Tradition (the pre-modern era, perhaps going back to the depths of humanity’s origins) prioritizes the transmission of knowledge and culture from the past. Its limitations are that it reinforces ways of seeing and doing that are not available to optimization, and it does not promote individuation. Traditional types of cultural artifacts include folk songs and nursery rhymes, communal dances and rituals, nature-based medicine and spiritual healing, liturgical music, grand long-lasting architectural projects built over many generations, myth, folk tales, the notion of “canonical literature” — things that reify the unassailable wisdom of the old and the cyclical nature of reality. [Greg Dember After Postmodernism: Eleven Metamodern Methods in the Arts]

Henri Matisse. Woman with a Hat, 1905

Modernism (circa 1900ish to 1950-ish) attempts to escape Tradition’s limitations by emphasizing invention, intention, seeing below surface layers to (what are perceived as) essential structures, and making clear delineations by ranking, rating or typologizing things. Its own limitation is that it often fails to recognize interrelationships, contexts, and the wisdom of organically evolved knowledge structures and things, perspectives from the margins, etc. Examples: the Bauhaus Movement in architecture, Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone music, novelists such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, visual artists such as Picasso and Dali, and the origination of motion pictures as an art form. [Greg Dember After Postmodernism: Eleven Metamodern Methods in the Arts]

Postmodernism (1950-ish to 2000-ish) seeks to correct Modernism’s hubris through irony, playful juxtaposition, bringing attention to subcultures that are outside the dominant, the re-elevation of traditional patterns rejected by modernism, etc… Its eventual limitation is that it often nullifies a sense of meaningfulness or purpose and deflates the affective dimension and interior subjectivity. Examples: Minimalist Classical composers John Cage and Steve Reich; rock music in general, and then specifically within the arc of rock music, the Punk Rock, New Wave and Alternative Rock genres of the 80s and 90s; novelists such as William S. Boroughs, Thomas Pynchon and Brett Easton Ellis; visual and conceptual artists such as Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono and Robert Rauschenberg; architects such as Frank Gehry and Robert Venturi who defied modernist austerity and functionalism; film-makers such as Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. [Greg Dember After Postmodernism: Eleven Metamodern Methods in the Arts]

Stacy Leigh Madolyn 2017

Metamodernism (largely beginning in the late 1990s and continuing in the present) reacts to or embraces aspects of all three prior epistemes. In my formulation, the central motivation of metamodernism is to protect interior, subjective Felt Experience from the ironic distance of Postmodernism, the scientific reductionism of Modernism, and the pre-personal inertia of Tradition. Does it have a limitation, in the way that I’ve claimed for the other epistemes? Probably, but we don’t know yet, because we’re not yet at a point in history where this episteme has played itself out! Representative artists/artworks include: the music of Sufjan Stevens and Jenny Lewis; television shows such as Community and Modern Family; the architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre; film-makers such as Wes Anderson and Miranda July; authors such as Dave Eggers, Elif Batuman and Jennifer Egan. [Greg Dember After Postmodernism: Eleven Metamodern Methods in the Arts]

One Comment

  • anon

    metamodernism is an interesting proposition

    but Dember’s pitch is solipsistic and glib in protecting an interiority common to postmodernism in general

    it seems to me second-order observation and displacement of subjectivity relative to questions of ‘progress’ are where the metamodern is situated at the moment

    normcore is a most cogent popular expression of this attitude even if it was a bit obtuse

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