Postmodernism and the Simpsons

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Postmodernism and The Simpsons
Intertextuality, Hyperreality and Critique of Metanarratives

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Björn Erlingur Flóki Björnsson bjornfloki@gmail.com Kt. 110982-5779 Maí 2006

Abstract

This essay offers a postmodernist reading of the popular television program The Simpsons, with special regard to the postmodern theories of intertexuality, hyperreality, and metanarratives. Before delving into The Simpsons, some major theoretical aspects of postmodernism in aesthetic production are outlined. Three of the most prominent theorists of postmodernism – Lyotard, Baudrillard and Jameson – are introduced, as well as their theories which will be brought into consideration in the following chapters. The objective
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According to Hal Foster (1983: ix), postmodernism aims to deconstruct or rewrite modernism in order to open its closed systems. Although both movements draw out techniques that essentially challenge tradition, the sentiment and motivation behind the employment of these techniques differ in important ways. Fragmentation is an example of a feature which characterizes both modernism and postmodernism, but literary critics such as Peter Barry argue that the modernist employs fragmentation with a tone of lamentation and nostalgia

for an earlier, more intact age, while the postmodernist employs it with a tone of exhilaration and liberation (Barry, 2002: 84). Postmodernists also draw a distinction between modernism’s and postmodernism’s perception of the relationship between “high” art and “low” art. Whereas the modernist would generally eschew the mixing of high and low art, in the postmodern realm it is not infrequent that these elements are conflated in one expression. Postmodernism stands in strong opposition to the kind of aesthetic elitism that postmodernists regard as inherent to modernist aesthetics. Postmodernists regard popular arts as no less crucial to our culture than the more classic arts. This is often perceived as a provocative view and has instigated many of postmodernism’s more austere criticisms. Although postmodernism is a notoriously difficult term to generalize, there are
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