Wien: The Postmodern Love | The Dartmouth

by Elise Wien
| 5/10/17 2:25am


Hello! I’ve been thinking a lot about power on this campus over the past two days, in the midst of all this local election mishegas. I think there are a variety of tactics to take down institutions of power: We can talk back to them, yell at them, meet with them in an instance of “civil discourse.” We can ignore them. Maybe in our absence they’ll shrivel away.

A moment of peace.

Kayuri and Corinne have been anxious lately. They haven’t been in my column for some time. So here, an hour after my comparative literature thesis presentation, is an essay on the Postmodern Love:

It’s the evening of our last class, and the professor has taken us to Pine, the swanky restaurant in town. All the graduating students studying comparative literature can fit at a round table. There are five of us. Someone’s dessert arrives deconstructed: crushed peanuts in a jar, a puff of cream on a plate.

“Whoa. Postmodern,” someone murmurs.

If I’ve learned anything from studying comparative literature, it’s this: No one knows what “postmodern” means. Or rather, no one agrees. One concept: If modernity refers to a time when Truths were capitalized, absolute and communicable, postmodernity questions that authority. It posits a dissipated, nebulous, subjective look at experience. It questions the very medium of communication, the value of communication itself.

Here’s a sample from a syllabus: “Appiah, Kwame Anthony. ‘Is the Post- in Postmodernism the Post- in Postcolonial’ (1991); Moore, David Chiani. ‘Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique’ (2001); Shih, Shu-mei. ‘Is the Post- in Postsocialism the Post- in Posthumanism?’ (2012).” You get the idea.

I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced anything you could call Modern Love, authoritative capitalization and all. I don’t know that there’s anything modern about my college experience, where everything is subjective, nebulous, unauthoritative.

I forget whole terms at a time and convince myself I’ve become wiser.

Another way of defining postmodernity is not as a chronological shift but as a way of thinking that’s appeared in every era of history. If modernity is one mode of thought — say, that everything revolves around earth — then the Copernican model would be postmodern, a re-mapping, re-positioning and re-evaluation of the self.

This, I think, is the type of love I’ve experienced at school. The Postmodern Love looks like this:

I was matched with my two roommates, Corinne and Kayuri, the summer before freshman fall. This was based on a questionnaire about our sleeping habits, cleanliness, noise level, etc., a questionnaire on which I’m sure we all lied. We’re graduating this spring, and with the exception of sophomore…

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