A Postmodern Paradox Postmodernism, a paradox in itself, challenges conformity in countless ways. Taking place after World War II, this movement is mainly characterized by its rejection of social constructs and its challenges to traditional forms of philosophy, literature, art, and religious authority. Ironically, while it defied categorizing, it became a category itself. Nevertheless, this movement has had a profound impact on countless literary, cinematographic, art, and philosophic works.
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Two works that have been profoundly influenced by postmodernism includes Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Opponent, and the elm and book The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. While both works have been influenced by modernism in separate ways, they ultimately share its key themes: an abstraction of time, a rejection of reality, and a search for higher purpose. Through the use of postmodernism themes and literary techniques, both the movie and book were able to convey that absolute truth does not exist because it is relative, intricate, and blurred.
Occurring in the post-World War II era, postmodernism can be considered an intentional departure from previously dominant modernist approaches such as scientific positivism, realism, constructivism, formalism, and tapestries. Through its emphasis and use of power relations, binary classifications, fragmentation, paradox, dark humor, rejection of reality, sociology, linguistics, and subjectivism it constantly attacks contemporary life, art, literature, philosophy, religion, and ethics.
In addition, it is characterized by a rejection of reality, claiming that transmutable validity cannot exist since reality is limited by concepts like time and sexuality. It is able to achieve its unique goals in literature and film through numerous literary devices. In literature, there are several devices frequently used by southernism writers to convey some of the main ideas of the movement. Of these devices the use of fragmenting, dark humor, satire, paradox, allusions, mixed point of view and interruption of form are the most frequently used.
These devices allow writers to deal with topics like the absurdity of moral, philosophical, political, and authoritative relativism; in addition, these devices provide for a blurring of classifications and boundaries of societal structuring. Ultimately, postmodernists desire to condemn contemporary life, reject reality, and accept relativityand complexity in indefinite answers. The movement of postmodernism came about through a series of meaner.
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An important factor that contributed to the development was that it followed World War II. Before the war, modernism dominated the current literature of the time. This movement involved rationalism, reason, the scientific approach,optimism for human potential, and a pursuit of absolutely certain knowledge. However, in the wake of both World Wars, the climate was set for postmodernism as confidence in human progress, autonomy, and optimism were destroyed in battle.
This permeating and predominantly pessimistic aura of thinking exulted in a series of books, films, artworks, and musical pieces that rejected reality, worldly concepts like time, renounced identity, and questioned the purpose of life. These themes clearly reflect the toll that war had on society; many people desired to marginality the horrors of war in a rejected reality, ostracize human error through a pitiful purpose of existence through fragmented viewpoints.
The wars essentially brought about a pessimistic form of modernism that relished in the repudiation of absolute answers; for postmodernists nothing could ever be easily or fully explained. As postmodernist ideals began to develop and conglomerate they were influenced by countless individuals. One extremely influential individual was Linda Hutchison. Hutchison, who wrote several postmodernist works like A Theory of Parody, expressed a great deal of interest in self-reflexive approaches to texts through parodies that “both legitimate and subvert that which it parodies” (Introductory Guide to Critical Theory).
Hutchison also coined the term historiographer metrification, which describes literary texts that assert an interpretation of the past but are also intensely self- flexi; these texts allow “a double process of installing and ironing, parody signals how present representations come from past ones and what ideological consequences derive from both continuity and difference” (Introductory Guide to Critical Theory).
With historiographer metrification, writers can speak constructively about that past in a way that acknowledges the falsity and violence of the past without isolating the present. Many other writers, artists, composers, and directors have had a significant impact on the evolution of postmodernism as well. Key incepts of postmodernism have also developed and evolved through the influence of society and individuals.
For example the term kitsch or stratification, which can be defined as the reduction of aesthetic objects or ideas into easily marketable forms, has a more widely accepted definition adopted by famous postmodern philosopher Jean Baudelaire: “The kitsch object is commonly understood as one of that great army of ‘trashy’ objects, made of plaster of Paris [stuck] or some such imitation material: that gallery of cheap Junkaccessories, folksy knickknacks, ‘souvenirs’, emphases or fake African maskswhich proliferate everywhere, with a preference for holiday resorts and places of leisure” (Consumer Society 109-10).
Jean Baudelaire also offered a definition for simulacrum, defining it as “Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperbole…. It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real” (The Precession of Simulacra 1-2). Postmodernism, like any literary movement, was molded and defined by society and intellectuals involved in its progression.
The profound impact postmodernism had on Kurt Evensong’s Slaughterhouse 5, through its use of frame-breaking, criticism of worldly concepts like time and war, exploration or reality and truth, simulacrum, and rejection of reality, satire, allowed for the novel to express its ultimate renunciation of an absolute truth in exchange for intricate and indefinable answers. In addition, it was able to express key concepts of post modernism through its use of postmodern iterate devices; many of these concepts included a search for a higher purpose, a renunciation of social structuring, and a rejection of reality.
By expressing these concepts, Opponent follows the postmodernist ideals of historiographer metrification, and questioning the absurdity of contemporary life and conventional viewpoints of society. Frame-breaking, the linkage of separate subplots in a novel to unify the intricacies of an entire plot, contributed to the postmodernist impact on the novel by individuality. Frame-breaking takes place in the novel through the employment of Opponent as three characters of differing importance: the narrator, the protagonist, and a supporting character.
