Februar 10, 2010

The Arbitrariness of Postmodern Theory Is Reminiscent of Religious Concepts

A certain postmodernist fragmentation of narrators is often assessed with regard to novels written in the second half of the twentieth century (cf. Busch, 2007). Postmodernist narrational style is usually conceived as “steeped in relativism: plurality, an awareness of the ‘constructedness’ of truth, the multiplying interpretations that emerge from a single set of facts” (Smith, 2005, 3). Narrators are interpreted as having no coherent narrative point of view and as questioning the production and the narration of meta-histories (cf. ibid. 13,f).

Yet, by employing techniques of postmodern theory, the very relativization inherent in them can be disclosed as relative to the points of view of the interpreters. It makes no sense to talk as a literary critic or to talk about narrators in a novel if no coherent idea of an individual exists in order to evaluate the interpreter or character. Postmodern critique thus often reveals to be even more traditional than the realist philosophy it opposes. If the individual is simply taken as something that is worthy respectively important in itself (without a relation to some kind of universal standard), this reminds us of spiritual or religious understandings of a soul.

And without such a pre-condition, the whole discourse of postmodern theory (apart from the simple critique of existing concepts) would make no sense at all. If everything can be deconstructed, nothing seems more important than anything else. Why talk about postmodernist literature? Why talk at all? Without a standard to guide the scholar to an assessment of the individual as central to the human world, this centrality is necessarily arbitrary. Any idea rests arbitrary and thus reminds us of an almighty entity arbitrarily creating the world.


Busch, Hans Joachim, ed. Spuren des Subjekts – Positionen psychoanalytischer Sozialpsychologie. Psychoanalytische Sozialpsychologie 3 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007).

Smith, Shawn. Pynchon and History – Metahistorical Rhetoric and Postmodern Narrative Form in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon (New York and London: Routledge, 2005).