Dr. Barry Laga (Colorado Mesa University / Universität Leipzig): "Useful or Useless: Ruminations on Labeling Something 'Postmodern'"

Thursday, 03.07.2014, 2:15 - 3:45 p.m., U5/00.24

“Postmodernism” is both derided and celebrated, and that’s assuming that we even agree on a definition. Like grand terms before it (neo-classicism, romanticism, modernism, etc.), postmodernism is a kind of short-hand to describe aesthetic, social, political, and economic phenomena, yet what binds those varied phenomena? Can we connect, say, John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse to the architecture of Robert Venturi, to the development of a post-industrial society, to the field of ontology? Or even if we remain within the field of literature, what does, say, Thomas Pynchon’s “Entropy” share with Donald Barthelme’s Snow White, or John Ashbery’s "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror"? Using a bevy of examples, Barry Laga discussed potential common denominators, whereby the goal was to rethink and reflect on the gains and limitations of this vexing term, postmodernism.

Dr. Barry Laga (Ph.D. Purdue University) lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he teaches American literature, literary theory, and film studies at Colorado Mesa University. A recipient of two Fulbright Lectureships (Antwerp and Leipzig), Barry has published an eclectic assortment of articles that range from Native American fiction and contemporary film, to avant-garde comix, religious monuments, and experimental literature.