Facing Postmodernity: French Intellectual Thought on Culture by Max Silverman

By Max Silverman

Dealing with Postmodernity explains French cultural concept via grounding it within the politics of the problems dealing with France at the present time reminiscent of: * the breaking of the town * racism * the problem of tradition * new citizenship. It discusses the various significant responses to postmodernity by means of modern French thinkers, either the rather well identified -Lyotard, Levinas, Derrida - and those that should be much less generic to a non-French viewers. In doing so, it addresses the questions crucial to the postmodern debate no matter what state it happens in; questions of historical past, of illustration, identification and neighborhood.

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Nazism provided 'the people' with the names and narratives which allowed it to identify exclusively with German heroes and to heal the wounds produced by defeat and crisis. (Lyotard 1988a:68) 16 Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy (1990:312) also blur the dividing line between Nazism and democracy when they state that Nazi mythmaking 'belongs profoundly to the character of the West in general, and more precisely, to the fundamental tendency of the subject) in the metaphysical sense of the word'. The challenge to the oppositions between universalism and particularism, assimilation and difference, democracy and totalitarian rule, undercuts the manichean moral universe employed to legitimize the West.

Does the deconstructionist use of 'Jew' and 'Auschwitz' therefore turn out to be another method of 'dislocating the memory of the Shoah from its past' (Kritzman 1995a:6), obscuring the specificity of the Holocaust, and, ultimately, recruiting the Jew yet again for the purpose of a universal truth? In the shado]}) of the Holocaust 29 History, memory, representation It is, of course, here that the discussion of the Holocaust meets the more general postmodern textualization of history and the problems of memorializing the past.

The textualization of history is also the conflation of the past event and the present of writing, the historian and the writer-all of which are part of the more general process of the flattening of history noted above (which, as we shall see in Chapter 3, is dependent on the spatialization of time). Also with Lanzmann's film in mind, Mongin shows how attempts to record the Shoah relate directly to the contemporary feeling of 'an exhaustion of the historical experience itself': The Shoah poses the question of the crisis of history and of the memory that one is obliged to privilege to remember the dead.

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