Smith Chapter 12
Postmodernism and Feminist Rhetoric
Postmodernism is a backlash against the unitary, conformist, and hierarchical nature of
"modernist" rationalism that posited a systematic division of knowledge into discrete categories
and a hierarchy of universal values.
In architecture: Philip Johnson went from unabashed advocate of "modernist" style to a
"postmodernist" style, along with Michael Graves.
It combined echoes from the great eras of
Academic community: transformed the term postmodern to signify a kind of pastiche approach
that did not recognize standard boundaries and categories.
"Postmodern theory rejects modern
assumptions of social coherence and notions of causality in favor of multiplicity, plurality,
fragmentation, and indeterminacy."
Modernism: outgrowth of Enlightenment thinking (Locke, Bacon, Descartes, Hegel, and Kant).
Optimism of modernism was battered by 2 world wars, authoritarianism and failure of Marxism,
and the discoveries of Freud.
Hierarchical categorization of knowledge and values based on a universal imperative and
determined by reason
Claimed that rules of the universe are fixed and can be known using science and logic
Postmodernists found allies with quantum physics and development of "fuzzy physics" and
Quantum theory acknowledges that a particle can be in two places at one time, it
can travel faster than the speed of light, it can "communicate" with a fragment of itself.
A Brief History of Time
attempts to reform Albert Einstein's general theory of
Postmodernism (PoMo) and Culture:
We live in the midst of a fragmented culture
New forms of knowledge and information as a result of computer and other media
technology, significant changes in the socio-economic system, increased cultural
fragmentation, respect for diversity, changes in the experience of time and space, a trend
toward subjective inquiries, and breaking up of established ways of life and once stable
"Normal family unit" with an employed father, nonworking mother and children a rarity
Ability to receive news almost instantly from 4 corners of the globe
Entertainment: Note ideas and trends glamorized with
Christine Di Stefano (feminist scholar) embraces PoMo: the postmodern renders the
conventional into the arbitrary; it promotes a politics and theory of disbelief toward the
language of rationality, interests, and autonomy as presumed characteristics of a humanistic
self previously thought to provide the legitimizing foundation for modern social life.