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Modernism vs. Postmodernism

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  1. Modernism vs. Postmodernism • Postmodernism (a.k.a. Contemporary Literature): backlash against Modernism + improvement on Modernist philosophies • Different from Modernism in how elements are used; Postmodernism celebrates paradox/irony & rejects the hegemony (becomes its own form & structure) of Modernism

  2. Influences, Cont.: Support of Political/Human Rights Movements

  3. Timeline • Postmodernism emerged in 1940s but became popular in the 1950s & gained academic momentum in the 1970s • Fifties: suburbia, Leave it to Beaver, the emptiness of wealth & middle class life, McCarthysim (paranoia = unfounded/exaggerated distrust of others), gap between intellectuals & mainstream, Korean War • Sixties & Seventies: Vietnam War, Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation, the Beat Generation (anti-establishment, opposed some established present order) • Eighties & Nineties: Gulf War, Yuppyism, John Irving’s novel The World According to Garp, Multiculturalism & the evolving canon, generation X – apathy, cynicism, pulp fiction (nothing really matters)

  4. Conventions/Beliefs, Cont. • No absolutes (no absolute/universally accepted truths) – no such thing as binary systems of duality such as good vs. evil, as there are too many different points of view in the world & era of Postmodernism is so fragmented with mass communication, mainstream media, etc. (giving voice to previously marginalized groups); no true objectivity, one’s reality is a representation of one’s point of view & ethics are relative to each person (abandons tradition of relying on objective ethical system), no need to follow traditional rules, decline of traditionally dominant Western values • Poststructuralism: everything is subjective, aversion to clean categorizing & meanings • Derrida’s Deconstruction attacks Western philosophy’s acceptance of certain objective truths for every text deconstructs itself thereby exposing different meanings each time it is read, no unified purpose, infinite number of interpretations are possible, contends that the text deconstructs itself  exposes fragmentation/contradiction + multiple meanings) • Questions the Grand Narrative (a.k.a. Metanarrative) that refers to the all-embracing foundations that we have relied on to make sense of the world, i.e. religion, and rejected it as a guiding force because everything is subjective (which allows for multiple worlds/interpretations/meanings, objective truth is impossible, overrides Western Metanarratives)

  5. Conventions/Beliefs, Cont. • Inability to distinguish fantasy from reality (the simulation of something that never even existed  inability to distinguish fantasy from reality) • Metafiction (“beyond fiction”): mixes/blurs the line between fiction (fantasy) & reality, author becomes involved with the characters & directly addresses reader • Baudrillard’s simulacra = copy (believe a copy has become greater than the thing it represents, society has replaced all reality & meaning with symbols & signs during industrial revolution with mass produced copies that threaten to replace the real due to their ability to imitate), strategy of the real = simulation is dangerous so combat by injecting realness & referentiality everywhere to bring the real back • Eco’s theory: we make realistic fabrications better & more interesting than what we actually encounter in life & root of American psyche is quest for authentic copies

  6. Conventions/Beliefs, Cont. • Like Modernism, doesn’t distinguish between high & low art (all art is valid, everything is art, art is all that is important), art evokes feeling of living in the Postmodern era, unlike Modernists Postmodernists feel sensations are more important than intellectual analysis when it comes to art (what it does rather than what it means), no longer is there any interaction between art as a representation of reality (the signifier) and the interpretation of the art, reality itself (the signified) • Self-aware & self-reflexive (self-reflexivity = author/characters reflect upon the process of the story while its progressing, author is a “self-conscious” narrator), art is self-conscious (like in Modernism) does not only present itself as what is perceived but also how it is perceived) • Celebrates pluralism & multiculturalism – all voices should be heard, minority is just as important as the majority, collapses cultural hierarchies, Postcolonialism: how colonization affects culture & invalidates the metanarratives that justifies colonialization (deconstructs the universalizing master narratives of human progress & objectivity of knowledge • Intertextuality – the shaping of text’s meaning by other texts, author borrows ideas from other texts, readers’ responses are affected by their previous exposure to other texts • Symbolism

  7. Conventions/Beliefs, Cont. • Accepts/celebrates the absurd (occurrences that don’t make sense and convey the meaninglessness of human existence & absurdity of human condition) • Mood of irony: i.e. words intended to mean opposite of usual meaning to convey lack of meaning and sense in the world • Like Modernism, incoherent & fragmented plot structures & narratives (distortions of time i.e. anachronisms – something out of its place in time & fragmentation of thoughts & non-linear narratives • Existentialism: existence precedes essence for man fashions his own existence & only exists by so doing and in the process, by choice of what does or does not do, gives essence to that existence, by exercising poeer of choice can give meaning to existence/the universe (Nihilism: the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known/communicated, skeptical of tradition, pessimism): there is no inherent meaning in the universe (Nietzche said, “God is dead!”), new eternally repeats as new, repetition of everything in the universe, loss of distinction between real & apparent world (distinction does not reappear; what repeats is only simulacrum) • Art no longer has inherent meaning (the reader/viewer brings meaning to it)

  8. (artist lacks individual style & mimics past styles without purpose /artistry, empty & superficial)

  9. Conventions, Cont. • Concrete poetry – visual impact of the words’ arrangement that conveys the meaning of the poem, poet uses words to make a picture, how words are presented is most important • Beat Poetry Movement: 1950s & 60s, questioned/rejected mainstream American values, experimented with drugs & alternate forms of sexuality, non-conformity & spontaneous creativity, Ginsberg – poet who rejected traditional norms such as religion & recognized that all views were relative • Antinovel – fictional work characterized by absence of traditional elements of the novel (examples: incoherent plot structure, lacks consistent point of view, unrealistic characters)

  10. Other Arts • Texts not just written word but also media, ads, film, theater, fashion, architecture, visual arts, etc. • Like Modernism, art is not only what is perceived but also how it is perceived • Television: fragmented & random stream of visuals (i.e. MTV) • Architecture: backlash vs. Modernist minimalism/simple form/function, reintroduced ornaments/decoration, designed for aesthetic value (not just function), creative & unique designs that convey messages of pluralism/ambiguity/irony/surprise/contradiction/self-mockery • Installation Art: uses sculptural materials & other media to modify the way a space is experienced in private/public spaces (i.e. frozen car, light installations) • New Classicism: return to classical painting/sculpture & rejection of “modern art,” New Expressionism = return to portrayal of recognizable objects using vivid colors • Conceptual art = created by the viewer viewing something as art, not from the qualities of the thing itself, deconstructs what classifies something as “art” • Andy Warhol: pop artist, art celebrates the copy & other Postmodern values, disengagement from subject + “so what?” mentality, celebrates consumerism, organization/colors more important than content • Technology allows for intermedia art  combines different technologies to create a work • Music: composer John Cage’s decentralized & collaborative style, musicians work with audience, fuses music with surroundings, composer’s will does not restrict musicians

  11. Authors, Cont. • Amy Tan • Tim O’Brien • Donald Barthelme • Walter Abish • Philip Roth • Truman Capote • Joan Didion • Norman Mailer • Tom Wolfe • Jack Kerouac • Sylvia Plath • Anne Sexton • John Berryman • Theodore Roethke • Richard Wright • Raymond Carver • Elizabeth Bishop • Maxine Hong Kingston • Julia Alvarez • Alice Walker • Sandra Cisneros