Over the course of the last thirty years, Fredric Jameson has enjoyed the difficult status of being one of America's leading Marxist critics and scholars. Jameson was among the first to bring the work of now familiar European intellectuals like Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Georg Lukacs to the attention of the American academy in the 1970s with his early work, Marxism and Form. He furthered his reputation with an innovative critical study of structuralism and Russian formalism, "The Prison House of Language" (at a time when semiotics had yet to become a household word in America), and later established himself in the American critical canon with the publication of "the Political Unconscious"-a path-breaking work of literary theory in which Jameson explicates his unique intellectual background and forges a program for future Marxist/political criticism.
Now Jameson's name is frequently associated with that most contested academic concept: postmodernism. Jameson's work Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism became a veritable intellectual bombshell upon its publication in 1991, earning him the prestigious James Russell Lowell prize, as well as the praise and scorn of many of his peers. Here Jameson confounds those who would celebrate postmodernism as merely a progressive stylistic innovation in the arts and poses difficult questions to those who would simply eschew its existence in favor of the more staid high modernist cultural forms. For Jameson, the postmodern is not "one (optional) style among others"-it literally is the cultural logicoflate capitalism and must be understood in its historical and economic specificity. Moving deftly from art to literature to economics and architecture (where debates over the postmodern first came to the fore), Postmodernism is a must read for anyone interested in the state of contemporary culture.
Recently, Jameson's most essential writings on postmodernism have been collected in The Cultural Turn. The volume begins with four previously published and oft discussed essays. Included are a version of his landmark Postmodernism and Consumer Society, in which Jameson examines the formal features which distinguish recent culture from earlier periods, and Theories of the Postmodern-a reasoned critique of various stances on the postmodern. The Cultural Turn concludes with four of Jameson's more recent and previously unpublished pieces which treat variously the persistence of Hegelian philosophy, the evolution of the gaze, and the relationships between finance capital and culture, and land speculation and architecture, within the postmodern. Here again, Jameson demonstrates his wide ranging intellectual prowess, as well as his critical attention to the political implications of postmodernism.