A roam about my books 9 – in search of postmodernism

Guilt by Lynn Steinsonthumbnail_IMG_2310-1-186x300 A roam about my books 9 - in search of postmodernismRobert Eaglestone’s book Postmodernism and Holocaust Denial is the only reference to postmodernism on my bookshelves. It reminds me that there are no volumes by the French political philosophers who shaped the generations of arts, humanities and social science undergraduates who followed me. Unlike the books about mid-twentieth century politicians which were allowed to grace my bookshelves for a few years before giving way to newcomers, the postmodernists never materialised in physical form in my bookcases at all. My curiosity about the writings of Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu was satiated by Google and Wikipedia. Eaglestone’s book reminds me of my attempts to find out more about postmodernism as I began the first term of a Masters course.

The next day, on my way to a seminar on critical thinking I see lots of posters have suddenly appeared advertising a series of seminars on “Postmodernism-what is it?  Wednesday 24 September 2.00 pm and then every other week”’  I will have to change my plans but this seems fortuitous so I head over to the postgraduate office. From behind the counter a girl peers through a crenel in the battlement of computers which divide students from those appointed to help them and she quickly dispatches me to see Paul in another office. I ask Paul if he knows anything about the seminar which is due to happen this afternoon.         
            ‘Oh, yes,’ he replies confidently, ‘I do.’
            ‘Yes?’
            ‘It’s cancelled today. There was a timetable clash. The lecturer had research to do in Ireland’.
            ‘Well, can you tell me anything about it?’
            ‘Just put your name on this list and you will be e-mailed… ‘
           So I return to the first plan and head off to ‘Critical Thinking’.
           ‘And so what is critical thinking?’ the Professor asks in perfect English which has a beguiling quality bestowed by an alluring French accent. No one responds. I search my brain for a definition. Intelligent questioning? I am still pondering when he surrenders to the collective silence of the group and turns to his next slide,  ‘Critical thinking is the process defined as the hermeneutics of suspicion.’ 
            Later, after spending some time looking up the meaning of various words used in his lecture, I understand that the key message was that if you want to appear scholarly you have to learn and use your subject’s jargon, sorry its tropes, with confidence.

Almost a week later and I try and find out if the ‘Postmodernism-what is it?’ seminar has been rearranged. First I check the notice boards so that I do not needlessly bother the office.  The notices are still up. I head for the office. A head briefly darts out from behind a computer.
            ‘Hi, please can you tell me what has happened to the seminar “Postmodernism -what is it?” It was supposed to be held last Wednesday but it was cancelled. Is it going to run tomorrow?’
            ‘Well I have the tag list here.’ Indeed she does have a list of everyone’s name and e-mail addresses by her right arm.
            ‘Yes, that is the list we were asked to add our details to so that we could be contacted. It was thought it might run tomorrow.’
            ‘I will try and find out for you.’ Busy activity at the computer. ‘Yes the problem with the timetabling has been resolved and it will run as the notice says.’
            ‘So it will run a week on Wednesday then?’
            ‘No, the 24 September.’
           ‘But it is 2 October today. That was last week. It was cancelled. It did not happen.’ 
            She looks at me as if I am being needlessly awkward. ‘Oh so, aahm, I will e-mail Stephen to find out and then e-mail you’.
            ‘Thank you. I think everyone else on that list would like to know as well.’ I offer helpfully, though I know, pointlessly.

Wednesday, two weeks after I saw the posters about the seminar, and having received no e-mails, I return to the postgraduate office in search of the Holy Grail. Three heads quickly flit back behind the computer parapet and the chatter abruptly stops and is replaced by the tappetty-tap of typing as I enter the room. By veering to the left and crouching a little I manage to catch the eye of the girl and she reluctantly offers assistance.

            ‘The seminar “Postmodernism, what is it?” Do you know if it will run?’
            ‘Are you on the list?’
            ‘Yes, I am on the list but I have not been told about anything.’
            She sighs and gets up, walks round the counter and out of the door and disappears. I wait listening to the clatter of fingertips on keyboards. A few minutes later she returns.
            ‘No, sorry we do not know anything.’ 
            ‘Nothing?’
            ‘No, nothing at all.’

