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What is Postmodernism?

To understand post-modernism, we firstly need to understand modernism. Modernism is a


period of time marked by the following:

Industrialization (following the industrial revolution)

Secularization (a move away from religious values and institutions and towards nonreligious values and secular institutions)

Rationality (using reason to provide answers)

We think of modernity as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. There are different
views on exactly when modernity began, but most argue that it was around the 1850s.

Post-modernity is the time following modernity. Again there is some dispute between exactly
when postmodernity began, but most argue around the 1960s (until the present day). The
dictionary definition of postmodernism is as follows:

A late 20th-century style and concept in the arts, architecture, and criticism, which represents a
departure from modernism and is characterized by the self-conscious use of earlier styles and
conventions, a mixing of different artistic styles and media, and a general distrust of theories.
(Anyone else confused?)

Okay, lets break this down

Characteristics of Post-Modernism

Extreme self-reflexivity. Art becomes more playful and


even irrelevant (as seen in Roy Lichtensteins
Masterpiece or architect Frank Gehrys NationaleNederlanden Building in Prague).

Irony, Parody and Pastiche. (There are many


examples of this in popular culture, media
advertising and televisions shows e.g. The
Simpsons).

A breakdown between high and low


cultural forms in more immediately
understandable ways (as seen in Andy
Warhols work).

Retro. Using styles and fashions from


the past with fascination but
completely out of their original context
(as in postmodern architecture in
which medieval, baroque, and modern
elements are often juxtaposed).
Fredric Jameson and Jean Baudrillard
tend to regard it as a symptom of our
loss of connection to history in which
the history of aesthetic styles and
fashions displaces real history.

Late capitalism whose dominance is generally


feared (as in the predominance of paranoia
narratives in movies such as "Blade Runner"
and "the Matrix"). This fear is aided by
advancements in technology, especially
surveillance technology, which creates the
sense that we are always being watched.

A further questioning of grand narratives (as seen


in Madonna videos such as "Like a Prayer" and
"Material Girl," which question the grand
narratives of traditional Christianity, capitalism,
etc.).

Disorientation (think of films that seek to


disorient the viewer completely through the
revelation of a truth that changes everything
that came before).

Postmodernism is used in many different contexts to explain many different aspects of a state
of affairs in society, a set of ideas which tries to define this state of affairs or an artistic style or
approach to the making of things. Alternatively, you can think of it like this