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Postmodernism - Postmodernism In Literature And Art

Postmodernist dance architecture culture

In considering postmodernist aesthetic practices in parallel with the postmodern lack of political consensus, Lyotard invokes "the lack of consensus of taste." Instead these aesthetic practices are characterized by an affirmation of their multiplicity. None needs to be defined by any given form, however multiple or fragmented, as was the case in modernist aesthetics, and as would be demanded from art by the consensus of modernist taste. By contrast, postmodernist aesthetic practices may adopt any form, outlook, or agenda, new or old, and allow for other (than postmodernist) practices and alternative approaches. The postmodernist aesthetic is thus defined by the (political) sense of this multiplicity of practices.


Continuing the narrative experiments of the modernists, the first generation of postmodernists, American and British writers of the 1960s and 1970s "metafiction" (Kurt Vonnegut, John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, John Fowles, and Angela Carter), produced texts that simultaneously questioned and violated the conventions of traditional narrative. Similarly the postmodernist Language poets (Lyn Bernstein, Charles Hejinian, and Bob Perelman), inspired by the linguistic experiments of modernism and the new ideas of poststructuralism, deployed a fractured, systematically deranged language aimed at destabilizing the systems (intellectual, cultural, or political) constructed through language. The fragmentation, intertextuality, and discontinuity that characterize so much of experimental modernist and postmodernist literature find a kind of fulfillment in the inherently fragmented, intertextual, and discontinuous form of "hypertext," a computer-generated Web text with multiple branching links.

Another hallmark of postmodern literature, and of postmodern art in general, is the erosion of the boundaries between "high," elite, or serious art and "low," popular art, or entertainment. Decidedly serious literary works now make use of genres long thought to belong only to popular work. A related phenomenon is the development of numerous hybrid genres that erode the distinctions, for instance, between literature and journalism, literature and (auto)biography, and literature and history.

The emergence and proliferation of feminist, multiethnic, multicultural, and postcolonial literature since the 1970s is, however, the most dramatic and significant manifestation of the de-centering and de-marginalization defining both postmodernity and postmodernism. In the 1970s and 1980s, American and European literature underwent an immense transformation as writers who had traditionally been excluded from literary canons—women and ethnic and racial minorities—moved from the margins to the centers of the literary world. There are counterparts to this phenomenon in history and anthropology, which have seen a proliferation of histories from below and outside—histories of women, of children, of the working class. Postmodernism has gone from History with a capital H, to histories, small h.

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