Images of Postmodern Society: Social Theory and Contemporary Cinema

Norman Denzin

Images of Postmodern Society: Social Theory and Contemporary Cinema - Norman Denzin

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Sage, Newbury Park, CA


"A book well worth reading as its expose of postmoderism has a clarity others would do well to imitate." --Tim Gay in NATFHE Journal Blue Velvet, sex, lies and videotape, Do the Right Thing, and Wall Street are just some of the provocative films that Denzin explores for their portrayal of the postmodern self. He examines the basic thesis that members of the contemporary world are voyeurs who, adrift in a sea of symbols, recognize and anchor themselves through cinema and television. He skillfully weaves this idea back and forth between two kinds of texts: social theory, including poststructuralism, postmodernism, feminism, and marxism; and cinematic representations of life in modern America. The result is a solid assertion that postmodernism has shaped a dramaturgical society where the image has tragically replaced reality. Denzin offers a powerful reading of postmodern American society and the cinematic selves, however distorted, that inhabit this fantasy world. At the same time, he outlines the main contours of postmodern sociology and a postmodern sociological imagination that is responsive to the current historical moment. Images of Postmodern Society will play a key role in understanding the powerful relationship between postmodernism and the cinema for upper level graduates, gradate students, and contemporary scholars of cultural studies, communications, political science, anthropology, sociology, education, history, literary and cinema studies. "The book could be usefully incorporated into undergraduate sociology courses, particularly those that consider media and society, where it might serve as a basis for further discussion and examination of some important issues."--Journal of Communication "Images of Postmodern Society is a good book on two different levels. First, Denzin advances his own theory of postmodernism and, more specifically, of what he calls the "postmodern self," that is interesting and provocative. Second, this is one of the few books on postmodernity that is truly practical, in the sense that the book would be quite a good text to use in courses on the subject, whether they be in philosophy, sociology, film and media studies, cultural studies, and perhaps even anthropology. . . . I would certainly like to use the book for this purpose myself, and I would recommend the book for that purpose to colleagues in the departments mentioned." --Bill Martin, Philosophy Department, DePaul University "Denzin uncovers a profoundly important tension in postmodern culture . . . His work, then, demonstrates that the 'abundance of meaning' found in these films lies in the collision of modernist and postmodernist depictions of cultural practice." --Contemporary Sociology "Norman Denzin, one of the most interesting theorists and ethnographers in American sociology, has turned his critical eye to postmodern theory and contemporary American culture and society. Revitalizing Mills' sociological imagination, Denzin addresses the relations between Hollywood films of the 1980s, their constructions of self, and the structures of lived experience. He offers a postmodern sociology which addresses the increasingly conservative basis of postmodern ideologies of race, class, and gender. It offers an original postmodern critique of the postmodern. Images of Postmodern Society should be and will be widely read and discussed." --Larry Grossberg, University of Illinois



Part 1 The Postmodern
1 Defining the Postmodern Terrain
2 Postmodern Social Theory
3 Takes on the Postmodern: Baudrillard, Lyotard, and Jameson
4 Learning from Mills
Part 2 Learning From Cinema
5 Wild about Lynch: Beyond Blue Velvet
6 Nouveau Capitalists on Wall Street
7 Crimes and Misdemeanors in Manhattan
8 The Postmodern Sexual Order: Sex, Lies, and Yuppie Love
9 Do the Right Thing: Race in the USA
10 Paris, Texas: Mills and Baudrillard in America
11 In Conclusion: The Eye of the Postmodern
About the Author