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What's Wrong with Postmodernism?: Critical Theory and the Ends of Philosophy (Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society) Paperback – December 1, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0801841378 ISBN-10: 0801841372

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Product Details

  • Series: Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society
  • Paperback: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (December 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801841372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801841378
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,842,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What's Wrong with Postmodernism collects seven of Christopher Norris's reviews of recent work in literary theory. Throughout, Norris appears to assume that his readers possess substantial background knowledge in politics and philosophy as well as literary theory. He clearly deserves his reputation as the most philosophically astute of British literary theorists and, considering the abstruseness of the topics under consideration, he also manages to be surprisingly clear.

Two purposes permeate the collection. The first is to criticize postmodernism, described as "the upshot of a generalized incredulity with regard to all theories, truth-claims, or 'scientific' notions of system and method." Through discussion of Jean Baudrillard's Selected Writings and Stanley Fish's Doing What Comes Naturally, Norris argues that in addition to its obvious intellectual flaws, postmodernism leads in the political sphere to malaise, cynicism, and apathy. The appeal of postmodernism, he suggests, is due to the failure of literary theories based on Ferdinand de Saussure's structuralism; fortunately, because there are approaches to the philosophy of language other than Saussure's, the postmodernist turn is not irresistible.

The second purpose of What's Wrong with Postmodernism is to defend deconstruction--and its patron saint, Jacques Derrida--against the accusations of postmodernist irrationalism found in Jürgen Habermas's The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity and John M. Ellis's Against Deconstruction. Norris contends that deconstruction, properly understood, is not itself guilty of postmodernist irrationalism, even if Derrida's epigones sometimes are. --Glenn Branch


If I had to recommend one book on postmodern theory, this would be it.

(Gregory Meyerson English Literature in Transition)

Norris is the most philosophically astute of all British literary theorists, and increasingly one of the most politically important, subjecting the jaded skepticisms of our time to a scintillating critique.

(Terry Eagleton, Linacre College, Oxford)

The text is a pleasure to read, unlike so many on the topic... Norris's scholarship is sound and the book is provocative.

(Mark Poster, University of California, Irvine)

With his characteristic exemplary clarity, Norris deploys a series of careful, precise and finely-honed arguments for a continuation of the relevance of critique, for a vigilant awareness of the political stakes involved in philosophy and criticism, and for the sheer necessity of hard but rewarding intellectual work.

(Tom Docherty, University College, London)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Greg M. Enge on November 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't always agree with Christopher Norris but he is an intelligent, and perhaps more importantly, a readable interpreter of the many issues surrounding postmodernism. He is a critical, yet sympathetic reader of some of the major figures associated with this (perhaps almost meaningless) term- like Derrida and DeMan. If you think some of the best and most complicated thinking in the last 50 years came from such figures, Norris helps you understand them better. If you think it's all a big mistake, you will have some very telling arguments at your disposal. This is a great place to start or continue the exploration of these remarkable writers.
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