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The impetus behind this paper has been the recent publication of Fredric Jamesons 1991 Welleck Lectures The Seeds of Time1 As these lectures were delivered a decade after Jamesons initial attempts to map the terrain of postmodernity it appeared to me to provide an occasion to reflect upon the current status of Jamesons highly influential and much criticised theory of postmodernism as the cultural logic of late capitalism It also enables me to return to what I consider to be one of the most troubling aspects of Jamesons writing on postmodernism that is to say the waning to use Jamesons term of the political imagination As Jameson is probably the foremost Marxist theorist writing on postmodernism and one of the most influential of contemporary cultural critics I find this paralysis of the political imagination in the face of postmodernism deeply problematic As most of you are probably aware postmodernism is inherently paradoxical and playful There is suggests Jameson a kind of winner loses logic about it the more one tries to define what is characteristically postmodern the less characteristic it turns out to be Postmodernism by definition resists definition Theoretically postmodernism can only theorise its own conditions of impossibility with neither a fixed subject nor object there can be no theory of postmodernism as such This paradoxicality is what Jameson now identifies as the antinomies of postmodernity the aporia or theoretical impasses which mesmerise postmodern theory and unlike the older modernist discourse of dialectical contradiction remain unresolvable at a higher level of abstraction Jameson identifies four fundamental antinomies of postmodernism time and space subject and object nature and human nature and finally the concept of Utopia Today I will focus on just the first of these antinomies what Jameson describes as the foundational antinomy of postmodernism that is time and space and suggest that the failure to think beyond the antinomy is symptomatic of a more general failing in Jamesons theory as a
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