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Language and Culture I

Lic. Adriana Mara Fernndez: Prof. Maricel Pierella: Lic. Hernn Piperno

Postmodernity
(Summarized and compiled from the Internet, for academic purposes only)

Postmodernity (also spelled post-modernity or the pejorative postmodern condition) is


generally used to describe the economic and/or cultural state or condition of society which
is said to exist after modernity. Some schools of thought hold that modernity ended in the
late 20th century, replaced by post-modernity, while others would extend modernity into
the present. Post-modernity is said to have gone through two relatively distinct phases: the
first phase beginning in the 1950s and running through the end of the Cold War, where
analog dissemination of information produced sharp limits on the width of channels, and
encouraged a few authoritative media channels, and the second beginning with the
explosion of cable television, internetworking and the end of the Cold War and the
expansion of "new media" based on digital means of information dissemination and
broadcast.
This term is usually used by philosophers, social scientists, and social critics to
refer to aspects of contemporary culture, economics and society that are the result of the
unique features of late 20th century and early 21st century life. These features include the
fragmentation of authority, and the commoditization of knowledge.
Some have identified post-modernity with "late capitalism", characterized by a high
degree of mobility of labor and capital. There are other characteristics which distinguish
post-modernity from modernity. The first is "a new kind of superficiality" or
"depthlessness", in which models which once explained people and things in terms of an
"inside" and an "outside" have been rejected.
The period has had diverse political ramifications: its anti-ideological ideas appear
to have been conducive to, and strongly associated with, the feminist movement, racial
equality movements, gay rights movements, most forms of late 20th century anarchism,
and even the peace movement.
In a sociological context post-modernity can be said to focus on the conditions of
life which became increasingly prevalent in the late 20th century in the most industrialized
nations. These include the existence of mass media and mass production, the unification
into national economies of all aspects of production, the rise of global economic

Language and Culture I

Lic. Adriana Mara Fernndez: Prof. Maricel Pierella: Lic. Hernn Piperno

arrangements, and a shift from manufacturing to service economies. This has often been
described as consumerism or, in a Marxian framework, as late capitalism: namely a context
where manufacturing, distribution and dissemination have become exceptionally
inexpensive, but social connection and community have become more expensive. Other
thinkers assert that post-modernity is the natural reaction to mass broadcasting and a
society conditioned to mass production and mass politics.
Postmodernity is also usually connected to more rapid transportation, wider
communication and the ability to abandon standardization of mass production, leading to a
system which values a wider range of capital than previously, and allows value to be stored
in a greater variety of forms. Artifacts of post-modernity include the dominance of
television and popular culture, the wide accessibility of information and mass
telecommunications. Post-modernity also exhibits a greater resistance to making sacrifices
in the name of progress, including such features as environmentalism and the growing
importance of the anti-war movement. Post-modernity in the industrialized core is marked
by increasing focus on civil rights and equal opportunity. As such, the postmodern political
sphere is marked by multiple arenas and possibilities of citizenship and political action
concerning various forms of struggle against oppression or alienation (around themes such
as gender or ethnicity), while in the modernist point of view the political arena remains
significantly restricted to class struggle.
As far as works of art is concerned, basically, the idea is to cast ridicule on the
nature of established norms, but without making use of humour. According to Postmodernity, there is a death of the subject, the end of individualism in the sense that in
modern times there was a personal, private style, something that identified people as their
fingerprints. This unique personality and individuality has been lost. The individual subject
is dead. Classical modernism was a kind of oppositional art: there was the acceptable
and the offensive, the standard and the scandalous, the nice and the ugly, the taboos and
the sexually shocking. Anything that did not fit into the conventions of a polite society was
explosive and subversive within the established order. Now, in the post-modern world,
anything that is offensive is commercially successful. The classics of Modernism are only
taught in schools and universities as the canons. At some point after the 2nd World War a
new kind of society began to emerge: the past has been forgotten, the society began to live

