Synopsis of Class: January 25, 2001

We spent most of the class discussing the characteristics of our current postmodern age, aided by Baudrillard's notion of the simulacrum in his essay, "The Precession of Simulacra." As Baudrillard suggests, in the era of simulation "It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real" (2). In such an era, Disneyland serves, according to Baudrillard, merely to dupe us into believing that our everyday reality is, in fact, real when it is not (when it is in fact constructed by media culture, by convention, by models, by signs): "Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real" (12). Examples in our own culture of the same breakdown in the distinction between fact and fiction: Mad City, Wag the Dog, Strange Days, Johnny Neumonic, The Net, Lawnmower Man, The Truman Show, Ed T.V., Pleasantville, Dark City, The Matrix, etc., etc.. (The Matrix even directly quotes Baudrillard at a number of instances and Neo happens to hide his hacker programs inside a hollowed out copy of Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation.) Do these movies constitute popular culture's effort to deal with a fundamental change in our experience of the world? Could it be that we are seeking "reality" in shows like MTV's Real World or Fox t.v.'s many "reality shows" or Survivor and Temptation Island precisely because we have lost a sense of reality in our everyday lives? If this is the case, what effect does the simulacrum have on our representation of the Holocaust?

When I asked you to outline the characteristics of our postmodern age, these are the elements you identified:

We finished with the next obvious question: In what ways can one say that Maus is postmodern? Also, in what ways does postmodernity affect our ability to represent and remember the Holocaust? The answers to this question will surely take up a good portion of our next class period.

Next Class Synopsis