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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Post- (Modern and Postmodern

Jenny Anger.

Postmodernism (roughly, art since ca. 1960) has been variously understood as a reaction against modernism (roughly, late 19th- and early 20th-century art) and as a continuation of modernism's neglected or repressed strands. French theorist Jean-François Lyotard, one of the earliest to assess postmodernism, characterized it in part as "an incredulity toward metanarratives." Clement Greenberg, American art critic, is known to have written the metanarrative of modern art, a story of its ineluctable progress toward self-sufficiency, universality, and purity. Following Lyotard, postmodernists would be suspicious of these attributes, and, indeed, much postmodernist art favors contingency, particularity, and impurity. But have postmodernists been incredulous enough toward the metanarrative of Greenberg? Was modernism as limited as Greenberg claimed - or as historians have claimed that Greenberg claimed? This paper will attend to these questions, attempting to tease out signs of continuity and discontinuity in modernist and postmodernist art practice and theory, and it will propose that reading the modern and postmodern thus may both call for and be an instance of the post- (modern and postmodern).


Jenny Anger  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Department of Art
Grinnell College

Jenny Anger has taught modern and contemporary art history and theory at Grinnell College for six years. Her first book, "Paul Klee and the Decorative in Modern Art," is forthcoming 2003 from Cambridge University Press.

  • Modern
  • Postmodern
  • Lyotard
  • Greenberg
  • Art
  • Theory
Person as Subject
  • Lyotard, Jean-François Greenberg, Clement

(30 min Conference Paper, English)