2. The term ‘Postmodernism’
The term “postmodernism” first entered the philosophical lexicon in 1979, with the
publication of The Postmodern Condition by Jean-François Lyotard.
Lyotard employs Wittgenstein's model of language games (see Wittgenstein 1953)
and concepts taken from speech act theory to account for what he calls a
transformation of the game rules for science, art, and literature since the end of the
nineteenth century. He describes his text as a combination of two very different
language games, that of the philosopher and that of the expert.
Lyotard states that his portrayal of the state of knowledge “makes no claims to being
original or even true,” and that his hypotheses “should not be accorded predictive
value in relation to reality, but strategic value in relation to the questions raised”
(Lyotard 1984 , 7). The book, then, is as much an experiment in the
combination of language games as it is an objective “report.”
3. Understanding Post-modernism
Until the 1920‘s, the term ―modern used to mean new or contemporary, but
thereafter it came to be used for a particular period, the one between the two World
Wars (1914-1945). Then came up after about half a century the, magic term, ―post-
modern, meaning the period after the modern. (THE CONFUSION STARTED)
there is a problem about the naming of the period between 1945 to 1965, during
which period there was no consciousness of what is now called ―post-modern. The
period of the ―post-modern is said to date from the mid-sixties - some critics push it
even further to the nineteen eighties.
Today, critics have seen historical changes in literary styles from decade to decade,
from even author to author. we shall have to wait another half a century or so to be
able to make greater generalizations about the later half of the twentieth century.
Meanwhile, let us accept what has become almost conventional in the historical
writing of English literature.
4. Postmodern Claims
Post-modernism proclaims multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies.
It promotes the politics of difference! Identity is not unitary or essential, it is fluid
and shifting, fed by multiple sources and taking multiple forms (there is no such thing
as woman‘ or black‘).
it debate about contemporary society being ―post-industrial, ―post-
―fragmented, etc., goes on, with select pieces of literature used for illustration.
5. ‘Post’ in postmodernism
The prefix ‘post‘ suggests that any post-modernism is inextricably bound up with
modernism, either as a replacement of modernism or as chronologically after
Indeed with post-modernism, post-feminism, post-colonialism and post-industrialism,
that ‘post‘ can be seen to suggest a critical engagement with modernism, rather than
claiming the end of modernism to survive, or it can be seen that modernism has been
overturned, superseded or replaced.
The relationship is something more parallel to a continuous engagement, which
implies that post-modernism needs modernism to survive, so that they exist in
something more like a host-parasite relationship. Therefore, it is quite crucial to
realize that any definition of post-modernism will depend upon one‘s prior definition
of modernism. (Beginning post-modernism. Manchester University Press, 1999, p.6)
6. The Enlightenment
Debate between postmodernism and modernism is the extent to which the Enlightenment values are still valuable.
The Romantic philosophers, such as Rousseau, Kant and Hegel, had placed great faith in man‘s ability to reason as a
means of securing our freedom. The modernist philosophers later raised doubts about man‘s ability to do so. This
questioning of the Romantic philosopher‘s faith is mainly associated with the work of Jean-Francois Lyotard, for
whom postmodernism is best understood as an attack on reason. As Sabina Lovibond has observed:
The Enlightenment pictured the human race as engaged in an effort towards universal moral and intellectual self-realization, and so
as the subject of a universal historical experience; it also postulated a universal human reason in terms of which social and political
tendencies could be assessed as ‘progressive‘ or otherwise....
Postmodernism rejects this picture: that is to say, it rejects the doctrine of the unity of reason. It refuses to
conceive of humanity as a unitary subject striving towards the goal of perfect coherence (in its common stock of
beliefs) or of perfect cohesion and stability (in its political practice). (―Feminism and Postmodernism‖, New Left
Review, 178 (1989):6)
7. Rejection of Universality
Postmodernism is against the universality of modernism and the long-standing
conception of the human self as a subject with a single, unified reason.
Postmodernism has pitted reasons in the plural, that is fragmented and
Post-modern theory is suspicious of the notion that man possesses an undivided and
coherent self which acts as the standard of rationality.
It no longer believes that reasoning subjects can act as vehicles for historically
8. Promote culturally oriented concept
The term postmodernism, in use roughly since the 1960‘s, designates cultural forms
that display certain characteristics, which include
(i) the denial of an all-encompassing rationality;
(ii) the distrust of meta-narratives;
(iii) challenge to totalizing discourses; in other words, suspicion of discursive attempts
to offer a universal account of existence;
(iv) a rejection of modernism.
Thus, rejecting belief in the infinite progress of knowledge; in infinite moral and social
advancement; in rigorous definition of the standards of intelligibility, coherence and
legitimacy; postmodernism seeks local or provisional, rather than universal and
absolute, forms of legitimation.
9. Postmodern Intellectuals
Jean-Francois Lyotard (1724-98) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
Postmodernism is a distrust of all metanarratives; it is also anti-foundational.
when it presents the unpresentable, it does not do so with a sense of nostalgia, nor
does it offer any solace in so doing.
It does not seek to present reality but to invent illusions to the conceivable which
cannot be presented.
it actively seeks heterogeneity, pluralism, and constant innovation.