 

Postmodernism- what is it?

‘You’re not a post-modernist are you?’ enquires my tutor accusingly, in a tone that suggests I might be trouble.  
          ‘Uhh, I do not…know,’ I reply slowly, trying to express some gravitas in my voice, as if my response was based on intellectual grounds rather than ignorance.

The next day, on my way to a seminar on critical thinking I see lots of posters have suddenly appeared advertising a series of seminars on “Postmodernism-what is it?  Wednesday 24 September 2.00 pm and then every other week”’  I will have to change my plans but this seems fortuitous so I head over to the postgraduate office. From behind the counter a girl peers through a crenel in the battlement of computers which divide students from those appointed to help them and she quickly dispatches me to see Paul in another office. I ask Paul if he knows anything about the seminar which is due to happen this afternoon.         
            ‘Oh, yes,’ he replies confidently, ‘I do.’
            ‘Yes?’
            ‘It’s cancelled today. There was a timetable clash. The lecturer had research to do in Ireland’.
            ‘Well, can you tell me anything about it?’
            ‘Just put your name on this list and you will be e-mailed… ‘
           So I return to the first plan and head off to ‘Critical Thinking’.
           ‘And so what is critical thinking?’ the Professor asks in perfect English which has a beguiling quality bestowed by an alluring French accent. No one responds. I search my brain for a definition. Intelligent questioning? I am still pondering when he surrenders to the collective silence of the group and turns to his next slide,  ‘Critical thinking is the process defined as the hermeneutics of suspicion.’ 
            Later, after spending some time looking up the meaning of various words used in his lecture, I understand that the key message was that if you want to appear scholarly you have to learn and use your subject’s jargon, sorry its tropes, with confidence.

Almost a week later and I try and find out if the ‘Postmodernism-what is it?’ seminar has been rearranged. First I check the notice boards so that I do not needlessly bother the office.  The notices are still up. I head for the office. A head briefly darts out from behind a computer.
            ‘Hi, please can you tell me what has happened to the seminar “Postmodernism -what is it?” It was supposed to be held last Wednesday but it was cancelled. Is it going to run tomorrow?’
            ‘Well I have the tag list here.’ Indeed she does have a list of everyone’s name and e-mail addresses by her right arm.
            ‘Yes, that is the list we were asked to add our details to so that we could be contacted. It was thought it might run tomorrow.’
            ‘I will try and find out for you.’ Busy activity at the computer. ‘Yes the problem with the timetabling has been resolved and it will run as the notice says.’
            ‘So it will run a week on Wednesday then?’
            ‘No, the 24 September.’
           ‘But it is 2 October today. That was last week. It was cancelled. It did not happen.’ 
            She looks at me as if I am being needlessly awkward. ‘Oh so, aahm, I will e-mail Stephen to find out and then e-mail you’.
            ‘Thank you. I think everyone else on that list would like to know as well.’ I offer helpfully, though I know, pointlessly.

Wednesday, two weeks after I saw the posters about the seminar, and having received no e-mails, I return to the postgraduate office in search of the Holy Grail. Three heads quickly flit back behind the computer parapet and the chatter abruptly stops and is replaced by the tappetty-tap of typing as I enter the room. By veering to the left and crouching a little I manage to catch the eye of the girl and she reluctantly offers assistance.

            ‘The seminar “Postmodernism, what is it?” Do you know if it will run?’
            ‘Are you on the list?’
            ‘Yes, I am on the list but I have not been told about anything.’
            She sighs and gets up, walks round the counter and out of the door and disappears. I wait listening to the clatter of fingertips on keyboards. A few minutes later she returns.
            ‘No, sorry we do not know anything.’ 
            ‘Nothing?’
            ‘No, nothing at all.’

 

Guilt by Lynn Steinsonthumbnail_IMG_2310-1-186x300 A roam about my books 9 - in search of postmodernismCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2021 Lynn Steinson
Guilt by Lynn Steinsonthumbnail_IMG_2310-1-186x300 A roam about my books 9 - in search of postmodernism
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About Lynn Steinson

Author of psychological thrillers "Deluded" and "Guilt" about members of The Sun pub quiz team.
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