<i>Fakrul Alam reflects on post-modernism</i>
On his second visit to Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) as a guest speaker at the Lecture Series on English Studies organized by the Department of English, Dr. Fakrul Alam was clearly happy at being able to address his old friends, students past and present and school friends and thanked IUB for its hospitability. The topic of the discussion was "Postmodern American Fiction and the Visual Arts". He started off by describing himself as a teacher of the theory of postmodernism as opposed to being a specialist. He held forth on the beginning and end of modernism and the eventual rise of postmodernism in the 1960s. He also noted that it is preposterous to think of what is to come after postmodernism since there was just no way of knowing what was to be. In his view, postmodernism is a part of what is broadly called post-structuralism.
Dr. Alam focused on the emergence of postmodernism, the first signs of such emergence being in the form of a massive disillusionment in the West which resulting from the consequences of the Vietnam War, two decades of the Cold War and incidents involving students in Paris. Ideologies such as those put forward by religion, rationalism and Marxism were no longer to hold. He broadly explained postmodernism to be concerned with a questioning as well as a subversion of structures which appear to be absolute.
In his analysis of the postmodernist thinkers, Dr. Fakrul Alam spoke of Leotard and his concept of the breaking of the grand narratives that is one of the foundations of postmodernism. He explained how stories promising a beginning, a middle and an end which also end with happiness were seen skeptically at this point and the ideal world, depicted by religion, rationalism, Marxism, humanism and other theories, also facing challenges. He quoted Roland Barthes ("Fragments are the only form I trust") and noted Leotard's belief in narrating stories in the form of micro-narratives, which means that only small stories made any impact at this point and unlike before, big stories with big and pleasant endings no longer made effect.
Baudelaire, another critic of post-modernism, was also mentioned in the speech. Here, Dr. Alam spoke about the adoption of Plato's concept of a world of imitations by Baudelaire, who challenges the traditional view put forth by Aristotle that works of art always reflect reality.
In the power-point presentation, the reputed academic first indicated the key differences in the works of novelists of the modernist and post-modernist eras. He drew from Ihab Hasssan's "Towards a Concept of Modernism" and also from "Postmodernism: The Para-critical Bibliography" to point out the differences in form and content in the works of the two eras. He went on to speak on Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne, Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut and Krazy Kat by Jay Canter to exemplify the breaking of any well-defined boundaries which is the form followed by all post-modern writers in their writings.
In the question-answer round, Prof. Alam responded to questions put forward by Ms. Yasmine Mahmud, Associate Dean of IUB, Dr. Niaz Zaman, Advisor of the English Department (IUB) and Dr. Tanvir A. Khan, Registrar of IUB.
The event ended with a vote of thanks by Dr Razia Sultana Khan, Head of the Department of English, IUB. The Lecture Series is organized by Mr. Shaiful Islam, Senior Lecturer, Department of English (IUB).
Rimla Chowdhury is a student at IUB