The Postmodernism Generator

In his article, “The Rubicon of class: Sontagist camp and predialectic sublimation”, prof. Paul Brophy from Yale University critiques predialectic and neocapitalist sublimation, contrasting them within the conceptual paradigm of consensus…

Illusion: which side is the real one? (Photograph by The Idle Ethnographer)

Often, post-modern theory gets accused of being two parts ramble, one part fluff [“Only two parts ramble? Rather, two-thirds ramble, two thirds fluff”, a matematician friend remarked upon reading the draft version of this post].  Derrida is derided, Rorty seen as contorted.  The common tendency of post-modern theorists to reject hard and fast notions of truth and reality, and their incredulity towards grand narratives, are taken by their opponents as signs of intellectual weakness.  The typically complex language of post-modern theories irritates some, but entices others – but perhaps both camps miss the point (if there is one to be made at all).

In a rather cynical post-modern fashion, the

Postmodernist Generator (click on title to follow link)

takes up and creatively uses the idea of mystification which is characteristic of this strand of social theory.  The online generator mocks the idea of text, using randomised key words to  produce at the click of a mouse dummy essays, much resembling lorem ipsum page fillers used by type-setters.   A superficial reader who skims instead of reading might be duped by the buzz-words into accepting the perfectly formatted page as “real” text.

But what is “real” text – and how much sense does it have to make, in order to make any sense?  The po-mo generator is not the first to disparage the mystique of post-modernist text by camouflaging itself as one.  Recall the Sokal hoax in which Alan Sokal, mathematician and physicist, submitted a sham article in the critical theory journal Social Text*.   As Sokal readily admits, it had been conceived as an experiment to test the journal’s intellectual rigour and find out whether it would “publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if it (a) sounded good and (b) flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.”[*]

The article got published and although it itself did not make any sense – it spawned an enormous amount of “meta-text”.  If the purpose of academic publications is to create debate, this one seems to have achieved it.

It is not certain who stands behind the po-mo generator.  Professor Sokal, is that you?

[*]Sokal, Alan (May 1996). “A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies”. Lingua Franca. http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/lingua_franca_v4/lingua_franca_v4.html. Retrieved November 10, 2010.

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