A Postmodern Paradox

Topics: Postmodernism, Kurt Vonnegut, Modernism Pages: 6 (2292 words) Published: August 27, 2013
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. Two works that have been profoundly influenced by postmodernism includes Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, and the film 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 metaphysics. 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 transcultural 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 postmodernist 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 relativity and complexity in indefinite answers. The movement of postmodernism came about through a series of means. 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 resulted 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 marginalize the horrors of war in a rejected reality, ostracize human error through a renunciation of identity, question the necessity of war, and understand the seemingly 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 Hutcheon. Hutcheon, who wrote several postmodernist works like A Theory of Parody,...

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