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Images of Postmodern Society
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Images of Postmodern Society
Social Theory and Contemporary Cinema



September 1991 | 192 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
"A book well worth reading as its expose of postmoderism has a clarity others would do well to imitate." --Tim Gay in NATFHE Journal Blue Velvet, sex, lies and videotape, Do the Right Thing, and Wall Street are just some of the provocative films that Denzin explores for their portrayal of the postmodern self. He examines the basic thesis that members of the contemporary world are voyeurs who, adrift in a sea of symbols, recognize and anchor themselves through cinema and television. He skillfully weaves this idea back and forth between two kinds of texts: social theory, including poststructuralism, postmodernism, feminism, and marxism; and cinematic representations of life in modern America. The result is a solid assertion that postmodernism has shaped a dramaturgical society where the image has tragically replaced reality. Denzin offers a powerful reading of postmodern American society and the cinematic selves, however distorted, that inhabit this fantasy world. At the same time, he outlines the main contours of postmodern sociology and a postmodern sociological imagination that is responsive to the current historical moment. Images of Postmodern Society will play a key role in understanding the powerful relationship between postmodernism and the cinema for upper level graduates, gradate students, and contemporary scholars of cultural studies, communications, political science, anthropology, sociology, education, history, literary and cinema studies. "The book could be usefully incorporated into undergraduate sociology courses, particularly those that consider media and society, where it might serve as a basis for further discussion and examination of some important issues." --Journal of Communication "Images of Postmodern Society is a good book on two different levels. First, Denzin advances his own theory of postmodernism and, more specifically, of what he calls the "postmodern self," that is interesting and provocative. Second, this is one of the few books on postmodernity that is truly practical, in the sense that the book would be quite a good text to use in courses on the subject, whether they be in philosophy, sociology, film and media studies, cultural studies, and perhaps even anthropology. . . . I would certainly like to use the book for this purpose myself, and I would recommend the book for that purpose to colleagues in the departments mentioned." --Bill Martin, Philosophy Department, DePaul University "Denzin uncovers a profoundly important tension in postmodern culture . . . His work, then, demonstrates that the 'abundance of meaning' found in these films lies in the collision of modernist and postmodernist depictions of cultural practice." --Contemporary Sociology "Norman Denzin, one of the most interesting theorists and ethnographers in American sociology, has turned his critical eye to postmodern theory and contemporary American culture and society. Revitalizing Mills' sociological imagination, Denzin addresses the relations between Hollywood films of the 1980s, their constructions of self, and the structures of lived experience. He offers a postmodern sociology which addresses the increasingly conservative basis of postmodern ideologies of race, class, and gender. It offers an original postmodern critique of the postmodern. Images of Postmodern Society should be and will be widely read and discussed." --Larry Grossberg, University of Illinois

 
PART ONE: THE POSTMODERN
 
Defining the Postmodern Terrain
 
Postmodern Social Theory Takes on the Postmodern
Baudrillard, Lyotard, and Jameson  
 
Learning from Mills
 
PART TWO: LEARNING FROM CINEMA
 
Wild About Lynch
 
Blue Velvet
 
Nouveau Capitalists on Wall Street
 
Crimes and Misdemeanors in Manhattan
 
The Postmodern Sexual Order
Sex, Lies, and Yuppie Love  
 
Do the Right Thing
Race in the USA  
 
Paris, Texas
 
Mills and Baudrillard in America
 
In Conclusion
 
The Eye of the Postmodern

`Denzin is quick to point out how `postmodernism' is a contradiction in terms, but he is clearer than most writers as to what, in its many forms, it actually is. Resistant to definition, Denzin offers several views of postmodernism from different fields, the very variety being a suitable image for the uncertainty of the notion. Denzin does not state it in so many words, but he offers us a Dadaist version of today.... There is really nothing new here philosophically, except to upset those critics who view some of the films reviewed as icons of revolt. Given the generally hopeless picture Denzin portrays of modern Western society, it is hard to go along with his upbeat conclusion where he seeks the reclamation of the self from the postmodern quagmire.... a book well worth reading as its expose of postmodernism has a clarity others would do well to imitate' - NATFHE Journal

`The book begins with one of the clearest and most interesting introductions to the postmodern terrain that I have yet seen, followed by his analysis of `postmodern social theory'... Denzin offers the reader an interesting and illuminating treatment of movies and, by showing how postmodern social theory has failed to make the social world accessible to women, an insightful critique of the work of Baudrillard, Lyotard and Jameson' - Discourse & Society

`Norman Denzin, one of the most interesting theorists and ethnographers in American sociology, has turned his critical eye to postmodern theory and contemporary American culture and society. Revitalizing Mills' sociological imagination, Denzin addresses the relations between Hollywood films of the 1980's, their constructions of self, and the structures of lived experience. He offers a postmodern sociology which addresses the increasingly conservative basis of postmodern ideologies of race, class and gender. It offers an original postmodern critique of the postmodern. Images of Postmodern Society should be and will be widely read and discussed' - Larry Grossberg, University of Illinois

`Denzin uncovers a profoundly important tension in postmodern culture: between identities based on the more stable and coherent ground of race-, class-, and gender-based practices and a self that is increasingly based on the more fleeting and fragmentary image worlds of contemporary corporate culture. Denzin's work, then, demonstrates that the `abundance of meaning' found in these films lies in the collision of modernist and postmodernist depicitions of cultural practice' - Contemporary Sociology

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ISBN: 9780803985162
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