modes may not necessarily be the most "authentic" in contemporary postmodernism. My analysis of The Hours and Marie Antoinette suggests that the more "postmodern" a contemporary historical film is, the more cultural value it possesses. In effect, pastiche in film ironically becomes more meaningful in our contemporary context, for it is able to engage more effectively than modernist "parody" with our experience of the individual, "history," and "reality" in postmodernism. Thus, I argue that there is cultural value to "pastiche," and I use Coppola's film to prove both the superficiality and the potential for meaningful critique within postmodernism's pastiche aesthetic.
Robinson, Timothy, "Cultural Value in Historical Pastiche" (2008). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 799.
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