All literary movements had something interesting in them; from the ideals in Romanticism to the unconventionality of Avant-garde, and beyond, every single one of them had a history and could be placed more or less as a response to a previous movement. Yet postmodernism is a bit more tricky to handle since the origins seem to be scattered around in history. With that being said, shall we give a simple and quick tour around postmodernism? Let us see what’s ahead of us…
Is there a definition?
Well yes, but actually no. The critics don’t really agree on a single definition. It’s not that simple to come up with a concrete definition that pleases everyone. Ihab Habib Hassan is one of the many people who explores this matter can be “define” as “a continuous inquiry into self-definition”. It centers around skepticism and questioning everything. From the Enlightenment to Neoclassicism, there is always irony and parody when it comes to postmodernism.
Many of the ideas found in postmodernism are found in its predecessor, modernism. Hassan calls the “post” movement “Oedipal”, and “a rebellious but impotent adolescent”. There is always a hunger for less common ways of making art, especially since technology has been evolving a lot. We have paradoxes, intertextuality, a.k.a. forming some kind of relationship between literary texts, metafiction, or the reminder to be aware that what you read or view is fictional, used as a parody. And my favorite? Perspectivism.
The most interesting traits
Perspectivism is a term that puts the concept of P.O.V. in the spotlight. The easiest and simplest example of perspectivism? You! You are the protagonist of your own life, from your point of view. However, from another person’s point of view, you are a secondary character. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is just a shift of perspective. This is why there is no truth or exact replica of reality: because perspective changes everything!
Another interesting trait is the mise-en-abyme or “thrown in abyss”. Have you ever seen the reflection of a mirror, inside another mirror? That’s basically how the whole “abyss” works. In visual arts or in literature, you see how a story or an image is framed over inside another story or image, resulting in a story within a story or image within an image.
So, it’s about being “modern” and all? Improving things, right?
Nope, not really. Just because the movement is called postmodernism it does not mean it promotes everything artists do as something better or improved. It’s just different. There is this illusion of progress that artists are making fun of. Reason, science, reality and objectivity are just mere illusions and instead of trying to disentangle what seem nonsensical, postmodernism promotes a “throwing in the abyss”, to complicate even more things, to approach irony and parody in intelligent and new ways.
It is indeed a rather complicated movement, yet it brings out harsh truths about society and how cruel and irrational humanity can be. You may be THE character from your own perspective, but you are just A character from any other points of view and being aware of this shift of perspective can help you develop your own personality.
Is this in anyway helpful?
Welp, again, it depends. There is no objective truth after all, yet what I can tell you is that twisting your mind to discover the biggest mysteries of the Universe will cause a lot of headaches. We are way too far from knowing everything, it is impossible to uncover the unknown.
After all, the choice is all yours. Will you try to enlighten the abyss? Or will you throw yourself in? 🙂