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Christian Moraru's Rewriting: Postmodern Narratives and Cultural Critiques in the Age of Cloning


Rewriting: Postmodern Narratives and Cultural Critiques in the Age of Cloning

Moraru, Christian. Albany: SUNY Press, 2001. 230 pgs, trade paper, $19.95. ISBN: 0791451089.

Dependent upon cultural environments people re-interpret already established cultural narratives into their intersubjective life performances. As Lacan has said, we are born into the Symbolic order, into language, without our consent of the reality we would prefer. America, and by default most of Western culture, has been engaged in a hyper-process of agonizing revision, of rewriting everything. As if Western culture, and its unlimited potential for subcultural interpretations, are attempting to re-inscribe an objective form of meaning into the hollow and collapsible traditional categories of significance. As a practice, rewriting simultaneously perpetuates and undermines cultural amnesia.

Without individual and shared memories there is nothing onto which to constitute intersubjective performances of identity. In a system in which identity is based and communicated via open symbolic objects life scripts disappear and are encoded in a system of objects, even the objectified body which has become a subjective position of communication that we then surround our objective selves with in order to communicate our identities. We are all sharing the same scripts or myths, but it is a matter of degree in which we interpret and articulate them that sets us apart, not the so called originality or authenticity of our performances of being. The collapsed barriers between subjects and objects has given us the opportunity to speculate or theorize that the postmodern subjective-objects have lives of their own, their in-itself-for-itself, their own phenomemonlogical coming into being. This system of objects is simultaneously negotiated between subjective and intersubjective realms of significance while holding the cues of our performative identities to be interpreted in public spheres of meaningfulness. This is merely one abstract consideration of the postmodern condition, by no means totalizing, true, or recognizable as the daily experience of life by most individuals or cultures.

This aspect of the postmodern condition reveals a lack of originality and a surplus of recyclable historical material ripe for negotiations of authenticity and pastiche, often resulting in a fluid state of perpetual deja vu at one extreme and unrecognizable remixed recombinations on the other. The question remains, how do we construct our lives, our realities, within this systemic blob of rewrites, deja vu, and recycled scripts? Christian Moraru suggests that this very system is not as fatalistic as some postmodern theorists would have us believe, concluding that the key is always already implicated in the system. As he states, "the history of rewriting over the last twenty years or so traces the increase of popular culture's revisionary presence in postmodern texts" (xiv). In other words, popular culture is the realm in which we can discover fresh (re)visions of ourselves and our futures, it is our site of optimism. "By recasting postmodern poetics in terms of revisionist rewriting, one could recast postmodernism's politics in a more nuanced and encouraging way than it has been done" (168).

Moraru's book is a volume in the SUNY series in Postmodern Culture, edited by Jospeh Natoli. It is categorized as Literary Studies and truly does require a well read and like-minded audience. Even though Moraru spends some time discussing one of my heroes -- Kathy Acker -- I found the book woefully dry and tyopgraphically difficult to read. I believe this is more of an audience issue than it is an issue with the book itself. Moraru's text seems well researched, articulated, and argued. My area of academic interest lies in performance studies and the avant-garde, which, by their very nature, tend to produce innovative and engaging content. I want to stress that my reactions towards this book are more emotively based than they are intellectual; I felt distanced by its habitual esotericism and un-engaging stylistics, as many interdisciplinary readers may be, and as such, the potential reader is warned to know the subject material before approach Moraru's work.

Jeremiah Smith