By Asha Varadharajan
Booklet by way of Varadharajan, Asha
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In nineteenth-century Paris, Charles Baudelaire provoked the excoriations of critics and used to be legally banned for corrupting public morality, but he was once a key effect on many later thinkers and writers, together with Marcel Proust, Walter Benjamin, and T. S. Eliot. Baudelaire’s existence used to be as arguable and brilliant as his works, as Rosemary Lloyd finds in Charles Baudelaire, a succinct but realized recounting.
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The doubled movement I have just delineated not only affects the content of the historical struggle within postmodernism but also shatters the confines of conventional historical understanding. The trajectory of (post)modernity cannot be described in evolutionary terms, as the unfolding of historical necessity. Because the agonistic progeny I have described simultaneously inherit and dismantle the legacy of modernity, the history they inscribe or inhabit acquires the character of a genealogy, thereby producing instability and discontinuity in the seamless teleology of historical becoming.
The discourse of postmodernity explores this inescapable dilemma, not only in order to explain how "man" came into being, but also, in the course of undermining his authority as the transcendental ground of knowledge, to translate the reduction of being as the promise of difference. The "death of the subject" has, of course, been both announced and denounced with appropriate zeal. I undertake this journey through familiar landscapes, and negotiate, once more, treacherous ground, in the hope that an-other story waits to be told.
Harvey describes this process of imprinting as an incomplete exchange. She writes that "the 'imprinting' so well explicated in terms of the world to consciousness does not return full circle or ellipse such that the subject also inscribes itself upon the world, which in turn inscribes itself upon the subject" (Harvey 1986, 179). This inability to account for the moments when ideology fails and agency becomes possible is a problem common to the various depictions of the human subject as a function of discursive practices.