For this exercise we were asked to create a comparison between Modernism and Postmodernism.
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement it began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Modernism was a revolt against the conservative values of realism. Arguably the most paradigmatic motive of modernism is the rejection of tradition and its reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody in new forms.Modernism rejected the lingering certainty of Enlightenment thinking and also rejected the existence of a compassionate, all-powerful Creator God.
In general, the term modernism encompasses the activities and output of those who felt the “traditional” forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social organization and daily life were becoming outdated in the new economic, social, and political conditions of an emerging fully industrialized world. The poet Ezra Pound’s 1934 injunction to “Make it new!” was paradigmatic of the movement’s approach towards the obsolete. Another paradigmatic exhortation was articulated by philosopher and composer Theodor Adorno, who, in the 1940s, challenged conventional surface coherence and appearance of harmony typical of the rationality of Enlightenment thinking. A salient characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness. This self-consciousness often led to experiments with form and work that draws attention to the processes and materials used (and to the further tendency of abstraction).
The modernist movement, at the beginning of the 20th century, marked the first time that the term “avant-garde”, with which the movement was labeled until the word “modernism” prevailed, was used for the arts (rather than in its original military and political context). Surrealism gained fame among the public as being the most extreme form of modernism, or “the avant-garde of modernism”.
Example: Pop art
Postmodernism is a movement away from the viewpoint of modernism. More specifically it is a tendency in contemporary culture characterized by the problem of objective truth and inherent suspicion towards global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. It involves the belief that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs, as they are subject to change inherent to time and place. It emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations; in particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial. Rather, it holds realities to be plural and relative, and dependent on who the interested parties are and what their interests consist in. It attempts to problematise modernist overconfidence, by drawing into sharp contrast the difference between how confident speakers are of their positions versus how confident they need to be to serve their supposed purposes. Postmodernism has influenced many cultural fields, including literary criticism, sociology, linguistics, architecture, visual arts, and music.
Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from modernist approaches that had previously been dominant. The term “postmodernism” comes from its critique of the “modernist” scientific mentality of objectivity and progress associated with the Enlightenment.
These movements, modernism and postmodernism, are understood as cultural projects or as a set of perspectives. “Postmodernism” is used in critical theory to refer to a point of departure for works of literature, drama, architecture, cinema, journalism, and design, as well as in marketing and business and in the interpretation of law, culture, and religion in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Indeed, postmodernism, particularly as an academic movement, can be understood as a reaction to modernism in the Humanities. Whereas modernism was primarily concerned with principles such as identity, unity, authority, and certainty, postmodernism is often associated with difference, plurality, textuality, and skepticism.
Literary critic Fredric Jameson describes postmodernism as the “dominant cultural logic of late capitalism.” “Late capitalism” refers to the phase of capitalism after World War II, as described by economist Ernest Mandel; the term refers to the same period sometimes described by “globalization”, “multinational capitalism”, or “consumer capitalism”. Jameson’s work studies the postmodern in contexts of aesthetics, politics, philosophy, and economics.
Example: Mönchengladbach Museum
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006. 1885-1947. Print.
|Master Narratives and Mettanarratives of history, culture and national identity; myths of cultural and ethnic origin.||Suspicion and rejection of Master Narratives; local narratives, ironic deconstruction of master narratives: counter-myths of origin.|
|Faith in “Grand Theory” (totalizing explantions in history, science and culture) to represent all knowledge and explain everything.||Rejection of totalizing theories; pursuit of localizing and contingent theories.|
|Faith in, and myths of, social and cultural unity, hierarchies of social-class and ethnic/national values, seemingly clear bases for unity.||Social and cultural pluralism, disunity, unclear bases for social/national/ethnic unity.|
|Master narrative of progress through science and technology.||Skepticism of progress, anti-technology reactions, neo-Luddism; new age religions.|
|Sense of unified, centered self;”individualism,” unified identity.||Sense of fragmentation and decentered self;multiple, conflicting identities.|
|Idea of “the family” as central unit of social order: model of the middle-class, nuclear family.||Alternative family units, alternatives to middle-class marriage model, multiple identities for couplings and childraising.|
|Hierarchy, order, centralized control.||Subverted order, loss of centralized control, fragmentation.|
|Faith and personal investment in big politics (Nation-State, party).||Trust and investment in micropolitics, identity politics, local politics, institutional power struggles.|
|Root/Depth tropes.Faith in “Depth” (meaning, value, content, the signified) over “Surface” (appearances, the superficial, the signifier).||Rhizome/surface tropes.Attention to play of surfaces, images, signifiers without concern for “Depth”.|
|Faith in the “real” beyond media and representations; authenticity of “originals”||Hyper-reality, image saturation, simulacra seem more powerful than the “real”; images and texts with no prior “original”.”As seen on TV” and “as seen on MTV” are more powerful than unmediated experience.|
|Dichotomy of high and low culture (official vs. popular culture);imposed consensus that high or official culture is normative and authoritative||Disruption of the dominance of high culture by popular culture;mixing of popular and high cultures, new valuation of pop culture, hybrid cultural forms cancel “high”/”low” categories.|
|Mass culture, mass consumption, mass marketing.||Demassified culture; niche products and marketing, smaller group identities.|
|Art as unique object and finished work authenticated by artist and validated by agreed upon standards.||Art as process, performance, production, intertextuality.Art as recycling of culture authenticated by audience and validated in subcultures sharing identity with the artist.
|Knowledge mastery, attempts to embrace a totality.The encyclopedia.||Navigation, information management, just-in-time knowledge.The Web.|
|Broadcast media, centralized one-to-many communications.||Interactive, client-server, distributed, many-to-many media (the Net and Web).|
|Centering/centeredness,centralized knowledge.||Dispersal, dissemination,networked, distributed knowledge|
|Seriousness of intention and purpose, middle-class earnestness.||Play, irony, challenge to official seriousness, subversion of earnestness.|
|Sense of clear generic boundaries and wholeness (art, music, and literature).||Hybridity, promiscuous genres, recombinant culture, inter-textuality, pastiche.|
|Design and architecture of New York and Boston.||Design and architecture of LA and Las Vegas|
|Clear dichotomy between organic and inorganic, human and machine||Cyborgian mixing of organic and inorganic, human and machine and electronic|
|Phallic ordering of sexual difference, unified sexualities, exclusion/bracketing of pornography||androgyny, queer sexual identities, polymorphous sexuality, mass marketing of pornography|
|the book as sufficient bearer of the word;the library as system for printed knowledge||hypermedia as transcendence of physical limits of print media;the Web or Net as information system|
Martin Irvine [Online] Available at: http://www19.homepage.villanova.edu/karyn.hollis/prof_academic/Courses/2043_pop/modernism_vs_postmodernism.htm [Accessed: 15 April 2014]