Modern vs. Postmodern

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Andrew DeLoach
Modern World History

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word modern as "relating to a recently developed or advanced style, technique, or technology." It also defines the word postmodern as "relating to art, architecture, or literature that reacts against earlier modernist principles, as by reintroducing traditional or classical elements of style or by carrying modernist styles or practices to extremes." However, Oswald Spengler claimed that the subdivision of history into intervals such as "Modern" and "Postmodern" is "an incredibly jejune and meaningless scheme" (Decline 12). He argues that there is no point in time in which a culture switches from one time period to another. For example, there is no defining moment in European history in which the country outgrew its "Mediaeval" period and became "Modern." While there is no denying that cultures evolve and become more developed and advanced, the eras overlap, causing a not so fine line to divide the concept of "Modern" from "Postmodern." In fact, the definitions of modern and postmodern are contradictory. If "modern" is the most recently developed style, technique, or technology, than how can a "postmodern" era exist after it? While the terms may be hard to define, our society has created a set of standards by which we can associate the terms "Modern" and "Postmodern."

The term "Modern" is most commonly associated with music, art, and architecture from post-middle age Europe. As the most developed region of the world, the European techniques, technology, and style were the most advanced and therefore most modern. This time period was characterized by a focus on the individual. Whereas in the Middle Ages, religion was of primary importance, the modern epoch was a time in which humanity flourished. For example, in the middle ages, music such as "An English Lady Mass" and the "Gregorian Chant" focused on biblical, religious messages, wherein no individual can be...
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