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Entertainment / Literature / Postmodernism: A general (and often hotly debated) label referring to the philosophical, artistic, and literary changes and tendencies after the 1940s and 1950s up to the present day. We can speak of postmodern art, music, architecture, literature, and poetry using the same generic label. The tendencies of postmodernism include (1) a rejection of traditional authority, (2) radical experimentation--in some cases bordering on gimmickry, (3) eclecticism and multiculturalism, (4) parody and pastiche, (5) deliberate anachronism or surrealism, and (6) a cynical or ironic self-awareness (often postmodernism mocks its own characteristic traits). In many ways, these traits are all features that first appeared in modernism, but postmodernism magnifies and intensifies these earlier characteristics. It also seems to me that, while modernism rejected much of tradition, it clung to science as a hopeful and objective cure to the past insanities of history, culture and superstition. Modernism hoped to tear down tradition and longed to build something better in its ruins. Postmodernism, on the other hand, is often suspicious of scientific claims, and often denies the possibility or desirability of establishing any objective truths and shared cultural standards. It usually embraces pluralism and spurns monolithic beliefs, and it often borders on solipsism. While modernism mourned the passing of unified cultural tradition, and wept for its demise in the ruined heap of civilization, so to speak, postmodernism tends to dance in the ruins and play with the fragments. Some of the new literary movements growing from postmodernism include the darker or horrific tales of science fiction, neo-Gothic literature, late twentieth-century horror stories, concrete poetry, magic realism, Theater of the Absurd, and so on. Finally, postmodernism is often used loosely and interchangeably with the critical movements following post-structuralism--the growing realms of Marxist, materialist, feminist, and psychoanalytical approaches to literature that developed during and after the 1970s. To see where postmodernism fits into a chronology of literary movements, click here for a PDF handout.
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Entertainment / Literature / Modernism: A vague, amorphous term referring to the art, poetry, literature, architecture, and philosophy of Europe and America in the early twentieth-century. Scholars do not agree exactly when Modernism began- MORE