Language and Culture I

Lic. Adriana Mara Fernndez: Prof. Maricel Pierella: Lic. Hernn Piperno

a perpetual present and in perpetual change, reality changed to images, time has been
fragmented into a series of presents and traditions have been forgotten.
Let us summarize the most important social, historical and psychological
characteristics:
1. In opposition to Modernity, Post-modernity is the time of disenchantment. People
leave aside utopy and the idea of progress.
2. There is a change in the economic capitalist order, from a production economy to a
consumer economy.
3. Great charismatic figures disappear and there appear other numerous small idols
that disappear when a new one crops up.
4. The importance of nature and the environment mixes up with the compulsion of
consumerism.
5. Mass Media and Marketing turn into centres of power.
6. The content of a message is no longer important as long as the hearer is convinced
of what they are listening.
7. Image prevails over ideology; image replaces the feature on which people base
their grounds for their leaders election.
8. Mass Media turn into truth transmitters. What does not appear in the news simply
does not exist for society.
9. Reality is for the viewer or listener mere entertainment, not something real or
relevant.
10. Intimacy is lost; other peoples lives become a show.
11. Political Leaders are demystified.
12. People only want to live the present; the past and the future are not important.
13. There is a look for immediacy.
14. There is a gradual loss of individual personality.
15. The only revolution man is willing to fight is the inner revolution.
16. People worship the body and personal liberation.
17. Mysticism comes back as a justification of some events.
18. There is a loss of faith in Reason and Science, but people honour technology.
19. Man bases his existence in relativity and plurality of choice, and subjectivity
influences reality.

Language and Culture I

Lic. Adriana Mara Fernndez: Prof. Maricel Pierella: Lic. Hernn Piperno

20. There is loss of faith in the public power.


21. People do not care about injustice.
22. Idealism disappears.
23. There is loss in the ambition of self improvement.
24. The value of effort disappears.
25. There are great changes around the different religions.
26. People learn to enjoy entertainment via Internet with their friends.
Other Key Characteristics of Postmodernism
Postmodernism isnt a word thats easily defined, and its origins arent easily traced. We
find it used to describe architecture, art, technology, and literature among other areas;
either originating from modernism or opposed to it. Most notable is postmodern thought,
which involves several key characteristics that are generally acknowledged by many of
those who subscribe to the philosophy. In this instance, postmodernism is anti-modern, as
evidenced in the following list:
1. Disillusionment with modernist thinking
Postmodernists are uncomfortable with the modernists inability to make strides in
achieving peace and progress in society. Therefore, they challenge the conventional way of
operating.
2. Opposition to traditional authority
Overall, authority is dangerous and not to be trusted. Authority figures are to be opposed
due to their loyalty to the establishment and rigid beliefs in moral truths.
3. Truth is relative
There are no impartial truths. They have been defined by people and groups who use them
to obtain power. One individuals perception of reality doesnt always match another
individuals perception of reality. For instance, even though you may view an individual of
the opposite sex as in a relationship based on their apparently conventional practices that
suggest that theyre taken, they may not see themselves as in a relationship.
4. Facts are useless
Facts can change daily or they may be utter lies. This comes with believing that truth is
subjective and that its something that shouldnt be generally acknowledged.

Language and Culture I

Lic. Adriana Mara Fernndez: Prof. Maricel Pierella: Lic. Hernn Piperno

5. Rationalization
Opinions are what matter in postmodern thinking. Provided that the opinion is rationalized,
it can be accepted as the best explanation. This means that science is rejected for the reason
that there is no objectivity.
6. Morality is relative
There isnt a moral system thats right for everyone. Traditional beliefs that have been
accepted for hundreds of years fall by the wayside when people accept that truth is relative.
This is where many Christians are at odds with postmodernists.
7. Each religion is legitimate
Postmodern thinkers believe that there isnt one religion thats right. Instead, all of them
are legitimate. If you subscribe to a faith based on personal experiences and its compatible
with you, then its accepted by postmodern thinkers.
8. Belief in internationalism
Postmodernists reject the idea of nationalism for the reason that it drives nations into
conflict with each other, discouraging healthy human progress. Internationalism ensures
that were looking out for the greater good, uniting instead of dividing.
9. Collective Ownership
Postmodern thinkers disapprove of the idea of individual ownership. It would be most fair
if we divided and distributed goods as a group.
10. Equality
Postmodernists believe in equality for all, regardless of race, sexual orientation, class or
religion. Therefore, there isnt one right way to live.

SOME ATTRIBUTES OF POST-MODERNIST LITERATURE:


A LIST OF POST-MODERN CHARACTERISTICS
Postmodernism is supposed to be a response to modernism, especially its implicit or
explicit distinction between 'high' culture and commonly lived life. It implies a reaction to,
refusal and diffusion of the elements of modernist thought which are totalizing, which
suggest a master narrative or master code, i.e. an explanatory cohesion of experience; a
reaction to, refusal of the totalizing of modernist form -- of the dominance in modernism
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Language and Culture I

