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Modernism Vs. Postmodernism. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘ modern ’ ?. Modernism: A Definition.

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modernism a definition
Modernism: A Definition
  • Modernism, in the arts, a radical break with the past and the concurrent search for new forms of expression. Modernism fostered a period of experimentation in the arts from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, particularly in the years following World War I.
  • In an era characterized by industrialization, rapid social change, and advances in science and the social sciences (e.g. Freudian theory), Modernists felt a growing alienation incompatible with Victorian morality, optimism, and convention.

modernism challenging tradition
Modernism = challenging tradition

Le Guitariste by Pablo Picasso, 1910

modernism embracing industrial advances anything is possible
Modernism = embracing industrial advances – anything is possible!

The Eiffel Tower, built in 1889, stands at 1000 feet high. It is an architectural accomplishment and symbolises the modern world

modernism an attempt to find a way for knowledge to explain that which was as yet unknown
Modernism = an attempt to find a way for knowledge to explain that which was as yet unknown

Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity – science and reason won the day!

Sigmund Freud’s teachings of the unconscious

modernism meta narratives
Modernism = meta-narratives
  • Karl Marx wrote the “Communist Manifesto” in which he said: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
  • Marx attempted to explain the history of everything through a meta-narrative!
modernism rebelling against traditional values
Modernism = rebelling against traditional values

Flappers were ladies in the 1920s with shorter skirts and short hair who used to get drunk and dance to jazz


Okay, so what about



Postmodernism: A Definition

Postmodernism is a late twentieth century movement that is a reaction to the worldwide view of the 16th-mid 20th century. This movement contends that there is no objective reality/truth and that human nature is socially determined. Postmodern literary works usually are ironic and abandon convention, formal structure, a linear narrative style, and social/political content.

postmodernism new media and consumer culture
Postmodernism = new media and consumer culture

“Reality T.V.” now dictates that everyone can be a star.

Most recently, documentaries have become ‘mockumentaries’

postmodernism rejection of the absolute right and wrong
Postmodernism = rejection of the absolute right and wrong
  • Nothing has an absolute, fixed meaning
  • Definitions of right and wrong are shaped by individual, cultural bias

Nietzsche wrote ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ in 1886 (!) which challenged modern perceptions of right and wrong: “truth is error”

postmodernism form and structure is challenged
Postmodernism = form and structure is challenged

Pulp Fiction is a good example of postmodernism because its structure is based on a series of flash-backs. Also, it challenges the conventions of symbols in cinema by having a suitcase… that we never find out what it contains!

postmodernism everything loses meaning
Postmodernism = everything loses meaning

James Joyce wrote some parts of his novels using the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique, i.e. no punctuation!

Franz Kafka wrote surreal novels

postmodernism disillusionment
Postmodernism = disillusionment

This is an example of post-modern or ‘abstract’ art - perhaps it is making a statement against art itself?

postmodernism regurgitation
Postmodernism = regurgitation

In music, “pop will eat itself” is a phrase that means that eventually nothing can be original because everything will have already been ‘done’. Nowadays, this can be seen with ‘samples’ in hip-hop and dance music: pieces of music are being reused in other songs. Nothing is original any more!

postmodernism no hugging no learning
Postmodernism = "No hugging, no learning"

The television series ‘Seinfeld’ is seen as being post-modern because a) nothing really happens in the show, and b) characters do not improve or develop during the series. It is a rebellion against moral, character-based television series.

postmodernism subjectivity
Postmodernism = subjectivity
  • The idea that the meaning of something is not fixed by the author, but that meaning is created by the viewer/reader. Therefore, everything is open to alternative interpretations.

Jean-Paul Sartre was an “existentialist” that believed in subjectivity over objectivity – i.e. that everything has multiple interpretations

postmodernism self consciousness
Postmodernism = self-consciousness
  • The idea that the media and writing refers to itself, or it plays on the idea that the audience know certain conventions
  • Parody/self-parody, satire and pastiche are logical conclusions of self-consciousness
the definitions
The Definitions
  • Parody: a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing.
  • Satire: a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
  • Pastiche: an incongruous combination of materials, forms, motifs, etc., taken from different sources; hodgepodge.
the clips
The Clips

View the clips from Star Wars 1977 and Space Balls 1987.

Consider: What is being parodied by Space Balls?

  • Star Wars 1977 Original Trailer:
  • Space Balls 1987 Trailer:
  • Star Wars Opening Crawl:
  • Space Balls Opening Crawl:
  • Star Wars “I am your father”:
  • Space Balls “I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s . . . :
  • Space Balls the Movie:
parody space balls
Parody: Space Balls

Lots of elements of postmodernism here:

  • Parody, because it parodies Star Wars.
  • Self-parody/Regurgitation/Self-consciousness, because it includes a video of Space Balls within the movie itself.
  • Pastiche, because it integrates science fiction/space epic, comedy, and satire.
evaluate space balls
Evaluate Space Balls
  • There have also been parodies of Space Balls– making these, deep breath, a parody of a parody of a parody:
  • Has parody gone too far?
  • Do we lose all meaning when the parodies are so far removed from the original texts?
types of satire
Types of Satire
  • Juvenalian: any bitter and ironic criticism of contemporary persons and institutions that is filled with personal invective, angry moral indignation, and pessimism.
  • Exs.: “A Modest Proposal,”Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, South Park

“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a

most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust” (Swift).

types of satire1
Types of Satire
  • Horatian: After the Roman satirist Horace:  Satire in which the voice is indulgent, tolerant, amused, and witty.  The speaker holds up to gentle ridicule the absurdities and follies of human beings, aiming at producing in the reader not the anger of a Juvenal, but a wry smile.
  • Exs. The Simpsons, Ig Nobel Prizes, The Rape of the Lock, The Giver, Gulliver’s Travels

View Simpsons Episode Intro.: “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”:

  • What is satirized in each section of the opening of the Simpsons?
  • What is satirized by the title?
techniques employed by juvenalian and horatian satire
Techniques Employed by Juvenalian and Horatian Satire

Exaggeration: The portrayal of something trivial or unimportant as very important, usually to emphasize its triviality.Diminutization: the portrayal of something perceived as important as something trivial/unimportant to show its unimportance.

techniques employed by juvenalian and horatian satire1
Techniques Employed by Juvenalian and Horatian Satire

Utopian: A criticism of the status quo through comparison with a superior kind of society that highlights the weaknesses of one’s own.

Dystopian: A criticism of certain aspects of society through comparison to an inferior society that adopts some of these aspects.

Irony: language that has two levels of meaning; the first is superficial or literal; the second is critical and often the opposite of the superficial meaning

  • Find an article at
  • Analyze it according to the type of satire. Also be on the lookout for additional satirical techniques.