Frederic Jameson Revisiting Postmodernity

The following are excerpts from a 2014 interview with Frederic Jameson, which can be found here


On Hermeneutics, Ideological and Psychological Analysis in Age of Postmodernism:

It’s paradoxical, because after all, let’s say you want to think very crudely of art as somehow reflecting the real. Okay. And let’s say that the real has become ahistorical, has been reduced to the present, has lost its historicity, and so on. Well then, the art that reflects it is also going to be reduced to the present, ahistorical, and all the rest of it. We can only take an ambiguous relationship to this. In order for contemporary art to have some profound relationship to lived reality — David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest , for example — it has to reflect that reality. The mode of interpretation required for a representation like that necessarily changes. When years ago I talked about surface, lack of depth, and so on, well then, in order to be a proper reflection of social reality, the art has to be a surface art without depth, and therefore the older hermeneutics of depth analysis — whether they’re of a Freudian or Marxian kind — are no longer appropriate. But I do think that one can interpret this art in another way as a kind of diagnosis whose form can be described, and whose description is then itself a kind of clue to the weirdness of contemporary social reality. I consider that still a form of interpretation. Does a diagnosis still find some deeper meaning behind the surface? Or does it simply register a new reality?

I think we can still specify relationships to an underlying social situation. In The Political Unconscious, I tried to isolate three levels of such interpretation. One would have to do with historical events. I once heard a wonderful Hong Kong film critic who showed how each one of a group of Hong Kong films that we think of as completely cinematic products reflected a certain year in the crisis that was leading up to ’97. So there is a case in which actual historical contexts and events themselves leave their mark in the work and — even if they are not exactly the meaning of the work — we can find the trace of a symbolic event or response. On a second level, we can often detect a more generalized struggle of groups and classes. And on the third level, it’s the pattern of the mode of production itself that becomes legible; that is, it’s this third moment of capitalism that gets inscribed in the work, and one can recover that inscription and use the work to explore it in new directions. That’s still what I call interpretation.

On the Relationship of Deleuze, Affect and Hermeneutics

Now, the attacks on interpretation — Deleuze is again one of the great examples — those attacks also reflected a situation in which we didn’t want any more depth, realities, and essences; we wanted surfaces. And therefore Deleuze’s — how can I say — his method, his polemics, and so forth, were themselves a faithful recognition of the turn that history itself or that social reality had taken. The old kind of ideological analysis where one attacks a certain kind of ideology or idealism in the name of a certain kind of materialism or vice versa — I don’t think that’s what ideological analysis is anymore. But it still may be the attempt to locate the way in which a certain kind of work is characteristic of a present situation. Continue reading