Lic. Adriana Mara Fernndez: Prof. Maricel Pierella: Lic. Hernn Piperno

of form and of the idea of the aesthetic, which created a 'special world' for art, cut off from
the variety and everydayness of life (a negative judgment on this 'refusal' is that
postmodernism simply aestheticizes everything). Postmodernism is a big response to such
things as a world lived under nuclear threat and threat to the geosphere, to a world of faster
communication, mass mediated reality, greater diversity of cultures and a consequent
pluralism. It means a crossing or dissolving of borders -- between fiction and non-fiction,
between literary genres, between high and low culture: an attempt to integrate art and life - the inclusion of popular forms, popular culture and everyday reality. It heavily relies on
fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc. Irony, black humor, and the general
concept of play are the most recognizable characteristics of postmodern literature.
Numerous novelists labeled postmodern were first collectively labeled black humorists.
Postmodern literature represents a break from 19th century realism, in which a story was
told from an objective or omniscient point of view. In character development postmodern
literature explores subjectivism, turning from external reality to examine inner states of
consciousness. In addition, postmodern literature explores fragmentariness in narrative and
character-construction.
Some of the most important features are:
Pastiche
Many postmodern authors combined, or pasted elements of previous genres and styles of
literature to create a new narrative voice, or to comment on the writing of their
contemporaries. Pastiche is usually recognized as the taking of various ideas from
previous writings and literary styles and pasting them together to make new styles. Thomas
Pynchon, one of the most important postmodern authors, uses elements from detective
fiction, science fiction, and war fiction, songs, pop culture references, and well-known,
obscure, and fictional history.
http://booksoupbookstore.blogspot.com/2008/05/unfortunates-by-bs-johnson.html

Irony, playfulness, black humor


In Post modern literature, there is a refusal of seriousness or an undercutting of or
problematizing of seriousness -- achieved through such things as the turning upside-down
of everything, and through the use of parody, play, black humour and wit. Postmodern
authors were certainly not the first to use irony and humor in their writing, but for many
postmodern authors, these became the hallmarks of their style. Postmodern authors will
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Language and Culture I

Lic. Adriana Mara Fernndez: Prof. Maricel Pierella: Lic. Hernn Piperno

often treat very serious subjectsWorld War II, the Cold War, conspiracy theoriesfrom
a position of distance and disconnect, and will choose to depict their histories ironically
and humorously. Post modern literature implies the challenging of borders and limits,
including those of decency.
http://books.google.com/books?id=Xfze51E7TEoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=catch22&ei=HNsISpu3M5f2MIzRwYYE

Intertextuality
The focus in the study of postmodern literature is on intertextuality: the relationship
between one text and another. This is an indication of postmodernisms lack of originality
and reliance on clichs. Intertextuality in postmodern literature can refer to or parallel
another literary work, an extended discussion of a work, or the adoption of a style. In
postmodern literature this commonly shows up as references to fairy tales or in references
to popular genres such as sci-fi and detective fiction. One of the most important elements
of postmodernism is, therefore, its acknowledgment of previous literary works. The
intertextuality of certain works of postmodern fiction, the dependence on literature that has
been created earlier, attempts to comment on the situation in which both literature and
society found themselves in the second half of the 20th century: living, working, and
creating on the backs of those that had come before.
http://books.google.com/books?id=RC6JJmB_JEcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=rosencrantz+and+guildenster
n+are+dead&ei=q9sISoqMMYjYMOqLrNAD

Metafiction
Many postmodern authors feature metafiction in their writing, which, essentially, is writing
about writing, an attempt to make the reader aware of its ficitionality, and, sometimes, the
presence of the author. Authors sometimes use this technique to allow for flagrant shifts in
narrative, impossible jumps in time, or to maintain emotional distance as a narrator. This is
also known as the writing of reflexive fiction or meta-fiction: fiction which is in the first
instance aware of itself as fiction and which may dramatize the false or constructed nature
of fiction, on the one hand, or the inevitable fictionality of all experience, on the other.
http://books.google.com/books?id=FM4y7N1kM9AC&printsec=frontcover&dq=slaughterhousefive&ei=JdwISu7zLZasM4n7jIsG

Historiographic metafiction

Language and Culture I

Lic. Adriana Mara Fernndez: Prof. Maricel Pierella: Lic. Hernn Piperno

This term was created by Linda Hutcheon to refer to novels that fictionalize actual
historical events and characters: Thomas Pynchons Mason and Dixon, for example,
features a scene in which George Washington smokes pot.
http://www.amazon.com/General-Labyrinth-Gabriel-Garc%C3%ADa-M%C3%A1rquez/dp/0140148590

Temporal Distortion
Temporal distortion is a literary technique that uses a nonlinear timeline: the author may
jump forwards or backwards in time, or there may be cultural and historical references that
do not fit: Abraham Lincoln uses a telephone in Ishmael Reeds Flight to Canada. This
technique is frequently used in literature, but it has become even more common in films.
http://books.google.com/books?id=4269Rt0vqTIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=flight+to+canada&lr=&num=5
0&as_brr=3&as_pt=ALLTYPES&ei=s9wISsguk841mYeBow4