Lastly, it challenges the legitimation of positivist science
10. Postmodern Intellectuals
Jean Baudrillard (1929—)
Next to Lyotard, the founder of Postmodernism, comes Jean Baudrillard, another
French intellectual who can be called the high priest of Postmodernism.
According to Baudrillard, postmodernity is also characterized by “simulations” and
new forms of technology of communication. His argument is that whereas earlier
cultures depended on either face-to-face communication or, later, print,
contemporary culture is dominated by images from the electronic mass media. Our
lives today are increasingly being shaped by simulated events and opportunities on
television, computer shopping at “virtual stores,” etc.
11. Postmodern Intellectuals
Jacquis Derrida (1930-2004) : Perhaps the most influential person among the
Postmodernist intellectuals has been Jacquis Derrida, who remains the principal
theorist of Deconstruction.
He insists that all Western philosophies and theories of knowledge, of language and
its uses, of culture, are LOGOCENTRIC. What he means is that they are centered or
grounded on a “logo” (which in Greek signified both ‘word’ and ‘rationality.’).
Using a phrase from Heidegger, he says that they rely on “the metaphysics of
presence.” According to him, these philosophies and theories are logocentric in part
because they are PHONOCENTRIC; that they, in other words, grant, implicitly or
explicitly, logical ‘priority’, or ‘privilege’, to speech over writing as the model for
analyzing all discourse.
Derrida‘s most influential concept has been that of DIFFERENCE
(to be different, and to defer. )
12. Postmodern Intellectuals
Michael Foucault (1926-84): ―specialist in history of systems of thought.
Foucault explores how madness is socially constructed by a wide variety of
DISCOURSES that give rise to collective attitudes or mentalities defining insanity.
Its basic thesis is that, like the lepers of the Middle Ages, the mad are excluded in a
gesture that helps to construct modern society and its image of reason.
Foucault‘s major works examine the question why, in any given period, it is necessary
to think in certain terms about madness, illness, sexuality or prisons.
By clear implication he seems to ask if it is possible to think about those topics in
For Foucault knowledge is always a form of power. He takes even psychiatry and
mental health as new technologies that categorize certain forms of social and sexual
behaviour as deviant in order to control them.
13. Postmodern Intellectuals
Roland Barthes (1915-80)
His principal concern, despite his varied writings, remains with the relationship
between language and society, and with the literary forms that mediate between the
The idea is that no literary composition can be studied in isolation, being one of the
practices of a culture, an expression of society‘s ruling discourse.
Study of a text will be useful if it is done in relation to other contemporary practices
of the same culture even fashions of dress, cigarette smoking, or styles of wrestling.
14. Characteristics of Postmodernism
There is no absolute truth - Postmodernists believe that the notion of truth is a contrived illusion, misused by people and
special interest groups to gain power over others.
Truth and error are synonymous - Facts, postmodernists claim, are too limiting to determine anything. Changing
erratically, what is fact today can be false tomorrow.
Self-conceptualization and rationalization - Traditional logic and objectivity are spurned by postmodernists. Preferring to
rely on opinions rather than embrace facts, postmodernist spurn the scientific method.
Traditional authority is false and corrupt - Postmodernists speak out against the constraints of religious morals and
secular authority. They wage intellectual revolution to voice their concerns about traditional establishment.
Ownership - They claim that collective ownership would most fairly administrate goods and services.
Disillusionment with modernism - Postmodernists rue the unfulfilled promises of science, technology, government,
Morality is personal - Believing ethics to be relative, postmodernists subject morality to personal opinion. They
define morality as each person’s private code of ethics without the need to follow traditional values and rules.
Globalization – Many postmodernists claim that national boundaries are a hindrance to human communication.
Nationalism, they believe, causes wars. Therefore, postmodernists often propose internationalism and uniting
Valuing inclusive faiths, postmodernists gravitate towards New Age religion. They denounce the exc
All religions are valid lusive claims of Jesus Christ as being the only way to God.
Liberal ethics - Postmodernists defend the cause of feminists and homosexuals.
Pro-environmentalism - Defending “Mother Earth,” postmodernists blame Western society for its destruction.
16. Characteristics of postmodern
1. Playfulness with language
2. Experimentation in the form of the novel
3. Less reliance on the traditional narrative form
4. Less reliance on the traditional character development
5. Experimentation with point of view
6. Experimentation with the way time is conveyed in the novel.
7. Mixture of ‘high art’ with popular culture.
8. Interest in meta fiction: fiction about nature of fiction
17. Themes and Techniques used in
Pastiche: The taking of various ideas from previous writings and literary styles and
pasting them together to make new styles.
Intertextuality: The acknowledgment of previous literary works within another literary
Metafiction: The act of writing about writing or making readers aware of the fictional
nature of the very fiction they’re reading.
Temporal Distortion: The use of non-linear timelines and narrative techniques in a
18. Themes n Techniques
Minimalism: The use of characters and events which are decidedly common and non-
Maximalism: Disorganized, lengthy, highly detailed writing.
Magical Realism: The introduction of impossible or unrealistic events into a narrative
that is otherwise realistic.
Faction: The mixing of actual historical events with fictional events without clearly
defining what is factual and what is fictional.
Reader Involvement: Often through direct address to the reader and the open
acknowledgment of the fictional nature of the events being described