Through frame-breaking, Opponent demonstrates that even the recount of a war experience does not hold a simple plot; it consists of a web of intermingled plots, ideas, characters, events, and concepts; this adheres to the postmodernist principle of blurred lines of interpretation and absolute truth. In addition, frame-breaking allows for a loss of identity. The loss of identity occurs when Opponent represents an omniscient force narrating the story as he simultaneously lays protagonist Billy Pilgrim, and a seemingly inconsequential supporting character.
Opponent as an omniscient force demonstrates the renunciation of religion in postmodernist ideals; Opponent plays god, yet he is as trivial as any other human being. Furthermore, by telling his own story in the perspective of Billy Pilgrim this demonstrates how war results in a loss of identity, or the adoption of an alias. Rather than personalizing the story in a first person perspective, Opponent distances himself from the horrors of his past. Finally, by including himself as a prison mate in
Billy Pilgrims story, this demonstrates how in postmodernism, all identities consolidate; the man that represented god and the protagonist is nevertheless a supporting character in the larger plot of the story. By disparaging his ultimate role in the novel, Opponent demonstrates that people are all essentially equal in life and in death- thus a loss of individualism. Through the use of simulacrum, which involves replacing reality with a representation, Opponent is able to criticize worldly concepts like time and war.
For instance, by using the simulacrum of Transformable for Earth, e criticizes the necessity of war. Transformable represents a conglomeration of ideals he believes are optimal in achieving peace. However, instead of directly stating those concepts, Opponent employs a narrative and symbolism; this allows for a rejection of reality while criticizing war. Time is also criticized through a simulacrum of time traveling. Through time traveling the distinctness of years is blurred and time loses meaning as it is muddled together.
This criticism of time is a unique postmodernist concept that is closely related to the criticism of social structuring. As postmodernist writer, Opponent denounces the traditional concept of time and replaces it with a web of linked yet intricate events. Simulacrum is also used in the plot of Billy Pilgrim’s Journey; rather than telling the story in the first person perspective, Opponent ostracizes himself thus criticizing the worldly concept of individualism and identity.
Contrastingly, he links all frames of the story in the end of the novel to demonstrate that personal identity is futile when people are all equal in life and in death. In addition the concept of death is abandoned as Opponent accepts omelet equality of the human identity. By employing a plot dedicated to the exploration of reality and truth, Opponent demonstrates that the world according to postmodernists is full of blurred lines, undefined edges, and complex networks of relationships.
Not only does the novel in its entirety consist of three convoluted interwoven subplots made up of smaller subplots, but it contains episodes of irrationality and science-fiction. This mixture of reality and science fiction represents a renunciation of reality for a combination of philosophy and fantasy; further mistreating that reality does not exist in a state of definable truth, but in limbo higher purpose is an impossibly multifaceted path that nevertheless ends the same as all others do: everything is connected and personal identity is trivial.
The Hours, written by Michael Cunningham and directed by Stephen Deadly, has been manifestly impacted by postmodernism through its use of fragmenting, stratification , satire, and renunciation of worldly concepts like death to express postmodern ideals like a loss of identity or interconnection of all things. Through expressing these ideals, Cunningham was able to reject typical social and literary construct and ultimately convey that answers are not simple or absolute.
Frame- breaking is employed in the hours through the eventual amassing of all three subplots within the novel to demonstrate the interconnectedness of all human identities. The novel is formatted in three separate spheres to demonstrate how as humans search their lives for purpose, they are unable to see how individualism and identity are inane. The three plots are eventually connected through death- another worldly concept denounced by postmodernists. Through death, the characters become linked to one another and the reader becomes aware of their unity; this demonstrates how death provides enlightenment and is not solely the end of a life.
Additionally, frame-breaking allows the criticism of the concept of time. All three subplots take place in completely different eras, yet they have profound impact on one another despite this detriment; this demonstrates that time is merely a concept, rather than an obstacle, and cannot overcome the unity of humanity identity. Stratification and loss of identity are expressed through a variety of literary devices n The Hours to demonstrate that superficiality and identity are ultimately trivial in life.
Stratification most chiefly occurs in the novel and film when the concept of love is reduced to a party and flowers; this becomes a criticism of superficiality upon the death of Richard when the party goes to waste. It signifies that the superficial form of love was powerless and inconsequential to Richards death and that death encompasses all. In addition, both Richard and Virgin’s death represents a loss of identity in that his life and accomplishment were evidently meaningless to them. In he end, they chose the namelessness of death as their path rather than a quest for a higher purpose or discovery of self-identity.
Their deaths are a demonstration of the interconnectedness of life in that both writers commit suicide, creating a full circle to the complex web of relationships. Postmodernism, contradicts itself in its essence. Yet its use of paradoxes, satire, criticisms of the conventional, and quest for answers have had a profound impact on the development of literature, art, and society. While postmodernism will be phase in the history of writing, it will not cease to remind rites to question the norm, look past what is conventional, and defy typical form and construction.See More on Modernism