Technoculture and hyperreality


This implies acknowledgments of and, in some senses, struggles against a world in which,
under a spreading technological capitalism, all things are commodified and fetishized
(made the object of desire), and in which genuine experience has been replaced by
simulation and spectacle. In his essay of the same name, Frederic Jameson called
postmodernism the cultural logic of late capitalism. According to his logic, society has
moved beyond capitalism into the information age, in which we are constantly bombarded
with advertisements, videos, and product placement. Many postmodern authors reflect this
in their work by inventing products that mirror actual advertisements, or by placing their
characters in situations in which they cannot escape technology.
http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2003/01/27/030127fi_fiction

Paranoia
Many postmodern authors write under the assumption that modern society cannot be
explained or understood. From that point of view, any apparent connections or controlling
influences on the chaos of society would be very frightening, and this lends a sense of
paranoia to many postmodern works.
http://books.google.com/books?id=vp2Sv9KO1VUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=crying+of+lot+49&lr=&num
=50&as_brr=3&as_pt=ALLTYPES&ei=BN0ISsjXMIvKNdv-tYUC

Maximalism
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Language and Culture I

Lic. Adriana Mara Fernndez: Prof. Maricel Pierella: Lic. Hernn Piperno

Villified by its critics for being in turns disorganized, sprawling, overly long, and
emotionally disconnected, maximalism exists in the tradition of long works like The
Odyssey. Authors that use this technique will sometimes defend their work as being as long
as it needs to be, depending on the subject material that is covered.
http://books.google.com/books?id=xbeUMn6pi2UC&printsec=frontcover&dq=howl&lr=&num=50&as_brr=
3&as_pt=ALLTYPES&ei=IN0IStmwNYvKNdv-tYUC

Minimalism
Minimalism is a style of writing in which the author deliberately presents characters that
are unexceptional and events that are taken from everyday life. It is not an exclusively
postmodern technique, as many writers, most notably Ernest Hemingway, wrote in a
similar style, but some critics claim that Samuel Beckett, one of the most important
postmodern authors, perfected minimalism.
http://www.amazon.com/Waiting-Godot-Tragicomedy-Two-Acts/dp/0802130348

Faction
Faction: The mixing of actual historical events with fictional events without clearly
defining what is factual and what is fictional. Faction is very similar to historiographic
metafiction, in that its subject material is based on actual events, but writers of faction tend
to blur the line between fact and fiction to the degree that it is almost impossible to know
the difference between the two, as opposed to metafiction, which often draws attention to
the fact that it is not true.
http://books.google.com/books?id=mYC3yRvvXxMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=in+cold+blood&lr=&num=
50&as_brr=3&as_pt=ALLTYPES&ei=et0ISonVK4a6NarmnKcB

Magical Realism
Arguably the most important postmodern technique, magical realism, is the introduction of
fantastic or impossible elements into a narrative that is otherwise normal. Magical realist
novels may include dreams taking place during normal life, the return of previously
deceased characters, extremely complicated plots, wild shifts in time, and myths and fairy
tales becoming part of the narrative. Many critics argue that magical realism has its roots in

Language and Culture I

Lic. Adriana Mara Fernndez: Prof. Maricel Pierella: Lic. Hernn Piperno

the work of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garca Mrquez, two South American writers,
and some have classified it as a Latin American style.
http://books.google.com/books?id=Jumamrx5UgoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=labyrinths&lr=&num=50&as
_brr=3&as_pt=ALLTYPES&ei=i90ISsCNIoOgNfGsqOwD
http://books.google.com/books?id=W6oIvSR4MQkC&printsec=frontcover&dq=100+years+of+solitude&lr=
&num=50&as_brr=3&as_pt=ALLTYPES&ei=p90ISvfjPI3MM7a1uO0B

Participation
Reader Involvement is achieved often through direct address to the reader and the open
acknowledgment of the fictional nature of the events being described. Many postmodern
authors, as a response to modernism, which frequently set its authors apart from their
readers, attempt to involve the reader as much as possible over the course of a novel. This
can take the form of asking the reader questions, including unwritten narratives that must
be constructed by the reader, or allowing the reader to make decisions regarding the course
of the narrative.
HTTP://POS TM ODERNBLO G. TUM BLR .COM /POST/1 0 6 5 3 27 1 0 / A-LIST-O F-PO S TM ODERN C HAR AC TE R IS T IC S

http://www.brocku.ca/english/courses/2F55/post-mod-attrib.php

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